Dark Souls Review (9GPP)
Gareth Brown 14/11/2011
Straight to the Point: Uncompromising, demanding, and utterly absorbing, Dark Souls is a unique masterclass in game design. 9 GPPs (Geek Pride Points)
The spiritual successor to PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls is an open-world action RPG that places manliness and courage at the heart of its design. If you don’t have these things, stay the fuck away.
Things we like
- Challenge – A lot has been made of Dark Souls’ difficulty, and, while it is a hard game, it’s almost never unfair. Death will come often, but usually thanks to player impatience, bad planning or venturing into an area beyond your current abilities. The sense of reward that comes from overcoming a boss or defeating an invader can’t be matched by many other games.
- Combat– From swords and spears to whips, crossbows and dual-wielded cutlasses, the physics-based melee combat is sublime, capturing the weight and impact of close combat in nerve-wracking detail. Your two-handed greatsword might be just the ticket out in the open, but try swinging it in a confined tunnel and you’ll hit it on the wall and likely be disemboweled for your trouble.
- Classy stuff– The game’s class system means one player’s game will be quite different from another’s. Dark Souls rewards specialisation, and with deep magic, crafting and combat systems, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
- Value– our first playthrough took 60 hours, and we feel like we barely scratched the surface. There are already massive Wikis explaining the game’s many interlinked systems, and New Game+ brings with it a whole new challenge. But it doesn’t have to be so long – one player recently uploaded a video of him finishing the game, from the beginning, in an hour and a half!
- Unique multiplayer– After countless games with tacked-on team deathmatch modes there simply to bolster the back of box bullet point list, Dark Souls is a breath of fresh air. Always online, players can leave hints in eachother’s worlds, team up to tackle bosses, and even invade eachother for nail-biting PvP battles. It’s all reinforced by the new “covenant” system, allowing you to pledge allegiance to different in-game factions with different aims – for example protecting a certain area, or hunting players who’ve broken the game’s rules.
- The Fear – We’ve never been so scared playing a game as venturing into the dimly-lit Catacombs, laden with souls (the game’s all-in-one currency and EXP), surrounded by skeletons, only to have the message “xxxMasta-Raperxxx has invaded your world!” appear on the screen.
- Accessibility– Dark Souls asks the player to put the work in. Explanations of the game’s many systems are thin on the ground and you will probably need to head online to do a bit of research. Whether you view this as a niggle depends on your temperament, but it can probably be off-putting if you’re a pussy.
- You shouldn’t have done that– The world of Dark Souls is completely persistent and saves constantly. Just like real life, there are no do-overs. Accidentally kill the game’s only merchant that sells that item you’ve been depending on? Fuck you. He’s gone for good. Click the wrong button on the menu and destroy a valuable item? Fuck you, gone.
- AI– We beat some of the game’s tougher bosses by cheesing the AI and exploiting glitches we found. Do we feel bad about this? No, because they would have done the same to us.
- Ornstein and Smough – You know at the start I said that Dark Souls is “almost never unfair”? Say hello to “almost”. Fuck these guys
Even though we loved our time with Dark Souls, we’re kind of glad it’s over. It took an unnatural grip over our lives, and might have done permanent damage. That said, by the time we go back for New Game+ in a month or two, we hope they’ve balanced some of the over-powered weapons that seem to be used so much in PvP.
We put our 60 hours into Dark Souls in about two and a half weeks. You need to treat it like a job: you’ll have good days and bad days, but, if you’re going to get that promotion, you need to put the work in. And attack the boss with a battle-axe and fire spells.