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Dark Souls: You. Will. Die…

…if you don’t play wisely.  Anyone that knows me knows that I love a challenge and I love a dungeon crawler.  A few months ago when I decided to break down and buy a Playstation 3, I was turned onto a game called “Demon’s Souls.” Based on the mixed reviews that I was reading from interweb chatter, I decided to exercise my Gamefly power and give it a rent. Bottom line, good call on my part.  This game had everything I wanted: complete open world, unique character leveling system, amazing level designs, vast array of weapons and weapon upgrades based on the raw materials used in creating them, unique NPCs, a good but not great story line and tough as nails game play.  Over the summer during E3 2011 I got to preview the sequel/prequel called “Dark Souls.”  My money was as good as spent on the promise from Namco that this would make “Demon’s Souls” look like a walk in the park.

Team Skeleton=Instant death

Fast forward to October 4, 2011.  “Dark Souls” starts off similarly to “Demon’s Souls” with the character customization: naming your character, what class he or she will be, special gift which your character will have at the beginning of the game to make your journey slightly easier (nothing will do that), and skin and race.  I went with the Pyromancer ’cause of his knowledge of fire manipulation and slightly stronger attack strength with the Master Key, though if you start with the Thief then the Master Key is already equipped.  The game opens you up in an undead prison with nothing more than a broken sword hilt and your wits. This level basically acts as tutorial for those of you who are new to this style of game.  After running through a few undead slaves, you meet a friendly knight on his deathbed who gives you a key and important trinket which replenishes your life at the new “Bonfire” save points that are scattered around the world and also give you a very small taste of what a boss battle will be like during actual gameplay.  After this segment is over, you’re whisked away via a large raven to the game’s world main hub.  From here the real meaning of “open world” really comes to fruition, because it’s not like “Demon’s Souls,” where there were lands you teleported to, here it’s either left or right, up that path or down those winding stairs, through this door or that one.  The one key element that all the directions will have is that there is some manner of creature that will try-and most of the time succeed- in ending your miserable life over and over again by any means necessary.  FromSoftware did a hell of a job really testing your patience and wits because even the low level NPCs will make quick work of you if you decide to charge in all gung-ho, sword blazing of bravado.  Key strategy: DO NOT RUN ANYWHERE!!!  I can’t stress this fact enough.  Many of times I’ve found myself dying because an enemy came out of nowhere and ambushed me while I was engaged with another.  Key strategy: DO NOT LET THE ENEMY OUTNUMBER YOU!!!!  Try to lure them out one at a time when engaging them. You’ll see by their attack patterns that they will wait you out and as soon as you go for the kill on one, one goes for the kill on you.

The boss battles are nothing less than insane.  Tight spaces, larger than life behemoths and attacks that will kill you in one stroke.  Oh, and sometimes it’s not just one boss at a time.  I’ve found myself up against as many as four at once, which was just ridiculous.  Back also is the unique online gameplay that “Demon’s Souls” invented, where you can either choose to be summoned into another player’s world and give them assistance, or invade it and try to kill them and steal all the souls they have accumulated.  I’ve had this happen to me twice so far, ’cause in “Dark Souls” you can only do either while your human and not undead, which is a rarity for some people in this game.  The first I was in the middle of a battle with a dragon in a sewer.  Seeing that flashing sign on the screen that I was being invaded was something that I did not want to see at that time, but thanks to a few quick attacks by both myself and the dragon (I kept to his back for this very reason), he was killed and I was 9500 souls richer.  The second invasion came while I was roaming to a location and this fool decided to invade my game wearing armor that he couldn’t move in because his strength wasn’t high enough and his weapon was too slow to attack.  I danced around him taking quick strikes, staying to his back and he was dead in seconds and i was 15,000 souls richer.  Key strategy: DO NOT INVADE ANOTHER PLAYER’S WORLD UNLESS YOU HAVE SOME STRATEGY/EQUIPMENT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF USING!!  Choose not to adhere to this and you might as well just hand over all the souls you have.

This game will try to break you at every turn.  Just when you think you have a handle on things just cause you haven’t died in 20-30 minutes, wait ’cause that monkey wrench will get thrown at you, fast and from out of nowhere.  But I keep coming back for more. I enjoy the pain and anguish that “Dark Souls” brings to the table.

Final Verdict for Dark Souls

5 out of 5