Demon’s Souls, From Software’s previous title was declared one of the hardest games ever made. It to this day has a devoted fan base and while it didn’t reach record-breaking sales, it allowed for another game to be created. One detriment and complaint about Demon’s Souls was that it was a PS3 exclusive. From Software has since changed publishers and created the spiritual successor, Dark Souls for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
I can verify that Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve ever played, but it’s also the most fun and challenging game too. The game doesn’t have a difficulty that can be turned down (or up for that matter). “What in the world would possess anyone to play this game?” “What kind of masochist are you?” These are some questions you may hear others ask you or you ask yourself. It isn’t masochism, it’s just the desire to play something that doesn’t over-tutorialize you and then assist you with regenerating health, breadcrumbs, and objective arrows. It’s a very harsh opening to Dark Souls as it doesn’t contain any of that stuff. And it’s a better game for it. Instead you’re left to use your wits and absorb trial-and-error gameplay to learn what you can and cannot do.
The game looks great, but isn’t up to the visual fidelity to Battlefield 3, Skyrim or Uncharted. That’s a comparison a lot will make, but forget about those games. Dark Souls shows off fantastic world through vibrant color to this grim world you’ve been left in, to explore and discover it’s secrets. There is no map either through a minimal form or a full-screen form to help you in your travels, memorization is key – and through time will only help you.
Character movement is determined by stats of the class you pick at the beginning. Theres no real difference in classes as they all can wield axes, bows and arrows, or even large clubs. As you level up you’ll be able to increase specific attributes to make your character stronger. To level up you’ll need to collect souls, and just as such, they are the currency in the game. It’s used to purchase items for vendors and what you use to level up.
There’s no manual saves in the game, but it frequently checkpoints for you and will save your game each time you rest at bonfires. Bonfires will be your spawn point and place where you level up. It’s overwhelming how much there is to this game. I haven’t fully figured them all out as of yet. Now thankfully the community has created and maintained a wiki for Dark Souls you can learn more about the game – but for me, experimenting is much more
As discussed before, the class you play as is determined by starting stats. I started with a Knight and while he has heavy armor and high HP – this tank-like should be unstoppable. Not quite, many of the bosses that are littered throughout this world require more agility than that character. Rolling is almost a necessary move to use, and a Knight isn’t that capable. So I started the game over with the Thief class. And I got to where my other character left off (and essentially roadblocked) in less than half the time. And I think that is just due to my play style.
Bosses are always massive and intimidating and require a specific strategy. Everything in the game requires methodic pacing to succeed. Play the game faster than you should and you will die. The back of the box even states “Prepare to Die”, and the penalty is steep. When you die, you leave a bloodstain and drop any unspent souls. Now, this is where the Risk/Reward system kicks in. Do you go back and retrieve those souls or go on without them? Should you get killed on your excursion to retrieve the souls you left behind, you lose them forever and leave a new bloodstain.
While the world is open, though there is a hidden path you must take to ensure success and offers the least resistance. If you go one way and just get slaughtered, chances are you weren’t supposed to be there and are underlevelled. It’s unfortunate this layer exists, but clearly From Software wants you to experience the game a specific way that won’t break it. Demon’s Souls, had a hub world and you accessed souls in a linear fashion – the open world feels more realistic, but the linearity still exists in a more subtle way.