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Dark Souls on PS3, Xbox 360, PC

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Dark Souls is hard. That is a sentiment you can't escape no matter where you try to discuss it. Upon release, this game was marketed almost solely on the fact that it was harder than most modern games. But is that the main draw of this game, truly? I don't believe so. There is so much more to this game than its difficulty, from it's beautiful graphics to it's wonderful dark narrative. It isn't even the hardest game I've ever played, and I think the difficulty is preposterously overblown in peoples minds. In comparison to most games released on modern hardware, yeah Dark Souls is absurdly flipping difficult, but that's easier than killing the Asylum Demon when your competition is comprised of games like Uncharted and Call of Duty. Anyhow, that's another article for another time, so we might as well move on.

A breathtakingly beautiful opening cinematic sets part of the stage for the world of this game. Unfortunately, the story and world building isn't very clear, so if you don't dig deep into the item descriptions, talk to everyone, and extrapolate a lot of information based on vague wordings you will not understand your motivation for what's happening. The lore is fascinating, and the story and characters are actually excellent, they are just presented in the most cryptic of manners. In quick summation, you are an undead individual who awakens in the Undead Asylum, a prison for those cursed with the Undead burden, and decide to get out of there after a mysterious knight drops you a key. As you escape, you fight a demon, reclaim your items that are determined by your class and gift selection, and go on your merry way. On your way out, you encounter that same knight, dying, and he gives you your first set of healing items and quest. You are dropped into the hub of Firelink shrine, and go to ring the Bells of Awakening.

Dark Souls also has graphics so good they actually enhance the game. Every area has it's own distinct look and feel, characters are wonderfully inspired and interesting looking, and everything is so dynamic and yet somehow manages to feel cohesive with the rest of the world. This game is indefinitely the most atmospheric RPG released this generation. The only issue is, the framerate can be very janky in some larger areas and in some corridors clearly designed to conceal loading screens. The set dressings also clue you in on gameplay very well. In the first real area of the game, the Undead Burg, you encounter a dragon, then find a bridge covered in charred bodies and ashen remains. In Sen's Fortress, a deviously designed castle full of traps and mechanisms, every trap has a trigger that can be seen when looking carefully.

The gameplay in Dark Souls is unlike most other games, apart from Demon's Souls, it's so-close-we-would-call-it-a-sequel-but-we-don't-own-the-rights spiritual predecessor. It seems slow, clunky, and complex, and in many ways it is all those things. However, where a lesser game would fail in making these types of intricate mechanics work, Dark Souls effortlessly makes them feel perfect. Everything in the game world is so perfectly fine-tuned to be at exactly a speed where it can and will destroy you, but also just slow enough to make it feel totally fair when you die, and empowering when you succeed. The combat has exactly the right amount of heavyness to it. An issue arises when navigation comes into play. No in-game map exists, and the directions given to you are mysterious at best and indecipherable at worst. As well, sometimes the key way to progress, like returning to the Undead Asylum, are almost impossible to figure out, because the path is a very narrow ledge, or gotten to by a difficult and obscure set of jumping and rolling puzzles.

Much as I love Dark Souls for it's hardcore, old-school ideals, it's wonderful world and story, and excellent feeling combat, it is a bit rough around the edges. The world can be confusing to navigate, you get little to no direction, the lore is a challenge to decipher, and the framerate can get janky at times. But, for some odd reason, I don't care. Everything that this game does right, and it does so much right, it does perfectly. Don't let fears of the game being tough scare you off, you'll miss some of the best combat of the generation. The lore is hard to get into, but worth it once you do. simply taking in the scenery is an experience worth twice the price I paid for this game. The good in this game is simply to good for anyone to make an excuse to miss it. If you must, play this with a guide/maps (the Futurepress guide is actually superb) and enjoy one of the finest Role-playing action experiences in the history of video games. 10 out of 10.



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