Review: Dark Souls

Nov 9, 2011

by

Dark Souls will claim many lives and for Stu and I, we were no exception. After playing the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, From Software’s first plunge into this franchise, I thought I was ready for the dark, cold and exceedingly unfriendly world of Lordran… how wrong I was.

We have devised ten questions to help articulate some of the great aspects this game has to offer and shed some light on the fact that this game is complex, time-consuming, unforgiving but offering one of the best most rewarding experiences ever had on console.

How is Dark Souls an improvement over Demon’s Souls?

(Stu) The now Open-World is really the biggest improvement in the game. The environments now feel larger and better connected. There is a greater sense of scale this time around. The boss encounters have also significantly improved and that allows for a much more dynamic engagement. The switch from the arbitrary character/world “tendency” mechanic to the interesting covenant system helps align players play style more effectively. Now, PvP and Coop players can find each other with ease. The Bonfires that are used for check points and leveling up, allow players to really explore the game better than the Hub World of Demon’s Souls.

(Matt) Dark Souls significant improvements in my opinion of its predecessor lie primarily in the open world concept adopted in this title and the environmental effects that really create a vivid world for your immersive play experience to flourish. The world is believable and well connected and puts into perspective the heights developers went to, to create an epic game.

In what way is Demons’ Souls superior to Dark Souls?

(Stu) Experiencing Dark Souls after playing Demon’s Souls has players on a higher alert. Demon’s Souls caught me off guard the first time and there were a lot of moments you were not expecting. Those moments are now a given having played the first game and you are constantly looking behind your shoulder. Also, when you level up, Demon’s Souls actually informs you how many souls you need before you can level up, something that Dark Souls omits.

(Matt) I don’t feel that Demon’s Souls is superior in any noticeable way other than the game is noticeably darker than Dark Souls both in color and with a depraved, tortured undertone. For that reason I feel that the experience is different and for some that may come across as superior given the idea of the developers take on life and death in this game bombarded by demons and chaos.

How did From Software push the RPG genre forward with Dark Souls?

(Stu) The player is constantly “Role-Playing” in Dark Souls. Every action has a consequence and there are little to no take backs once you commit to something. Regardless of what class you select, the player can mold their character into whatever they see fit. There are no restrictions on what you want your character to be. Unlike other RPGs were the class is what identifies your play style, your play style identifies your class. Also, harking back to those early RPGs, Dark Souls ensures there is still a sense of difficultly and commitment to get to the finish line.

(Matt) Dark Souls pushes the envelope of a smaller niche within action RPG’s in a way that is hard to see from the outside. It is most similar to the enthralling experience of the Dragon Age series, only without the morality choices and dialog. Gameplay is deep in both games but I feel the experience in Dark Souls is intriguing, new and genius as it compares to the style of most games in this genre and for that reason the community that loves in depth RPG gameplay will find a refreshing advancement in game world design as well as a rewarding experience.

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How is the art direction unique from other fantasy games?

(Stu) Dark Souls has the best use of Gothic High Fantasy than any other game out. The world is bleak, grim and desperate, while still retaining a small sense of hope. However, it also uses a fantastic color palette to distinguish each of the zones so that they can easily be differentiated.

(Matt) The art direction in Dark Souls is dark gothic fantasy and unlike anything I have ever seen, save for it’s younger brother, Demons Souls. Character models are clean, polished and extremely detailed. Alot of the armor models span various areas of the world spanning from Japan to Europe and recently to the middle east. They incorporated these changes in design in a way that extends the unique experience past expectation. In addition the color palettes are vibrant which is a significant improvement over Demons Souls. Color is sharp and impressive whether it be dark, bright, glowing or soft tones.

Would you recommend Dark Souls?

(Stu) Without question.

(Matt) I would recommend Dark Souls to everyone for different reasons, but mostly for the experience, challenge and rewarding game play. Demons Souls really challenged my mind and patience and Dark Souls found welcoming hands when I picked it up. For anyone that wants in depth character customization, an expansive rich world, challenging play, great music and environments, treasure and loot system second to none or hours and hours trashing demons with a friend… who wouldn’t want this game?

If you could take 1 element from Dark Souls and transplant it in other RPG’s, what would it be?

(Stu) I love the weapons in this game as each have their own strengths and weaknesses. There really isn’t one great-sword, or one great-armor as everything can be adapted to your play style. I think more games should adapt this mentality.

(Matt) The tone or definition of From Software’s take on what it means to be a hero. It is vastly different from any other game I have played. The view is of greatness and glory but spoken by a soft voice through despair and loneliness, which if you see the game world really makes sense and will draw you into the fold.

Is there room for another rendition within the franchise?

(Stu) Given the success of the franchise, I believe it is inventible there will be another game in the series.

(Matt) I hope to see more in this series or another game that follows in its footsteps. I don’t think that developers have run out of ideas because it isn’t the uniqueness of the vehicle used now, it’s the experience itself. To date there isn’t another game like Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls and that is special. Whether or not developers or fans think another title would be too much of the same I’m not one to be able to tell but the experience can be told again and again and yet we will all be in line to be part of it.

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Is it possible for From Software to create a mobile or “lite” version with the “souls” title?

(Stu) These games are about control and having a one-to-one connection with your character. I can’t imagine that working on a smaller scale.

(Matt) I think words like “mobile” or “lite” and then picture this game within that frame-work and shortly after laugh. I can’t imagine it would work or being anything like either title, but who’s to say it wouldn’t be successful or fun. If one did arise, I would be interested to find out for myself.

Describe the online community for this franchise?

(Stu) Thriving and committed. The community is one of the best parts of this franchise as it is a fantastic avenue for new players as well as advanced players to discover all the secrets that the game has. There are a lot of wikis out for these games and the community attached to each one is consistently active.

(Matt) Online communities in games these days seem to be expanding cesspools of degenerate, adolescent ignorance, however in Demons Souls and Dark Souls both I found help, cooperation and a desire to be part of something for the greater good of all players experiencing a difficult and trying game. The art and style also yield more in my opinion to mature gaming which is probably alot of it. As a big second I would have to say that most of multiplayer experience is done on a small scale such as invading another players world as a phantom or joining a friend for a boss encounter. This helps weed out unnecessary social bantering that exist in every FPS multiplayer experience to a fault making this a breath of fresh air. I’d also like to add that the wiki support and videos available are worth participating in.

What does your wife think of Dark Souls?

(Stu) She knows it’s the game that keeps me up all night. As it’s not as enjoyable to watch, it’s one of her least favorites.

(Matt) As a married man my game time isn’t what it used to be and for good reason. My wife recently has become more interested in games and has her favorites. While Dark Souls isn’t among them she has made comments about the music and thinks my character looks badass… now only if I could be that guy in full plate with a huge halberd overlooking a long forgotten grove in the forest.. don’t you want into the world of Dark Souls?

Buy @ $60 or less

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