Dark Souls Review
In this day and age developers seem to put us in bubble wrap; afraid that any sense of a challenge will have us running and screaming from their title. Dark Souls doesn't care about throwing you in the deep end; leaving you to navigate your way through a series of dark and challenging areas that are simply, unrelenting. Do you have enough strength to survive this 40-60 hour slog fest that could easily make a grown man cry?
What Dark Souls Got Right
Frightening environments - Fans of Demon Souls will be greeted with a new open-world structure that goes a long way to creating a truly frightening backdrop as the game unfolds. Starting out in a rotting asylum, players will travel through foreboding forests, murky swamps, tattered dungeons and tunnels deep below the surface of the Earth. Each environment is twisted with a flavour that makes Dark Souls instantly terrifying, and extremely memorable.
Robust experience -
Dark Souls is a lot of things - first and foremost it's a third-person action/RPG title, however thanks to the brutal difficulty it becomes so much more than that. At times it feels like a survival horror; scavenging for items and gold to create or purchase new weapons becomes an integral part to the gameplay. Other times it feels like a cruel take on the fantasy genre as your spells seem to do no damage to your enemies. As you move throughout this epic adventure the game will feel like many experiences rolled into one unforgettable journey.
Community aspect - Dark Souls relies heavily on a community aspect as you trudge through the depressing world. Thanks to the online co-op feature you will often see the ghosts of other online players as you move throughout the game world. You will often hear the toll of the bell-tower, signifying someone else's victory over a boss, which can often spur you on to give it one more try. There are opportunities to help someone else out in a bind, which will reap your more souls and humanity, but can offer something more valuable - experience. Dark Souls truly throws you in the deep end, and playing with others you will learn new ways to tackle obstacles, and that can prove to be invaluable.
Difficulty - Dark Souls is brutally hard; it should be after the legacy that Demon Souls has left behind. This makes for a refreshing experience when compared to other titles being released, all of which seem to fall into the same hand-holding traps that most hardcore gamers loathe. There is no question about it, you will die a lot during your journey. Chances are you will laugh, you will cry, you will throw your controller in rage and you will pull your hair out. However when you finally overcome that boss after an hour of utter despair, the feeling is remarkable.
What Dark Souls Got Wrong
Accessibility - One of the very reasons that makes Dark Souls so appealing is also one of its biggest downfalls. The brutal difficulty that it serves up will definitely turn most gamers off, but those who are up for the challenge will find a deeply rewarding experience ahead.
Frame rate issues - Dark Souls is a good looking game, but it does suffer from some frame rate issues during some segments. We noticed more of a stutter on the PS3 version than the 360 edition, although it certainly doesn't break the game. Worth noting for those who pay extremely close detail to graphical prowess in their video games.
The Final Verdict
Dark Souls is one of the most challenging games we've seen this generation, and thanks to its dark and twisted environments it stands up as something different for 2011. If you can handle the brutal difficulty and you are prepared to die a lot, then Dark Souls could very well be the title you are looking for. It won't appeal to everyone, but there is an epic journey for those who will persevere.
By Stephen Heller
Brutal difficulty mixed with satisfying combat
Great graphics that really bring the world to life, but suffers from minor frame rate issues at times
Very atmospheric that really suits the tone of the game
With 40-60 hours worth you're definitely getting your bang for buck
Brutal, but so rewarding that you won't be able to help yourself
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