Touted as one of the toughest RPGs of all time, Dark Souls offers an engaging experience and a grand adventure…for all who dare to go through its endless amount of buttfuckery. However, is it too much or just enough? Is there enough to keep you going to put up with the rabid difficulty or is it a carrot that’s constantly just out of reach? Well, I hate carrots, but you know what I mean.
Available For: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer(s): From Software
Publisher(s): Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: 2011
Archetype(s): Action, Adventure, Hardcore, RPG
It took me a while to muster up even the motivation to want to purchase this title, what with constantly hearing how difficult it is. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good challenge. A GOOD challenge…not an unnecessarily unfair and shitty one. For example, I really loved the original Ninja Gaiden series and all the Ghosts n Goblins games…but I couldn’t get into the new Ninja Gaiden.
Same goes for games like I Wanna Be The Guy and Super Meat Boy. I don’t know if it’s just a type of difficulty thing or what, but if a game feels completely unfair and with no real payoff, I start to lose interest. And initially, I was worried that’s what Dark Souls was going to be, but really…it isn’t. Well, kind of.
Dark Souls is a game I would best describe as an oldschool action/RPG in that it has lots of traps, ambushes, semi-cunning enemies, TOUGH ass boss fights, lots of open exploration, and plenty of ways it can, and will, fuck you over. Many times you simply have to approach things slow and with great dexterity, other times with lots of great cunning and analytical ability, and still other times all the whilst running away like a bitch and often just plain getting lucky.
So how does this differ from other “tough” games? Well, there are a few ways, but I think the best ones are payoff and the chance to just plain continue to explore the amazing landscape. In some ways the game reminds me of Myst, La-Mulana, Castlevania, and to a fine degree, older action/adventure titles like the original Tomb Raider series and Deathtrap Dungeon.
Every time I had myself cursing at the game, ready to throw the controller…I calmed down, realized that I myself made the mistake, and continued playing, despite potentially losing an incredible amount of progress. See, while there are certain things like inconsistencies in certain enemy strategies, your weapon banging into the wall, or certain enemies ganging up on you where they normally don’t (see my original point), for the most part if you mess up, you don’t feel like the game cheated you…you feel like you genuinely messed up and you should try harder.
This is how older games like Ninja Gaiden and Ghosts n Goblins made you feel. They were genuinely hard, not necessarily to an unfair amount either. Plus, in this one you can level up, get better equipment, make better equipment, exploit weaknesses, improve equipment, use magic and long-range attacks, buy and acquire all sorts of items, unlock shortcuts…I mean really, at this point it sounds like I’m describing Skyrim if it were built more like Castlevania.
The main gripe people complain about is that of souls. See, souls are used for pretty much everything in the game. You use souls to level up, improve and repair equipment, buy stuff…yeah, pretty much everything. Humanity can also be acquired, which allows you to revert to a human (you’re normally undead), which I guess makes you kinda stronger and raises your item acquisition rate, and you can also use it to kindle bonfires, which are checkpoints that also recover HP/MP as well as your flask, which allows you to recover yourself outside the bonfires.
Yeah well, if you die, and you will, you leave a bloodstain which, if you can get back to before you die again, has all the souls and humanity left there (minus one humanity of course since you just reverted to undead). Sounds tough, right? And it is, except…well, you soon realize that’s not that big of a deal. Oh sure, if you’re carrying tens of THOUSANDS of souls and die, it’s a pain in the ass…but usually you can get back to it alright, unless you don’t utilize bonfires well.
Besides that, you can get more humanity from basic drops as well as at random intervals in the game and really…they’re not THAT important. Provided you have two of them when you get to a bonfire so you can revive and kindle the flame, it’s no biggie. Hell, you’ll probably find more when grinding anyway.
It’s surely not a game for everyone, but I’ve found it to be incredibly addicting and well worth the purchase. I’ve no doubt that I’ll not only beat it (eventually), but also play through it a few more times. Seriously, if you like oldschool challenges and love action/RPGs, you could do a lot worse. Why not do better? Stop being a pussy and pick it up already!