GAME REVIEW: Dark Souls, A Flawed Masterpiece

Since its release in 2011 From Software’s Dark Souls has been praised as one of the greatest games of all time.  This hardcore action roleplaying game takes the gamer through the decrepit land of Lordran. The game opens with a vague yet incredibly interesting cut scene that is practically all the lore you are directly given without reading every item description and reading into the level design. The cut scene explains the state of the world and leads you to find your own motivation to fight through an undead society and untimely choosing to save humanity or let humanity fade and die. Dark Souls is brutal in that it treats the player like they are nothing special. You are just a random person who happened to get a key to your cell. There is nothing special about you other than your own motivation to not give up on fighting.

Traversing Lordran for the first time gives you such a sense of awe. The design of the world is both visually astonishing as well as mind-blowing when you realize just how dense and folded in on itself Lordran really is. Finding yourself back to a checkpoint you hadn’t used in half the game with new passages to explore is a very unique experience. What caused me to love this game most would have to be the atmosphere. Its mood is always broken. Throughout the game you watch helplessly as everyone you encounter is driven mad by the lack of humanity in this cesspool of a world.  Your fight to help whomever you can and accomplish your goal is what made it for me.

Dark Souls is most notoriously known for its incredible difficulty. Each time you die you lose all your experience and currency with only a single chance to retrieve it again without dying. This is by far what certainly gave it the reputation it has to this day. In Dark Souls, every enemy can kill you in a matter of seconds. To many, the game was a breath of fresh air in the way of difficulty. At the time games all had settings to make the game either as hard or as easy as you would like, so if you got stuck you could just turn down the difficulty until you got past what you couldn’t do. Dark Souls would have none of that. The first time I played Dark Souls I was stuck in the tutorial area for about two hours. I roamed the halls of the undead asylum aimlessly searching for escape until I wandered into a boss fight. That’s right, the first enemy that fights back is a boss. Without a weapon I punched this hunk of a beast until I had died at least twenty times. Finally finding a way out of the boss room and finding a weapon gives you a sense of accomplishment in itself. I fought through enemies dying repeatedly and finally clawing my way back to the boss now armed and ready. The 2nd time you fight the beast you have the chance to do a plunging attack that does roughly half its health. Finally I killed it and was greeted by a bird that carried me away from the asylum and to the land of Lordran. Any enemy you face can and will dispose of your useless being as quickly as possible. Each boss gets harder and harder, until when you finally defeat the final boss and watch the credits roll, you feel a sense of accomplishment unlike any before.

I clearly enjoy this game on a level higher than most other games, yet there are still many problems I have with it. First off, there is an entire aspect of the game I have yet to mention: the Player Versus Player aspect. (Not a mode there is just some forced PVP.) This game was clearly made to be a single player experience, yet From Software threw together a makeshift way to fight others that rarely works as intended and is usually more rage-inducing than entertaining to most players. In PVP players can invade another player’s world and kill them. In doing so, the murdered character loses all their experience and reverts to a form where they are unable to summon help other players. If you are inexperienced in PVP you stand little chance against someone who invades on a regular basis. I personally enjoy the PVP quite a lot, though it rarely works well. Often if you hit someone it won’t even register that you hit them at all and make fights take far longer than needed. The utter lack of care for the PVP community and how horrible it is in general makes it extremely difficult to be interested in more than one playthrough unless you only want to fight other people, which is still a lackluster experience.

Furthermore, a few boss designs as well as an entire area called “The Demon Ruins” feel incredibly lazy. The two bosses that feel most careless are Ceaseless Discharge and The Bed Of Chaos. Both of these fights are entirety gimmicks that get old after the first time you fight them. Ceaseless Discharge literally takes one hit if you get him to an area of the room he is in.  The Bed Of Chaos takes three hits and just feels boring even the first time you fight it. The battle is just branches pushing you around hoping to knock you off a cliff. The true boss is Bed Of Chaos is Gravity. The entire area “Demon Ruins” was designed very poorly. You must take a large amount of damage and run around aimlessly until you run up a single branch out of many they have in the area while fighting dragon butts. (Yes Dragon butts.) The Bed Of Chaos and Ceaseless Discharge both inhabiting “The Demon Ruins” make this section of the game a drag.

Overall Dark Souls is a fantastic game with some minor problems. The base mechanics of the game as well as the sense of accomplishment you feel when making progress make it well worth playing. The story is incredibly interesting if you are willing to put in the time to look for it, and its somber tone and atmosphere teach us more about life than most games teach us about anything. I would Give Dark souls a 4/5. There are simply too many problems with the game as a whole for me to feel good about giving it a higher rating.

 

Developer: FromSoftware
Composer: Motoi Sakuraba
Designer: Hidetaka Miyazaki
Publishers: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genres: Action role-playing game, Dungeon crawl
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
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