Dragon’s Den Halloween Month: Dark Souls
Challenging and Addictive
When Dark Souls first came out, I heard nothing but of how challenging the game was and how others couldn’t get past the various areas of the game. Then after a while, the same friends began talking of how much fun they had playing what had angered them so much before. After a while I decided to buy the game and try it for myself because surely if they’re having this much fun playing through the story and replaying it on New Game+ can’t be that hard. Click below to read more and to learn how I felt after playing through this title.
The game begins with an opening cutscene introducing the world of Dark Souls as there is nothing but darkness before the first fire was lit. Along with the fire, the humans were born and split the flames among themselves to overthrow the eternal dragons. The flames were given to Nito, the first of the dead, the Witches of Izalith, Gwyn along with army, and the easily forgotten Pygmy, and Seathe the Scaleless, a dragon who betrayed his own kind. As the flame-bearers destroyed the dragons and began a new age of fire, the very flames began to fade and a curse has settled upon the lands. Now the very notion of death has been defeated as you will only reappear in the last safe haven with the memories of your previous defeat. The more you are defeated, the more your sanity seems to dwindle away to the point where you’re only a shambling undead and you’re transferred to an asylum far away for you to rot and not come to harm to anyone else. This is where your role begins within the Undead asylum as you have been deemed the chosen undead to not only escape the prison, but also defeat the very flame-bearers that defeated the dragons so long ago for the choice to either continue the age of fire, or let the flames die out and create a new age of darkness.
I love this as a concept alone as it builds the world only enough to tell of the history and the setting to a point. Everything else is up to you to decipher as you collect not only the boss souls, but various items, weapons, armor, and keys as well. Just about every item will have an item description that will add more lore to the game and because there is no direct lore explanation, everything you come up with could possibly be different than how another player may have taken away from the lore themselves. This creates a community of attempting to learn of the true story of Dark Souls.
The graphics can be beautiful as you look into the landscapes around you due to the great lighting, making the lands majestic. Up close however, the textures can be low resolution in some areas, but it’s not upsetting to the point where it ruins the entire experience as you will be paying more attention to the initial combat or the landscape itself. Most of the areas you will traverse will show enemy placements in the distance and it will be up to you to decide how you could deal with the problem. Along with enemy placements, there will also be plenty of traps to be had will be hidden just enough with the lighting to catch you off guard, if you’re not paying enough attention to your surroundings. There is also very rarely a loading screen to be seen as you progress from area to area, unless you use the warp ability you’ll obtain halfway through, or being summoned to another player’s world. The music easily portrays what you are supposed to be feeling between the almost depressing tones of Firelink Shrine, to the intense oppressing music played when fighting any bosses. If I had it available to me, I would definitely purchase the soundtrack to this title as it is that good.
The gameplay can either frustrate you immensely, or you can enjoy it just as much depending on how patient you are. As long as you’re willing to take your time to learn how your character and your enemies movements, you will be able to the story quicker than you would have if you rush in, flailing your sword around. Just about every standard enemy can easily kill you if you are not careful in how you deal with them as each has their own sets of attacks. The difficulty only spikes when you choose to attempt to fight against a Black Knight enemy, which will easily put you to the ground if you do not know how to defeat them, but if you’re patient and can wait for the right moment, a newcomer can easily backstab these enemies until they are defeated. But like your enemies, you as the chosen undead also have different sets of attacks depending on the weapon you prefer. You can use a standard longsword and use a combination of medium slashes, or you can use daggers for quick and easy stabs, or you can use a giant club in the shape of a dragon’s tooth the crush your enemies. This might sound like it would be a given, but it definitely helps you a lot in your journey when you find a weapon you’re very comfortable using as it provides extra support mentally against enemies that you’ve yet to learn to counter attack. You can also sneak behind certain enemies and achieve a backstab animation in which you’ll do more damage, increasing your chances of victory. To do even more damage, you could take the time to learn to parry your enemies with your shield (or your bare hand if you so wished) and attain a riposte, although this skill is more difficult to master, but definitely makes a lot of fights that much easier. The only negatives I could really give at the immediate beginning is that combat feels very slow and sluggish, with inaccurate rolls at time, but you will adapt to it quickly enough, so it doesn’t become as much of a problem.
Each section of the game uses a checkpoint system known as bonfires. Each bonfire allows you to use any souls (which you obtain from items or defeating enemies to use as currency) to level up your stats. All but two stats are (arguably) pointless as Resistance will only increase your resistances, a stat that already increases whenever you increase other stats, the other being the Luck which will only increase your chances of obtaining the more standard enemy drops, but doesn’t actually increase chances of getting more rare and useful items. All of the other stats can help you build your character in any way you wished with any weapons or armor you choose to use. Along with upgrading your stats, you can also upgrade your gear with the various shards, chunks, slabs, etc. that you can obtain via enemy drops, shops, or just by exploring the world itself. To further award your efforts to explore, there are flames hidden in certain areas that allow you to upgrade your gear even further, but all of this is completely up to you. It is entirely possible to beat the entire game without leveling once, your greatest weapon you can use in Dark Souls is your patience and will to do it. All of the different possibilities provides great replayability as each time you complete the game, you can continue again with New Game+, which increases the difficulty, but allows for better item drops. To make the game easier on you, you’re allowed to summon other players (so long as in you’re not in the hollowed form) to help you with bosses or challenging areas. But on the flip side if you’re unhollowed, other players can invade your world with the sole purpose of killing you so they can obtain the souls you’ve gathered. If you wanted to play with others, you could use every opportunity to reverse any hollowing with humanity (an item you use at the bonfire, but you can also reverse said hollow-form by being summoned to other players world to defeat a boss, or invading another player and killing them) to play with others online. There are also plenty of covenants that allow any form of PvP or PVE much more simple to attain as each will provide a special item. But there’s barely, if any consequences for being in a hollowed form, as you will not be invaded, you do not lose any health, take any more damage, anything. You can play through the entire game offline (so to speak) without others and still enjoy the journey.
There are a lot of negatives though about this title though, and they do show quite often. Any visit you make to Blighttown will cause the framerate dramatically for about a minute. The same boss is practically used three separate times with a new explosion ability or being more aggressive (these being the Asylum, Firesage, and Stray demons). Lost Izalith can strain the eyes very quickly as the entire area is a bright orange lava that assaults the senses to run through. The lack of ability to use up multiples of the same item at once (For example, using multiple humanities when needed). This will become annoying as a certain covenant requires thirty Humanities to reach the maximum rank, and you will be standing there, pressing the “use” button repeatedly until you reach the needed thirty. Lastly, there is a required boss that was so poorly designed, the developers actually apologized. I speak of the Bed of Chaos, a giant tree-creature that will swipe at you with its large limbs, and it’s up to you to run into its sides to destroy the objects required to destroy the barrier protecting the creature in the center. After destroying the first object, the floor will start to fall apart, leaving players having to take guesses as to where is safe to run to the other side, whilst also being swiped at. Even after destroying both objects, the floor is almost completely destroyed except for one certain section, which requires an almost perfect jump to reach without missing, or rolling off the edges.
Dark Souls can be a very easy platinum to get depending on your skill. Beating the game once will give you plenty of trophies as they involve killing a majority of the bosses and you’ll more than likely get one trophy pertaining to upgrading your weapon to max in a certain way. The only things you have to be aware of are the many spells between the Faith, Pyromancies, and Sorceries that you will have to acquire along with every special weapon that you will either get through rare enemy drops or using the boss’s souls to create weapons, shields, or even spells in that right. Most of the trophies will require multiple playthroughs on the same character, (minimum of a NG++ if you’re using a guide). So if you enjoy the game, I would definitely recommend trying to get all of the trophies, as it adds more fun to the experience.
To conclude this long review, this will be a challenging game at first, but if you’re willing to put in the time you can adapt to how you’re supposed to play the game and enjoy it that much more. If you’re a fan of challenges, intense bosses, obscure lore, and varied fighting styles, this is definitely a game I could recommend to you. Sure there are a lot of things to be annoyed at, but most of it is arguably minor and won’t affect you as much as it would others. I was able to get the platinum myself and I enjoyed every minute of it, even the more frustrating times.
+Ambiguous Story -Multiple Use of the Same Boss
+Multiple Ways to Fight -Bed of Chaos
+Challenging Bosses -Framerate Drop in certain areas
+Great Soundtrack -Lack of Ability to Use Multiples of the Same Item
+Beautiful Landscapes -No Mercy to NewComers
+Rewarding Exploration -Lost Izilith Assaults the Senses
+Difficult to Master