5 people found this review helpful
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 176.3 hrs on record
Posted: Jun 4, 2016 @ 5:41am
Updated: May 3 @ 4:50pm

Review in one sentence
A very fun and challenging game, a one of its kind and a must-try.

Gaming Background
I'm a PC gamer who predominantly plays FPS games, but has played a bit of MOBA and RTS too. Before I picked up Dark Souls, the only games I had ever played with a controller date back to the 6th generation consoles. I decided to give Dark Souls a go seeing as I finally got myself a controller and my friends were insisting I did.

Index of this review
  • Difficulty is Fun
  • Lore & Level Design
  • A port of a console game
  • Unnecessarily secretive
  • Final words

Difficulty is Fun
Though this game is notorious for its difficulty, it's challenging in a fair way; there isn't any RNG that determines whether you live or die. This game is hard because it's skill based.

In a lot of RPGs, your character becomes stronger through leveling. Often this means you can both dish out and sustain orders of magnitude more damage than before. In Dark Souls, while you can definitely level your character to some extent, the real difference between you at level 1 and you at level 80, is raw skill.

That's what makes this game so uniquely fun. You overcome the opponents not because your stats say you do; you overcome them because you've died to them a couple times and you now understand what you've been doing wrong all this time. This is why the community uses the phrase "git gud" so often. Proof of this is that some players have been able to beat the game with a lvl 1 character, or without healing a single time.

The always-on autosave feature in this game means that mistakes are permanent. Although this sounds hardcore, it's important to understand that dying is an important part of the game, and you lose less on death than in most games. Your "souls", which is both the in-game currency and the unit of XP you can use to level up and upgrade weapons, are dropped on the spot where you died.

Lore & Level Design
Dark Souls is made by FROM software, a Korean game developer, and it shows. The lore is akin to Asian folklore rather than the Greek, Norse, or Biblical stuff I'm used too. This makes the lore unique and refreshing. Personally, the lore hasn't been able to rub off on me that much. It's hard to understand and hasn't really succeeded in giving me a sense of purpose, or part of something huge.

That said, there's something uniquely captivating about Dark Souls. Its level design deserves an honorable mention, because it has somehow succeeded making 90% of the game contingent on each other. This means you can walk from the starting area to the rest of the world without loading screens or cutscenes. But it doesn't stop there; they have managed to meticulously interconnected their world in a brilliant way. Time and time again I have found myself bewildered, exclaiming: "This elevator leads back here!? Holy crap!"

In another stroke of genius, they decided to leave music out of the game almost entirely. They mean to make the atmosphere feel solitary and desolate, which they've done a pretty decent job at. On top of all this, it looks pretty decent for a 2011 game.

A port of a console game
In this part I'll be talking about some technical downsides that I feel stem mostly from the fact that this game is a PC Port from a 2011 console game. By default the framerate is capped at 30fps. Popular community mod DSfix allow you to bump this up to 60, but at certain costs. This is the type of game engine where the graphical framerate is linked to the game's calculations. This means that the game will behave slightly differently at 60fps, yuck.

The online connectivity is can be finnicky and might require community mods to work to your liking as well.

Bottom line: it's not the most stable or reliably built game in the world.

Unnecessarily secretive
My biggest gripe with this game is how it doesn't bother explaining new players a lot of its complicated mechanics. Don't get me wrong! The fact that this came doesn't spam you with popups saying "Press R2 to parry!" is mostly a good thing. The game's minimalistic HUD and GUI contribute to its unique atmosphere, but this is a double-edged blade.

It takes most players a good while to figure out what Humanity is, how it works, what the number in your top bar means and what it means to be hollowed. To tell you the truth I still only understand how it works, but not why it works. I could go on and on listing bits of information or entire game mechanics that remain poorly-, mis-, or even unexplained throughout the game.

This would all be fine in 1999, where the kid next door would tell you how to unlock a cool sword. But alas, we're in the era where extensive libraries of this type of information is at your fingertips. Sadly, at times this game almost beckons you to whip out the wiki, because some decisions are permanent and you might not want to make any mistakes or miss anything important.

In my opinion, the absolute best way to play this game is by having an enthousiastic friend you can approach for specific questions, but will not tell you all of the ins and outs of the game.

Summary and Final Words
- Very enjoyable and rewarding gameplay
- Looks decent, with great character & level design
- Unique and myserious, sometimes to a fault

No matter what kind of player you are, you would be doing yourself a disservice by not at least trying this game.

If you have any comments, questions, or critiques, feel free to add me on Steam. I'll even help you with the game if you want.
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