Take a deep breath. Hear that groaning down the hallway? The whispers of impending doom around every corner? Feel the sense of dread, knowing you may not be prepared for what’s through that next door?
This is Dark Souls.
Without bogging you down with pretext, Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls for the PS3, which is arguably one of the hardest games for the PS3, at least at the time of its release. There’s speculation that the reason Dark Souls is not considered “Demon’s Souls 2” is because of a publishing problem, but I’ve yet to find solid evidence of this.
Dark Souls continues to be one of the hardest, unfair, time-consuming, and mentally exhausting gaming experiences I’ve had yet.
What makes it unfair? Well, like Demon’s Souls, every enemy you kill gives you it’s soul in a numerical value. These souls serve as both experience points for leveling, and currency for the merchants that always seem few and far between. When you die, and you will die, from the hordes of enemies that exist only to kill you, you drop these souls. Dark Souls extends this by throwing in a new variable: humanity.
In Dark Souls, you exist in four different forms; Alive, Hallow, White Phantom, and Black Phantom. Alive is what you’ll strive to be, as you receive a stat bonus, increased item drop rate, and the ability to summon white phantoms. When you die, you come back as a Hollow, an undead husk of a human, and getting back to being human through humanity is your main goal. You can do this by placing down a white soapstone mark, allowing another player to summon you and make you a white phantom in their world. It’s not that simple though, in order to gain humanity, you must aid the player who summoned you in killing a boss. Or if you don’t want to help someone, when you’re human, you can invade other alive player’s game to steal their souls and humanity by killing them. It’s a very interesting and well made system, as deaths serve not only to punish you, but, as many people will point out, to force you to learn from your mistakes.
I’m nearing thirty hours into the game, and I love it. As hard as this game is, it’s hard for a reason. Most games fail to reach the true sense of scale and consequences that Dark Souls encompasses. Some games might put you against a huge hydra with repeating attacks and AI, yet it towers above you and you might even feel the scale, but then you realize that the arena you fight it in has a convenient ballista located barely inside the hydra’s attack radius. Dark Souls doesn’t have this. At one point, you see such a massive hydra in the background and, most likely, you’ll run around it because it will kill you dead. This isn’t rare in Dark Souls.
Next post I’ll share some tips I found for those interested in braving this game’s challenges.
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