on 7 October 2011
Ignore the troll review that was posted before this - I ordered the xbox 360 version from amazon and the PS3 limited edition - one of which came early.
I've invested about 15 hours so far, and let me tell you, this game is utterly fantastic, just like Demons Souls was previously. To check my validity, please see my previous Demons Souls review as the same title - I am a Demons Souls vet and I invested around 500 hours total into Demons Souls (NG+++++). Needless to say, it is my favorite game of this gen and Dark Souls had a LOT to live up to. But thankfully, it does.
If you are a Demons Souls veteran, you will already know what to expect here - Rich, deep and a challenging gameplay in a dangerous and atmospheric world filled with ridiculously powerful enemies and very little mercy. From Software is easily my favorite developer now and for me, this is their Magnum Opus.
If you have never played Demons Souls, nor this, here is my review.
Dark Souls is a spiritual successor to Demons Souls, 2009's game of the year (Gamespot, IGN, etc gave it more than just that award too). It's a dark fantasy action rpg set in the medieval period where you play an undead fellow on a pilgrimage through possibly the most brutal game world I've ever seen. You start in a damp and destroyed asylum for the undead, you must pick your class from a range of different abilities and stats (Knight, warrior, barbarian, Pyromancer, Sorcerer, Cleric, Thief... just to name a few, there is 9 total to chose from). Once you select your class, you are given a broken set of armor and a terrible weapon and kicked out of your cell into a very unforgiving and very tough world. The story is a familiar tale in the genre, some evil dragon world has descended into darkness causing everyone to turn undead and you must save the day - etc. The story is actually fairly decent, while basic, but that is not really what this game stands out for.
It has to be said, this game is 100% NOT for everyone. If you are timid, if you are easily angered by game difficulty, this one is not for you. It is incredibly challenging, so much so that the average reviewer put 90-100 hours into the game to complete it the first time around, while some put over 100 hours in and didn't manage to complete it.
The reason it is so hard is that it's completely unforgiving, you can not just run in swinging a giant axe and mow your way through hoards of enemies a'la your average RPG. The gameplay is a masterful blend of hack and slash with deep RPG character development, you upgrade your chap with Souls collected from slain enemies, and every soul counts. Souls are the currency of the game - you upgrade, buy items and use them for just about everything. The game knows this, and they are very scarce. If you die in combat, you lose every soul you have collected up until that point, and return to the last save point - which brings me on to the next part of the review.
The game does not have a manual save feature as such, instead, you must make your way to the few and far 'safe havens', called Campfires. Here, you light up the bonfire and huddle around the only safe area in the game. You can rest your character and automatically heal up - filling a flask with health potion that will get you through the next area. Whilst here, you can upgrade your characters abilities, skills, magic and even help other players in their single player game.
The multiplayer aspects are masterfully woven into the single player - while playing you can see the live ghosts / phantoms of other players on the PSN, playing the same area as you, dying, and you can also leave them messages be it a hint or a simple 'good luck'. You can use a special stone to write messages on the floor of the world for other players on the PSN to read as they play their single player story. This is so cool, and unique to the series. The multiplayer goes even deeper as you get further into the game - you can start to invade other peoples single player worlds as a demon to slay them, or as a good phantom to help them defeat a difficult boss. Players and yourself can summon for help by leaving a special stone on the ground signaling players who have a little more experience to drop into their game and help them should they want. On the flip-side, if you manage to reclaim your human body form at any point in the game for its various perks, your world can become invaded by Black Phantoms, a rogue player from the PSN who is coming to kill you. It all sounds great and trust me, there is far more than I have time to write about here.
Lastly, ii will talk about the game world and the graphics. The graphics are decent, Ps3 version certainly seems to look better as I believe they built the game on ps3, and ported it over to 360. That being said, things look nice, not quite groundbreaking but the artistic flare of the game shines through. The world is an open-world, semi-linear experience of Ruins, castles, poison swamps, lush green forests overshadowed by mist, deep underground caves and volcanoes, just about every area you could imagine is present and is beautifully created with that classic From Software atmosphere. It doesn't get much better :-)
In short, a fantastic and true spiritual sequel to Demons Souls, my favorite game of the PS3 generation may just be toppled by Dark Souls. A must be for fans, and an incredible challenge. It is far harder folks - and much larger. 100+ new enemies, a giant explore-able world, a fantastic atmosphere and a great soundtrack.
It's a Souls game, what more could you want?