Dark Souls is the great misunderstood game of this generation. There’s a wildly prevalent belief the game’s extremely hard. People presume the developers, From Software, sat down and looked at the history of videogames, cherry-picking specific titles to place in their drawer of inspiration, only to cause perspiration for others. Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins and Battletoads would likely be in there. In there so the devs can look at them and exceed those levels of difficulty and cruelty and position their game to be harder than, well, than anything you have ever played before. This just isn’t the case. It’s just misunderstood.
You see, dieing hundreds and thousands of times as you make your way from the relative comfort of Firelink Shrine through Darkroot Garden and onto Blighttown is part of the game mechanics, part of the game design and the basis of the learning curve. You move a few feet, meet a foe and are vanquished in the fleeting moments between letting loose a flash of your heavy blade and the connection of their harder and faster attack with your torso. You try again, make your way back to the location of your vanquishing and collect the souls you had before that failure, this time with a little more awareness of what is about to befall you. You think to yourself a quick attack might be the better option, or maybe a long-range effort if so endowed. You’ve learned what not to do. Now you teach yourself what to do. It probably still isn’t enough. A third, fourth, thirtieth time and you eventually get past that particular villainous creature. Each time you died you were that little bit wiser, that little bit stronger. Regardless of it all the compulsion to continue was unbearable. There was no stopping, no waiting. Just the desperate need to keep on trying, learning and eventually succeeding. It was incredibly hard work and around the corner there’s more to do, different baddies to beat and extra secrets to uncover. You have no idea if you’re going in the right direction, the wrong direction or even in a direction you have no right going until tens of levels stronger. The compulsion is there though. It’s not a hard game, see, it’s just a game with a deep, long-lasting and incredibly compulsive mechanic with death part of the process, rather than the end as in the majority of titles today.
Dark Souls is essentially a third-person Elder Scrolls game for the self-hating. Like Bethesda's masterful series, Dark Souls offers you a fantasy tale with dragons and other mythical creatures to meet, classes to choose from, factions to join, magical spells to learn, a huge world to explore, and a bunch of awesome medieval gear to find. But unlike the Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls doesn't reward your failures with generous helpings of EXP and leveled-up abilities, and its combat is nuanced and unforgiving. Dark Souls kills you over and over, and then punishes you for dying. If you want to make the game a little easier, grind to improve your character. If you don't like it, go play Skyrim with all the other wimps.
At its core, Dark Souls is a game about animations. You need to keep a close eye on what your enemies are up to, and you need to remember that every button you press commits your character to a full motion. If you begin an attack animation after an enemy starts swinging at you, you'll probably get hit. If you want to take a swig from your health flask, you need to know that your character will take his sweet time, leaving himself vulnerable. And when you get knocked down, your character won't scramble back to his feet; he'll lie there for a second, just tempting bad guys to move in.
You need to take each enemy type, dissect their patterns, and figure out what works through trial and error. It might be as simple as blocking, strafing, and attacking when you get the chance. Or, you might need to deflect their blows to stagger them, or somersault away to avoid a powerful blow your shield can't handle, or use a certain type of magic. You're prevented from button-mashing by your stamina meter, which is not particularly generous unless you pour a lot of effort into leveling it up. The upside: When you finally get a hard part right, you feel… well, not good so much, but relieved.
Of course, there's more to an action-RPG than just the action. Killing enemies earns you souls, which you can spend (if you don't lose them first) to improve your many attributes—and RPG progression is the only way to make this game less difficult. You'll want to find and improve the best weapons and armor. You also earn a resource called "humanity," which makes you a little less undead, allows you to return to your human form, and offers a variety of other perks, such as the ability to "kindle" a bonfire. (Bonfires are this game's checkpoints, and they refill your health flask; kindling the fire doubles the amount of health the bonfire gives you.)
The visuals are well-crafted, for the most part. Dark Souls offers impressive environments, detailed and frightening enemies, and fluid animations. The creepy music and decent voice acting add to the atmosphere, too.
As for the controls, they're easy to get used to, but you'll definitely want a controller. There is a default keyboard configuration, but it's incredibly clumsy, and the developers don't even pretend there's a chance you might use it—all the on-screen instructions pertain to the gamepad. (No, you don't "Press A" to pick up items when you're using a WASD movement setup.)
There's ten hours of new content in the "Prepare to Die Edition" as well, making it the definitive version of Dark Souls There's a new chapter of the story, including fresh areas, bosses, enemies, and NPCs. As I said above, most players probably won't finish the game—which was up to 100 hours long to begin with—so it's not that big of a deal that this version has more of it. But if you're a hardcore Dark Souls fan, or if you're confident in your ability to wring every last cent of value out of the game, the Prepare to Die Edition is the way to go.
A Must Play
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