Review Plunging from a treacherous rampart, slowly succumbing to the poisonous bite or bludgeoned by a monstrous ice giant – Dark Souls wants you dead. And it doesn't care how.
Shanking of the colossus
That should come as no surprise, of course. Anyone who dared play last year's Demon's Souls knows all too well that death will be their constant companion throughout the follow-up to From Software's infamous RPG. While Dark Souls is as tough, if not tougher than the original, it's also every bit as insanely addictive and rewarding.
It's also as uncompromisingly inaccessible. Many adventurers will be lured into its relentless punishment by the conventional RPG façade, but few will make it past its opening few hours, let alone the 50 or so required to see one of its multiple endings. Where other RPGs lavish players with upgrades and stat modifiers for the most humble exploration and hacking-and-slashing, Dark Souls demands nothing less than complete mastery of its prescriptive systems to overcome the seemingly impossible challenge.
A tricky fight... just have to wing it
Despite a new narrative and setting, Dark Souls' black heart pulsates with the same core mechanics that made the original such a cult classic. Success here is rewarded not with spoils and omnipotence, merely the right to survive to face the next, even tougher challenge. Each and every lapse in judgement or rash impatience is punished with death, and even the weakest of enemies can kill in a couple of strikes – a mistimed lunge or parry swiftly answered with a mortal riposte.
And so you inch your way forwards, cowering behind your shield, observing enemy strike patterns for a fleeting opportunity to deal a decisive blow. But it's not just enemies who can kill you. The world of Lodran is replete with environmental hazards, from enemy-infested cul-de-sacs and spiked pits to rickety, vertiginous walkways and rooms filled with giant, bladed pendulums.
The mad ratter
The only respite comes in the form of bonfires, places of sanctuary scattered throughout the world. Once lit, they provide respawn points to recharge health and magic, level up, fix or upgrade weapons and armour, and refill your Estus flask with a restorative critical to surviving between bonfires.
But there's a catch. Resting at bonfires respawns all regular enemies throughout the world, transforming progression into an intricate game of risk and reward. Do you press on in the hope of finding another bonfire, unsure of the dangers lurking around the next corner? Or do you retreat to the last one to recharge, knowing you'll have to fight your way through every enemy again on your return?
Next page: Roll the die
based on this review
I'm going to give this one a miss. I'm a huge RPG fan (JRPG fan), but prefer party based games. I play RPG's for their story, not the challenge they pose. my personal view is that an RPG shouldn't be extremely hard to play, there should be plenty of stuff outside the main storyline to make things hard/almost impossible. I also feel like too much is being done to renew the genre, while for most fans it doesn't really need renewing at all, but that's a personal thing.
Demon's Souls was great
and Dark Souls is even better. A very welcome respite from brown worlds full of waist-high walls to "cover" behind and regenerating health.
Difficult is a good thing, sometimes, and boy this game is hard and unforgiving. It's genuinely scary in parts, frustrating in others, beautiful in some, yet the sense of satisfaction when you finally trounce that giant, unspeakably dangerous boss is something I haven't felt since the days of Doom (Demon's Souls notwithstanding.) The feeling from finally ringing the bell in the Upper Gargoyle Church, looking out over the glorious landscape with soft light from the permanently-setting sun above, was a mixture of intense relief at having made it, and immense foreboding at having to fight my way back down again, and then on into The Depths where things were no doubt orders of magnitude more horrific and dangerous. Utterly brilliant. Moments like that are so rare in gaming these days.
The lack of pause button or save/load - the game saves constantly, so you can never use the "save here, try X, reload if it doesn't work" tactic - just adds to the already massive tension.
I'm going to call it - even before I've played Skyrim which I'm looking forward to hugely - Dark Souls is my "Game of the Year 2011"
Don't let the difficulty put you off - it is usually your own fault you died for the nth time. You just have to take a defensive, strategic stance, rather than stride in swinging-like-it's-Golden-Axe.
But you'll still die. And yet keep coming back for another go.
Can't help you on the story though - DS has a minimal plot as far as I can tell so far. I do like the setting, characters and atmosphere however. It's very european in that sense, which is a relief having grown tired of the usual JRPG guff.
Small tip for you, Not Again... Don't bother taking on the skeletons if you're still too weak. There's plenty left to do in Undead Burg. Follow this video for an early farming opportunity (it yields 300 soul points each time) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbKZz-d8xvs. Then spend the soul points with the Undead Burg merchant on a Short Bow and Large Arrows (Crossbow won't do). Depending which class you are (I was a Sorcerer), you might also need to boost your Dexterity to wield the bow.
Once you can wield the bow and arrow, head back to the Dragon bridge and snipe the Dragon's tail (takes about 20 shots) to collect the Dragon Sword. It's the most powerful single-handed early weapon you can get your hands on, and is relatively easy to wield for all classes.
That should give you a real head start...
based on this review
I might actually consider it.
Finally a game which is as abominably difficult to win as Nethack.
I recently had a funny dialogue with my wife about Nethack: "Q:How long have you played it? A: 20+ years. Q: Have you won: A: No Q: Why do you play?"
Well, the answer is - for the sheer perversity and variety of the ways in which the game kills ya. This one sounds like close enough to warrant some attention :)