The legendary Dark Souls, an ARPG of many a tale and many a meme. What mystical qualities made this game so beloved to this day?
|Console||PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3|
|Publisher||Namco Bandai Games, FromSoftware|
|Release Year||2011 – 2012|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (PS3)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (Xbox 360)||Purchase from Amazon.|
Dark Souls. The name either strikes pure, unadulterated anger into gamers with a side of FUCK THIS. Or it strikes love and forgiveness… with a side of fuck… this…
Contrary to, ahem, popular opinion, I have some gripes about it. Now, don’t give me that look. Every piece of media has flaws in it, and Dark Souls is no exception. And if you’re here to say that Dark Souls is a perfect piece of media and I should stay quiet cuz I’m a noob, well…
You can just shut you asshole up. No, really. Get some superglue and keep it shut. Because I don’t like people spewing shit right on my carpets.
Alright, alright! I’m just kidding around… kinda. Before you all get your panties in a bunch, I do think Dark Souls is one of the most masterfully crafted RPGs in recent years. This is going to be an opinionated piece and I do think the game has some flaws.
GASP! He has opinions! Stone him!
But don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a bad game. In fact, I love it! Now, to shit on a game I love! This is Dark Souls.
The World of Lordran
First off, I’ll say that the copy of the game I have is the Prepare to Die Edition from Steam. By Gwyn, what a fitting subtitle.
I had some problems with maintaining online connectivity and this seems to be a common issue. So if you’re playing this version of the game for PC, download DSCM and run it before launching Dark Souls. Also, make sure your Windows Firewall is not blocking the game (or turn it off). The multiplayer aspect of Dark Souls is at least worth a try before you judge if it adds or subtracts from the experience.
So, a quick background. Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to FromSoftware’s Demon’s Souls, which was a spiritual successor to the King’s Field series. Pretty much every gamer had heard about this game at one point or another, because of its infamous difficulty. The term “Dark Souls” became a meme because of this.
Example: This game I suck at is the Dark Souls of whatever genre of games.
Um, yeah, can we just stop this shit? Dark Souls isn’t the only hard game in the world and I had certainly played much harder (i.e. Holy Diver and Fire Emblem for Famicom). This article pretty much sums up why I think, “This game is the Dark Souls of…” is bullshit. I especially loved this part.
It’s OK to call a game hard because there’s absolutely a market for them out there. Learning to ride a bike is like playing Dark Souls, through trial and error with a little practice, you’ll get it down and be riding a bike perfectly with a few bumps and bruises along the way.
Just say a game is hard, people. Don’t just jump on a bandwagon to sound cool. You’re doing a miserable job at it.
Now then… for the actual game!
Dark Souls begins with an intro explaining the world of Lordran and how it came to be. Basically, five entities each got their hands on a Lord Soul, granting them great power. Among them is Lord Gwyn, a godly being who acquired the First Flame, a powerful lifeforce that keeps Lordran in balance. After a war between gods and dragons, the gods seize the overworld and rule Lordran. However, the First Flame was beginning to fade away and a lot of shit went down, to say the very least.
You are the Chosen Undead, a mysterious human cursed by the Darksign. Those who carry the Darksign are doomed to eventually become Hollows, a race of mindless zombies who have no memories of their prior lives and will kill anything that moves. In Lordran, this is a fate worse than death itself.
You’re not in the campy and whimsical world of Final Fantasy, people. You’re in the grimdark and tragic realm of Dark Souls.
Have fun, lel.
There’s a lot to go on here, so I’ll let you fill in the gaps on your own.
The Learning Curve
So you’ll begin the game with a deep character creation system where you can edit your face and make something that would even make Quasimodo say is hideous and gross. Keep in mind that whichever class you pick does not matter in the long run, because anyone can wield any weapon and magic they want just as long as they have the minimum stats to wield them. The class only determines your beginning stats and equipment, so don’t worry too much about classes. If you’re just starting out, I recommend choosing Warrior (wield weapons with ease), Knight (heavy equipment and Miracle spells), or Pyromancer (Pyromancy spells).
As for the starting gift, go with a Master Key, Black Firebombs (if you want to kill the Asylum Demon on the first encounter and get his weapon), or an Old Witch’s Ring (if you’re a Pyromancer or want to learn Pyromancy).
By the way, you might want to purchase a gamepad for this game if you’re playing on PC. Playing with the keyboard and mouse is a pain in the ass.
Dark Souls starts off with a tutorial area where you learn the controls and get used to the kinds of enemy encounters and traps you will see throughout the game. And you better get used to these controls real quick (or write them down somewhere) because you won’t be able to revisit the Northern Undead Asylum for some time and review it all.
You can run, swing your weapon, block with your shield, step backwards, and perform a dodge-roll. Most of your actions will use up stamina, which recovers slowly if you’re not doing anything. If your stamina is too low, you’re more vulnerable to your enemies. For example, trying to block an attack when you have low stamina will break your guard for a couple of seconds.
You can also jump, believe it or not, but the game doesn’t tell you this. You’re supposed to somehow figure out that you need to have a running start, then double-tap the run button to perform a jump that finishes with a forward roll. It’s bad enough that you need to know how to do this to reach certain areas of the game, but the accuracy of said jumps are awful. Because of your character’s clunky movement, it’s easy for this jump to screw up and have you plummet into a bottomless pit. Thankfully, the jump is very situational, but god… it’s so annoying to use…
You can also parry an enemy attack with the right timing, then riposte to deal brutal damage. Orrrrrrrr you can move behind an enemy and stab him in the back for some extra cheap damage.
And now that we got our obligatory Happy Souls joke out of the way…
Dark Souls is a slow and deliberate action RPG where you must observe your opponents and look for the right openings to strike. This especially goes true for melee fighters, as you’ll often come across Hollows and other humanoid enemies with shields. And yes, they can also use the parry-and-riposte combo on you too. If you read your opponent’s movements incorrectly, you could easily meet an untimely death from just one attack. You can subdue these blocking whores by kicking them, breaking their guard for a second.
Or you can use magic to take the easy way out. Just watch out for those relatively slow charge times.
Sounds simple so far, right? Just master the combat mechanics. Nothing can go wrong! Hah hah hah hah!
Well, this is where bonfires come in. Bonfires serve as your checkpoints and the places you go to for leveling up. Yes, you have to manually level up. This is made possible by collecting souls, which are both the experience points and the currency of Lordran. You collect souls by either killing enemies or picking up larger souls from corpses.
And once you collect enough souls, go to a bonfire to level up and choose to increase one of your stats: Vitality, Attunement, Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Resistance, Intelligence, and Faith.
Boy, that’s a lot. And what does each one do, you ask?
- Vitality – increases hitpoints
- Attunement – increases number of Attunement Slots, which hold your usable spells
- Endurance – increases Stamina, max Equip Load and resistance to Bleeding
- Strength – increases attack power of weapons that scale with this Strength
- Dexterity – increases attack power of weapons that scale with Dexterity; increases casting speed of most spells
- Resistance – increases physical and flame defense, as well as resistance to Poison
- Intelligence – increases attack power of Sorceries; increases attack power of weapons that scale with Intelligence
- Faith – increases the effectiveness of Miracles and magic defense; increases attack power of weapons that scale with Faith
Here are some hints. Resistance is useless; do not bother leveling it up. If you want a typical warrior or knight build, focus on Vitality, Endurance, and Strength (and/or Dexterity).
If you want to have spells at all, you need to have Attunement. If you want Sorceries, you need Intelligence. If you want Miracles, you need Faith. If you want Pyromancies, well… you get a separate weapon called the Pyromancy Flame and you have to level that up separately by speaking to specific NPCs.
You got all that so far? If not, no worries. Dark Souls is a renowned title for its deep gameplay mechanics, so it might take a while to get used to it all. Aside from the statistics I already listed, there are damage types: Poison, Bleed, Toxic, Fire, Lightning, Magic, Slash, Strike, Thrust… All of these are affected by your permanent stats and your current equipment. I’ll leave it up to you to look those up. Otherwise, this wouldn’t be a review. It would just be a walkthrough.
Overall, this is one of the deepest RPG mechanics system I’ve come across. There is so much to learn about and experiment here to the point where every one of your Dark Souls playthroughs will be unique in some way. You might end up using different characters builds, different weapons, and different armor. Every weapon, no matter how weak or strong, has different movesets and advantages. Because every piece of equipment has different strengths and weaknesses, there is no single best weapon or best armor set. It all comes down to which ones you are the most comfortable with.
However, this is sometimes easier said than done. I haven’t even begun to talk about the actual CHALLENGES Dark Souls throws at you. Hoo, boy….
Death is Only a Hindrance
Anyone can tell you that Dark Souls is a tough game, even people who have never played a single game of the series. And that is thanks to the game’s devilish tricky design. Its objective is to punish players who are unprepared for the challenges ahead. And I don’t mean losing a life or using up continues.
For example, what happens if you die? Well, you respawn from the last bonfire you interacted with… and lose all of the souls you were carrying.
YEP. The one thing that lets you buy stuff and level up gets left behind. The GOOD NEWS is that you can go back to the place where you died and reclaim them. No harm done. The BAD NEWS is that you would have to either overcome or avoid the same obstacles that killed you previously. Doesn’t sound bad if your death was just some dumb accident, like falling off a cliff. But… the WORST NEWS is that if you die before reclaiming your souls, those souls are gone FOREVER.
But hey, at least you get unlimited continues. Just try not to die again. Or just rage-quit and sit around. It matters not. You will just die and die again. Then you will join the rest of the Hollows. Hah hah hah hah!
Or, you know… GIT GUD.
Bottom line, don’t run into a dangerous situation with a truckload of souls unless you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, you’ll regret it.
The Seamless World
So let’s talk about the actual places you have to visit. Lordran is a large, open-ended piece of land. There is no world map to rely on for navigation. Only your sense of direction and memorization skills—don’t worry, it’s not that hard to remember where each place is. The main hub area is Firelink Shrine, one of the calmest locations of Lordran and a gateway to multiple areas.
And this is one of the big things that makes Dark Souls so enjoyable. There are very few loading screens in general, and it feels like every area is interconnected in a giant map. As you continue exploring these locations, you will find shortcuts that will take you back to a familiar area. That in itself felt like an accomplishment.
And these places can change drastically in appearance and hazards. You can find a dark town built above a swamp, just by passing through a large sewer system. And as you go deeper, you will reach an area that resembles Hell—you know, fire, brimstone, magma and all that wonderful jazz.
But strangely enough, these areas have a sense of unity in them. Somehow, you will find that a hellish landscape hidden below a swamp is somehow plausible. Despite all the darkness and despair-inducing moments of the game, it definitely feels like you’re on one grand adventure. You’ll probably die a hundred times and a hundred more after… but you’ll still wonder what secrets each area holds.
The sound design is minimalist in a sense. Most of Dark Souls doesn’t have any music, but ambient sounds of the environment. This is quite refreshing, to say the least. Whenever music does play, it feels more important—usually, during boss fights. Only a couple of maps have their own themes. And speaking of which, the soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba is one eargasm after another.
From the tragic beauty of the Firelink Shrine…
To the chaotic nature of your first boss fight…
From the climactic showdown against Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough…
To the whimpering final moments…
There are some unremarkable tracks here and there, with overusage of monotone vocalizations and dull background melodies. And fittingly, those usually play for the more unremarkable bosses of the game. I wonder if that’s intentional or just coincidence.
There’s a wonderful amount of work in these graphics. Admittedly, some of the character models look off. It doesn’t help that most of the NPCs in the game don’t have any lip movement whatsoever—except Andre of Astora for some reason. In fact, there were some unused animations of Crossbreed Priscilla and Princess Gwynevere.
Dragon waifu has such pretty eyes.
Sunlight boob waifu also has such pretty eyes.
Damn, dem Dark Souls waifus lookin’ good! But in all seriousness, anyone else think Gwynevere looked better with her eyes open and lip-synced? Just me? I dunno. I guess keeping her eyes closed the whole time was supposed to make her seem more godly or whatever, but… egh.
The dark fantasy environments are just absolutely incredible to look at. Solaire of Astora had the right idea about the sun. Because every time you see sunlight in these areas, you’re always treated to breathtaking views. Even the darker and grimier places have a wonderful amount of detail to them. If anything, the graphics of this game still hold up today!
Now, the DESIGN of some of these areas is another thing!
Oh yeah, this is certainly FAIR.
Anyone starting out in Dark Souls can tell you which maps pissed them off the most. And one of the most common ones is the infamous Blighttown. Basically, you’re looking at a hidden town built below a sewage system but HIGH ABOVE the wetlands. You have to move across narrow, poorly built walkways while trying not to fall to your death. To make matters worse, you have some of the most annoying enemies in the game constantly harassing you. You will be outnumbered by Infested Ghouls, you will try not to get wedged into a corner by an Infested Barbarian, and you will have to dodge the poison darts of Blowdart Snipers. Those guys in particular can quickly inflict the Toxic status on you, which is five times worse than regular Poisoned status. And if you don’t have any spare Blooming Purple Moss Clumps to heal yourself with, you’re pretty much fucked. Add in Flaming Attack Dogs wrecking your shit and whatever horrors lie in the swamp below.
By the way, the swamp itself is poisonous. And it’s a long way down to get there. If you don’t have a Rusted Iron Ring, the water will slow you down. Oh, and you’ll love this… in some versions of Dark Souls, this map has terrible lag.
Good fucking luck for first-timers. You’re going to need it.
Blighttown is despair in a nutshell. There are so many things you’d have to watch out for that it’ll feel like an eternity to get through. And for a while, you’re going to be stuck there. And you will miss the solemn warmth of Firelink Shrine, wondering if you’ll ever see it again. But at the same time, clearing Blighttown is like a rite of passage. If you’re willing to take risks and explore the map in detail, you’ll eventually get out. Not only that, but it prepares you to face the rest of the game. You just cleared one of the hardest (and one of the worst) maps in Dark Souls. Put that on your résumé!
Just out of fun, I decided to make a list of my personal best and worst maps of Dark Souls. And… begin!
- Undead Burg – Aside from the Northern Undead Asylum, this particular map is the game’s first real foot forward. Pretty much everything you need to know about the game starts here. How to deal with multiple enemies, how to utilize equipment to your advantage, how item purchases work, how diligent exploring yields higher rewards, etc.
- Undead Parish – This map is pretty fun for the same reasons as the Undead Burg. It ramps up the difficulty by introducing you to extra powerful enemies, such as the Hellkite Dragon, the Armored Tusk, the Berenike Knights and the Channelers. It teaches you to pick your own fights and only kill what is necessary. I’m not gonna lie, though… the Hellkite Dragon is one of the cheapest fuckers in this game, even if you try to get as much Fire Resistance as possible…
- Darkroot Garden – One of the first thematic changes of the environments. You come from upstairs of a castle town to a dark and mysterious forest. The Darkroot Garden teaches you to be slow when approaching enemies, because a whole bunch of them ganging up on you is pure chaos. While the Moonlight Butterfly is a mediocre boss fight, the Great Grey Wolf Sif fight is one of the best in the game.
- Sen’s Fortress – This map is a lot of fun to go through. After ringing the two Bells of Awakening, this is the place that will teach you to plan things out before running headfirst. Sen’s Fortress is filled with traps, powerful Serpent Men and excellent treasures.
- Anor Londo – At first, the map starts off quietly and has some dull vacant spaces. But after you reach the main castle, you’ll come across many tough enemies such as Painting Guardians and Silver Knights. Those two infamous archers, though, are assholes. Aside from that hiccup, this level is a great opportunity to perfect your parry-and-riposte combo. Also, it has one of the most memorable boss fights in the series and even a nice reward after…
- Painted World of Ariamis – Even though this is one of the optional maps, Ariamis is both a beautiful and deadly place. In contrast to the bright and hopeful Anor Londo, Ariamis is a dark, cold world full of twisted creatures and labyrinthine ruins. It is also home to Crossbreed Priscilla, the only boss in the game who spares you. The map itself is labyrinthine in design and has many grotesque enemies, but it’s satisfying to collect treasures and gather souls here. This area even references the first true boss of Demon’s Souls, the Phalanx.
- The Duke’s Archives – This massive library owned by Seath the Scaleless contains some difficult enemies and a creepy atmosphere. If you can clear this area, you can clear the rest of the game. Using what you learned about fighting multiple enemies and the parry-and-riposte combo, you’ll be pitted against enemies that perform significantly high damage.
- Royal Wood – Only in the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. This is basically a past version of the Darkroot Garden, but with more difficult enemies and interesting terrain. It’s surreal being here to begin with, but you get to face off against the legendary knight Artorias himself as a victim of the Abyss. And yes, it’s one of the most challenging fights in the game.
- Blighttown – Okay. To be fair for a bit, Blighttown isn’t that bad when you actually get a feel for the layout of the map. But playing through this map for the very first time is absolute hell. It’s easily one of the most grueling trips in Dark Souls due to its complex design, many chances of getting poisoned, risk of falling from a high place, lighting that seems to change randomly, difficult to find where to go next, and the fact it’s home to some of the most annoying enemies in the game. While it’s not necessarily a badly designed area, it’s easy to go in without the preparations. And it’s hard to get out…
- Crystal Cave – Where do I even begin? This is easily the worst designed map in Dark Souls. Why? Because it’s short, but frustrating and unintuitive. Aside from the Crystal Golems that may take a lot of hits to die, there are invisible floors that you can only identify through these subtle snowflake effects and Orange Soapstone messages. If you’re not careful, you can easily plummet to a pit of death because some invisible floors are convoluted in shape, resulting in many cheap deaths. Also, you might slip off any crystals you had to walk on, leading to even more bullshit deaths. Fuck this map.
- New Londo Ruins – Well, the first half anyway. Imagine fighting a bunch of ghosts safely hiding in walls while they slice and grab you in large numbers. If you were unfortunate enough to get the Cursed status, you can visit a NPC here to break the curse for free. However, your HP is halved and the ghosts will likely do a lot of damage at that point of the game. The rest of the map is not too bad once you drained the water. But it also has no bonfires whatsoever and it’s home to one of the hardest boss fights in the game.
- Demon Ruins – What a strangely boring map. Aside from wishy washy placement of boss monsters you fought before, giant fields of nothing and monsters that do ridiculous damage to your equipment, this place feels like it takes a while to get used to. Also, three bosses. The first one is a gimmick boss where you can kill him by luring him into a trap, the second one is a rehashed Asylum Demon, and the third one gives you little to no room to fight. Talk about underwhelming and tedious.
- Lost Izalith – One word: lava. The first half of this map is a giant sea of lava that makes you feel like you’re taking a blindness test. It’s too damn bright, and for some reason the rest of the map gets darker. There even exists a mod for the PC version just to tone down the brightness. The lava makes everything harder to see. Also, the Bounding Demons of Izalith (those dragon butt things…) are a pain to deal with. The second half of the map is more straightforward and not nearly as bad, but damn. Also, it’s home to the worst boss in the game: the Bed of Chaos.
- The Great Hollow – I cannot stress enough how much this map pisses me off. It takes the worst mechanic of the game (platforming) and turns it into a giant vertical platformer. Aside from Crystal Cave, I don’t think there’s an easier place to die than this one. There are also areas in this map that are difficult to maneuver in, making it easier for Basilisks to curse you.
- Ash Lake – Okay. This one, I’m mixed on. Ash Lake is a very scenic area and is one of the few maps to have its own background music (which I love). The problem is that there’s pretty much NOTHING to do here, unless you’re a user of dragon weapons or want to complete the Siegmeyer side quest. Ultimately, this map is more thematic than fun. It is to show the vast expanses of emptiness to emphasize that a once powerful race of beasts (dragons) once resided here. And only one dragon still lives. Though, I have to admit that the local Hydra gliding over the beach is graceful as fuck.
Humanity and Jolly Cooperation
Ever wondered about those strange orange messages on the ground? Well, those are other players leaving behind hints or other comments. Or players being dicks, fooling newcomers into performing stupid stunts. Want to write your own messages? Buy an Orange Soapstone from the Undead Burg vendor today!
One thing I have yet to bring up is the item called Humanity. Other than souls, they’re one of the most important items to carry with you. You can find Humanity on some corpses or as rare drops from certain enemies early in the game. And sometimes, your Humanity counter on the top left will increase when you kill enemies.
But here’s the problem. The game doesn’t explain what Humanity does or why it’s important to have. It kept its usage rather ambiguous, which is annoying. The most immediate use of Humanity fully restores your HP and increases your Humanity counter (upper-left corner) by 1. However, you can approach a bonfire and sacrifice one of your used Humanities to turn human.
Okay then… so… does it make me stronger… does it make me handle my character better… or…?
See, this is another thing that annoys me about Dark Souls. There is no explanation on some of the mechanics and controls anywhere in the game. You either have to figure it out by complete accident or read up a guide. I know there are going to be naysayers here, so read on…
Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: This is the way Dark Souls is meant to be played! No guides or tutorials means no hand-holding, and you have to figure out everything on your own. It’s just like the old gaming days. Those who figure out Dark Souls are the true gaming elite!
That’s fine and dandy and all… but let’s be REALLY honest here. How many of you actually figured out EVERYTHING on your own? How many of you looked up online guides and walkthroughs just to figure out what the hell you can do and what you’re supposed to do?
….Yeah, exactly. How the hell was I supposed to know how to jump in this game unless it’s by complete accident? How was I supposed to know that restoring your humanity unlocks multiplayer features in a port with broken multiplayer features? How was I supposed to know that a dodge-roll would break some destructible objects depending on your current Equip Load? You either learn by complete accident or reading, not by the game’s own design. And I wouldn’t exactly call that fair. I consider it an oversight by the developer. If the Internet didn’t exist, I’d get stuck more often.
All I’m asking… is at least put a guide in the main menu or something. You don’t have to shove in a giant tutorial up my face. There are some things I can figure out on my own. But for others, I need to be taught how to do them. Imagine if you had to hold down a button, then press another button to just attack. If you had known how to do this, it’s not much of a problem.
But if you don’t… it’s frustrating for no good reason. It makes you lose faith in the game, making it easier to call it “unfair” or “overrated” or whatever petty adjective you have.
So yeah. Humanity serves two other purposes:
- After you become human, you can use up more Humanities and sacrifice them to a bonfire to increase your max number of Estus Flasks—your renewable health potions. You absolutely need to know this, because some maps can be long and tedious. Those extra Flasks are worth it.
- Becoming human unlocks multiplayer features. You can use the White Soapstone (given by Solaire of Astora) to let you assist other players with clearing maps and bosses. You can also call upon other players and NPCs to help you as well, because WE NEED TO ENGAGE IN JOLLY COOPERATION! You can also use items that allow you to invade other players’ worlds, engaging in a PvP battle to earn more souls, Humanities and other goodies. Beware, other players can invade you too…
I didn’t learn about these two until I read about it online. Because they weren’t immediate effects (like health restoration), they’re harder to notice. And because I originally played the faulty PC version of Dark Souls with no mods, I barely noticed the multiplayer features at all. Imagine my annoyance.
Why thank you, Sunbro.
Want more jolly cooperation? Join a covenant. A covenant is the closest thing to a guild in this game, and all of them require you to do different things and gain different rewards. For example, the Forest Hunter covenant requires you to defend the borders of the Darkroot Garden. In doing so, you gain access to rare weapons and unique rings.
But be careful. Once you joined a covenant, joining a new one will mean you betrayed your old one. And that means punishment, unless…
You get this creeper named Oswald of Carim to pardon your sins.
After all, it is only human to commit a sin… HEH HEH HEH HEH!
Why is Everyone Stabbing Me in the Back!?
I know I’m going to get a lot of flak and you don’t have to agree with this statement, but I’m going to let this out: PvP sucks 12 kinds of ass in Dark Souls.
Wait, what’s that I’m hearing?
No, you’re wrong! You just suck 12 kinds of ass!
GIT GUD NOOB
Okay, let me explain. Let’s start with how PvP occurs.
- You use up Humanity to restore your own humanity at a bonfire. Often, the reason you want to do this is to kindle the bonfire while human, so you can carry more Estus Flasks.
- While you’re human, enter a designated PvP map such as the Undead Burg or Darkroot Garden.
- Either someone invades your world or you invade someone else’s world with a Cracked Red Eye Orb.
Now, this is a pretty elaborate way to trigger PvP. It can happen at random while you’re human. PvP is a great way to gain extra Souls and Humanity. But if you’re out adventuring, this feature can easily become a nuisance.
But here is what brings my piss to a boil. PvP matchups are based on levels, but does NOT factor in equipment. So a player can easily gain the advantage by not leveling up, but getting exceptional equipment. I am NOT fucking with you with this example. Someone carrying a Lightning Spear and has a ridiculous amount of Poise, to endure a heavy attack from a Halberd, ganked me at the Undead Burg in two – three hits. I didn’t even start playing at the Depths yet, and you couldn’t get a Lightning Spear until Sen’s Fortress.
Furthermore, this is the common strategy used in PvP.
- Strafe around.
- Backstab opponent.
- Repeat until dead.
And of course, both opponents can heal infinitely. The invaded can keep using Estus Flasks. The invader can keep using Humanity. And anyone with Miracles? Ha! Good luck trying to heal when someone is on your ass. And don’t get me started on those pricks who hide behind enemy mobs when their health is too low—because enemy mobs don’t attack invaders. Fucking bullshit.
While PvP is certainly not required to play through Dark Souls, it’s rather hard to avoid if you’re trying to get through the game more easily. It feels flawed, unpolished and exploitable. And well, it’s just not fun. It’s more like an afterthought than something you’d want to spend time on.
There’s also no knowing if someone will actually fight fair or be a chicken wuss and take the easy way out. So don’t be surprised if many of your PvP matches becomes a contest of who stabs who in the back the quickest.
But of course, there are also NPC invaders who are much easier to deal with. They only spawn at fixed points in specific maps. So if you want their goodies, make sure to turn yourself human first.
The Lore of the Land
Oh god, there’s more to talk about here? Agh… there’s a reason why I put off this review for so long… I dropped over 200 hours into this game, people. 200 hours and I finally got to writing the review. For the longest time, I had no idea how to say my piece without sounding the same as everyone else…
Anyways, the story of Dark Souls is a highly debatable one. Aside from the intro movie, much of what happens in Lordran is shrouded in mystery. Any bit of story, you can pick up from NPCs and the world itself.
Characters like Oscar, Solaire, Lautrec of Carim, Big Hat Logan, Black Iron Tarkus, Dark Sun Gwyndolin, Crossbreed Priscilla, Paladin Leeroy, Great Grey Wolf Sif, Knight Artorias, and the Daughters of Chaos have some sort of hidden backstory to them. It’s a matter of putting the pieces together and discovering some disturbing possibilities.
YouTuber VaatiVidya comes up with some great theories about specific characters. But you can also seek out other reading material to figure out who these people are and how they fit into the dying Age of Fire. What their roles are and how they became the person they are.
This is not to say that there is no story. It’s certainly there, but the developer took a minimalist approach in telling it. But needless to say… seems like every character is trying hard to find a purpose or some reason to laugh.
No, seriously. There’s so much uncomfortable and sinister laughing in this game.
You can certainly trust all of us! Laugh! LAUGH WITH ME!
I guess laughing at uncomfortable situations is only human. It’s only natural if you’re looking for an alternative aside from falling into despair. In a way, these people are struggling to retain their humanity in a world where the Undead are doomed to become shells of who they once were.
I guess part of the reason for the minimalist storytelling is to release Dark Souls on time, hence why there are many leftover assets and and cut content that I would’ve loved to see developed.
Hell… did you know Crossbreed Priscilla was originally going to be the female lead in the game? Like, no shit. And she got shoved to the role of optional boss in the end. It’s too bad. I would’ve loved to see how a scythe-wielding dragon-human-god hybrid deals with other foes. And Shiva of the East was also originally going to have his own story arc, but he became a minor character who is extremely easy to miss.
Whatever story content made it into Dark Souls is already quite tragic and heartbreaking, though there are some clearly unexplained backstories and some loose ends. If FromSoftware had more time to work on the game, it would feel more complete. But hey… no use dwelling on the past. This game is depressing enough as it is.
A Journey at an End, A New One Begins
Dark Souls is a game about overcoming challenges at any cost. Sometimes, you have to use different gear to defeat a boss. Sometimes, you just need to run into a bit of trial-and-error. However it goes, your journey will be a long and difficult one. You’ll be seeing dark places, talking to strange folks, and dueling with those desiring your souls.
If you’re playing Dark Souls for the first time, then I shall share some tips with you.
- Do not be afraid of using an online guide to help you learn more about the game. You will need ALL the help you can get.
- Your beginning class will determine your beginning stats and equipment. However, you can use any equipment and use any magic no matter which class you choose. So, don’t worry too much about which class you select. You can always create a different build with your new stats when leveling up.
- The best gift item is the Master Key since it lets you access certain areas earlier. For the Pyromancer class, you may go with the Old Witch’s Ring instead (for a story-based purpose).
- Explore. Explore. Explore. You will find many more useful items and shortcuts this way.
- While your Estus Flasks are initially limited, they will ALWAYS replenish when you rest at a bonfire. Use them to heal yourself to your heart’s content.
- Save up as many Humanities as possible. Don’t use them as regular healing items. Instead, use them for a nearby bonfire to become human and kindle the bonfire. Kindling allows you to carry more Estus Flasks.
- Whenever you feel lost on where to go, you can consult the Crestfallen Soldier at the Firelink Shrine. He will give hints on where you can check. Be sure to listen well, because he will give the hints ONLY ONCE.
- Don’t be afraid of Petrus’s invitation for you to join the Way of White covenant. This covenant is specifically made for beginners and give you easy access to Miracles early, which are good healing and utility spells. Just remember that you need to equip a talisman to use them.
- If you have a lot of souls, be sure to spend them as soon as possible. If you see a fog door (those white walls you must interact to bypass it), don’t enter until you spent your souls. There’s a chance that a boss waits behind it. You do NOT want to lose so many souls after much hard work.
- Practice the parry-and-riposte combo. It can save you a LOT of headaches against humanoid enemies. You need to time your parry correctly (right before an enemy’s attack lands) in order to make a successful counter.
- Be sure to remember that you can always wield weapons using two hands, which will make your attacks stronger. Be careful. Weapons do not block enemy attacks as well as shields, and you WILL take damage!
- Throughout the game, you will see these tall Black Knight enemies. Be careful when facing them. They’re usually much more powerful than the regular enemies around the area. They are susceptible to the parry-and-riposte combo though.
- Make sure to meet Solaire of Astora at the Undead Burg. He will give you the White Sign Soapstone.
This game was certainly a trip. On my journeys, I have come across sun-obsessed knights, comical onion-shaped knights, disturbingly vaginal dragons, chubby women wearing sacks over their heads, dogs that ate way too many ghost peppers and belched fire, half-naked women with a mutant spider for a lower half, an insane dragon whose lower half resembles a slug, and the living husk of a god who once ruled the lands. It was certainly an interesting and all-sorts-of-fucked-up trip.
And I love it. I haven’t played any game like Dark Souls previously, and I’m glad for it. Some fans of the game may hold it as the Holy Grail of Gaming. For me personally, I still think it’s flawed in some areas but I genuinely do enjoy my playthroughs. It was a pleasure.
- Deep gameplay mechanics that emphasize picking your personal favorite equipment.
- A grand, seamless world full of beautiful vistas and hideously grimy depths.
- An epic soundtrack that only plays during the game's critical moments.
- The game's challenge tests your ability to adapt to new obstacles and your persistence.
- The story is hidden behind a lot of dialogue and environmental changes, putting faith in you to put the pieces together.
- For the PC version, faulty online connection.
- The game has a tendency to not how to perform certain actions or how certain mechanics work, which you need to research on your own.
- The jumping and platforming are clunky and annoying to use.
- There are some badly designed maps (more common in the latter half of the game), leading to some frustrating treks.
- PvP is horribly unbalanced due to a poor matchmaking system.