Have you ever wanted a video game that makes you break more controllers than hours spent playing it? Or a game that delivers so much tension that you have multiple heart attacks while playing? Or how about a game that fills you with fear every time you step around a corner? If all of these things seem pleasant to you, look no further than Dark Souls.
Let me start by saying that this game is not for the faint-hearted. This game is brutally tough and you'll spend a lot of time dying. That said, this game is absolutely brilliant. From the opening cut-scene right to the end, you'll be glued to the screen. It starts in classic RPG style with you picking between multiple classes, each with specific skill sets and weapons. Everything is going smoothly. And then, you die.
Dying isn't an end-all in this game; however, it's a crucial mechanic to succeeding. When you die you lose all your souls, the games currency that allows you to level up and buy things in the world, and your humanity, a more rare type of currency. But here's the catch: you can retrieve your lost souls by traveling back to the place where you died. At these times you have to decide if it's worth the risk to get back your precious souls, or leave them there for fear of dying again. This gives a great sense of risk and reward that you don't get from many other games.
Dark Souls story is unique enough to get you interested in it, but it's the world that really draws you in. Dark Souls is a beautiful looking game. The world is expansive and impressively interconnected. You'll see varied locations such as dark forests, brilliantly lit castles and even lava fields. The game falters however in some locations. Most noticeably in Blighttown, where the frame rate takes a precarious nose dive. While this doesn't necessarily hinder the game play or exploration, it is very noticeable and makes you wonder how the developers didn't catch it and fix it.
Controls are responsive and fair. Each dodge roll will be executed when you so please and every sword swing will hit with great impact. Of course in areas such as Blighttown, where the frame rate lacks, the controls can be expected to be a bit off. Fighting invading phantoms can also be somewhat troublesome and at times you'll be wondering how he back stabbed you while you were facing him directly. However, these flaws are very minor and don't affect the gameplay enough to make it less enjoyable.
A sort of faction system is in place in Dark Souls called Covenants. There are multiple Covenants and each one gives the player unique advantages. For instance, a very early Covenant, The Way of The White, allows other members of that Covenant to be summoned more easily by other members. While Covenants are a good edition to this game, some are very vague in what they are for. But hey, that's why we have the Internet!
The ambient sound fits Dark Souls' dark-fantasy world perfectly. The spooky score increases the tension while dungeon crawling and even the menu sound effects add too the scariness. Each sword clanged against a shield is perfect. The voice acting is also superb. Every character has a very unique tone and attitude.
The online play in Dark Souls is quite unique, unless you've played the games predecessor Demon's Souls. You can summon phantom's of other players into your world where they will silently help you with your endeavors. I say silently because there is no form of communication apart from the gestures you can perform. Likewise you can also be summoned into another players world. Invading is basically the same thing as summoning, except the invader isn't there to help the player. Rather, the invader is there to kill the player and steal their souls. These encounters can be frustrating when you're just trying to accomplish something, but they do add a great deal of tension and excitement into the game.
All in all, Dark Souls is a fantastic game. The amazing challenge it presents offers a great risk-reward feeling that is unique to this franchise. The world is huge, memorable and beautiful. The controls are well done and very fair. The sound fits the world fantastically and adds to the tension of the dark world. Dark Souls is a game every hardcore gamer should play. And on that, there's really only one thing left to say: Prepare to die!