Dark Souls is totally hardcore.
You’re going to hear this proclamation a lot over the next few weeks, particularly from die-hard fans that are, appropriately, dying hard. However the corollary, ‘Dark Souls is utterly brilliant’ will never be far behind.
Have a guess which character you play as...
Spend a couple of hours with this enormous RPG and you’ll know exactly why: Precise sword and shield combat fused with tense, sweaty palmed parry-counter-evade mechanics, sprinkled with an array of literally hundreds of sharp weapons, fiery spells, and radiant miracles, all pressure cooked in 100+ hours of swarming foes, cavernous pitfalls, sabotaged terrain and nightmarishly unforgiving bosses.
As you’re broken and bloodied corpse hits the ground for the thirtieth time, accompanied by two words you’ve grown intimately familiar with, YOU DIED, you’ll gasp, you’ll cry, you’ll gnash and grind and bellow profanities that’d make a sailor blush.
Despite the wealth of content, gameplay and accessories available, the core notion of Dark Souls is simple.
You fight. You die. You learn... then you probably die again.
But gradual though it may be, there is progression. This is why Dark Sous, and the mighty Demon’s Souls before it, are so dearly loved. Around every corner there’s a new foe with patterns to adapt to, a new weapon to swing and strategize with, a new trinket to alter tactics on, a new bonfire or blacksmith to upgrade by.
Success in Dark Souls, once achieved, feels like an honest and true accomplishment. A sensation not typically associated with games.
But darkly twisted and brutally beautiful as it is, no-one is likely to mention how much of a pain in the ass this game is!!
About this much!
Where Demon’s Souls handed me my rump on a regular basis, I applauded this, encouraged this due to the aforementioned sense of progression and achievement.
Dark Souls just wastes my damn time. I’m infinitely less forgiving of this!
Dark Souls’ fresh new open world approach has been lauded, as Lordan is a singular, interconnected area. However with the absence of a quick-travel mechanic, or infinitely more important, A MAP, Dark Souls may as well be a linear experience.
Sure, there are multiple routes, but only one of them is ever appropriate to your skill level. The rest brutally murder you for the audacity to set foot in their terrain without the requisite stats. Thus constant grinding and backtracking are wholly unavoidable.
If you want to survive... why are you playing Dark Souls?!
And while these archaic functions are expected in the hardest of hardcore, they make for a troublingly dull experience. Hence the reason maps and quick-travel were invented...
If you have the stones/luck to conquer the third major boss, you’ll likely find yourself stumped as to your next objective. I spent two straight hours retreating, investigating every nook and cranny, getting resoundingly pummelled for my efforts, in the vain hope of discovering my next goal.
There’s not even plotting or talkative NPCs to guide you in the right direction. Though the absence of a well told narrative was my primary criticism of From Software’s 2009 cult hit, Dark Souls’ story is so threadbare I found myself actually missing the sparing detail of Demon’s Souls Boletaria.
And I assuredly found myself crying out for the Nexus, the level hub where your objectives were clearly defined, pointedly abandoned for the open world format.
This sense of disorientation certainly adds to the murky tension, but it subtracts heavily from the game’s enjoyment.
But not enough to drastically diminish the final product!
Dark Souls returns with the industry’s single most inventive online functionality. Messages and Bloodstains litter every patch of ground, non-intrusive advice for the lonely traveller. Occasionally fellow adventurers may battle through the world of Lordan alongside you, or alternatively, murder you. This co-operative, communal demon-hacking endeavour is Dark Souls is at its brightest.
Some allies would make this predicament more manageable
Dark Souls is a game of the year contender. Rest assured, it’ll be up for the prestigious award from a plethora of sites, publications and shows.
And rightly so: It harkens back to a time of challenge, not hand holding, of discovery, not exposition. Dark Souls has chiselled its combat into a seamless combination of precision, timing and conservation. But it DEMANDS you master this system.
Barring its 2009 predecessor, Dark Souls is an entire genre, a gaming stable unto itself. It is dark, twisted, unique and unquestionably addictive.
It’s just a shame Demon’s Souls was better.
Yeah I went there! Deal with it.