NetGuide NZ - Game review: Dark Souls

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Game review: Dark Souls

Gamers who bought Demon’s Souls when it was released back in 2009 didn’t know what to expect. Once they began to play the game, they soon realized how unforgivably difficult it was. Many people failed to even finish Demon’s Souls because it was too darn hard.

Fast forward to 2011 and the game’s ‘spiritual successor’ is here in the form of Dark Souls. If you are hoping Dark Souls will be an easier game, you are going to be disappointed. The official website is www.preparetodie.com, and you should, as Dark Souls is just as frustratingly hard as its predecessor, and there are sure to be a lot of broken controllers as a result. The only difference this time is that Xbox 360 gamers now have a chance to experience the torture PS3 gamers went through two years ago, with the game available on both consoles.

Dark Souls is an old-fashioned dungeon-crawling RPG game. Whereas the Final Fantasy franchise took the RPG genre and added lots of Hollywood-style cutscenes (and a bit of soppy romance), Dark Souls goes in the opposite direction, with cutscenes, dialogue and even background music virtually nonexistent, and the bulk of the gameplay devoted to surviving the hordes of enemies that are after you.

Dark Souls also lacks the engaging storyline and likeable characters of most other video games. You start off as a faceless nobody trying to defeat the many enemies that populate the Dark Souls world, and your progress through the game involves levelling up as much as you can while trying not to die all the time, a task that is much easier said than done.

    

In terms of creating your on-screen avatar, the options are fairly limited when it comes to their appearance. Although you can create both male and female characters, it’s virtually impossible to make them as good looking as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I ended up creating someone that looked like an older Princess Leia, before realising there was no point spending so much time creating your character as you start off looking like a zombie anyway, and you need to find ways to make yourself human again.

Thankfully, the choice of ten classes to choose from offers variation and will cater for gamers of all tastes. These include the following: Warrior, Knight, Wanderer, Thief, Bandit, Hunter, Sorcerer, Pyromancer, Cleric and Deprived.  As usual in RPG titles, each class has their own strengths and weaknesses so it pays to read the description carefully before you make your decision. I chose to be a Knight, a class which boasts lots of health and solid armour, but is severely lacking in the agility apartment.  The Deprived class is the most humorous as you are armed only with a club and dressed only in a loincloth!

In terms of the game’s structure, Dark Souls doesn’t require you to follow a linear path like in Final Fantasy XIII and most FPS titles. Even in just a linear tutorial level, Dark Souls features a massive open-world environment that you are free to explore from the very beginning. It’s even more impressive given the fact that I rarely encountered load times – everything was seamless. The only downside to this is that you may not know where you want to go to next. I made the fatal mistake of following a path where I got killed by a bunch of ghosts, then backtracked and followed a different path which was much more forgiving.

One thing that will frustrate many gamers is the fact the game autosaves frequently and offers no option to go back. If you happened to use all your bombs on a boss but failed to kill it, the game will automatically save this and you have to fight the boss again without all the bombs you had before.  In short, it pays to be extra careful in this game. Never kill or attack anybody that might be helpful to you on your journey, as unlike in other video games, they will be dead forever.

The majority of the time spent in Dark Souls is unfortunately spent dying. The gameplay itself isn’t hard, as you can block attacks using your shield and attack with ease using many weapons such as a swords, clubs, crossbows etc. It’s just that the number of enemies attacking you can quickly become overwhelming. Also, the save points are few and far between and sometimes they are placed far away from a boss battle. This means you may have to fight all the smaller enemies first before you can face the boss again. The smaller enemies are no pushovers either, which makes things even more difficult.  Enemies even re-spawn each and every time you get to a save point! This means if you’re a low on health and need a rest, all the enemies you have killed will be resurrected ready to kick your butt all over again.

The one thing I admired most was the character models. The human characters look rather cheap but the many enemies that you will face look menacingly cool.  There’s one guy that resembles Sauron from Lord of the Rings who is mega tough, and there was even an armoured pig, just to name a few. They may look cool but they are very difficult to defeat.

Dark Souls is a punishing game that only patient and hardcore gamers will find especially fun to play. For everyone else, the difficulty of the game is too great to make it an enjoyable experience. Not to mention Dark Souls lacks a decent storyline, or even a soundtrack. However, the fact that Dark Souls offers a huge environment to explore plus hours of gameplay makes it a game that offers something different from the plethora of RPG games released. If you feel up to the challenge, Dark Souls can be a very great game.

Graphics: 8

Gameplay: 8.5

Sound: 6

Lasting Appeal: 9

Overall: 8

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