Sunday, 25 December 2011

Number 6: Dark Souls

As with Portal 2, I can safely say that I was a bit late on the bandwagon with this one. Demon's Souls came out in the summer of 2010, and with its high difficulty managed to make even the most hardcore of gamers cry. I picked it up a couple of months ago, and became so involved that I knew I had to play the sequel Dark Souls as soon as I could get my hands on it. I was able to borrow a copy a couple of weeks ago, so can't say I've given it the time it deserves; but oh boy is it special.

Set in a similarly atmospheric dark fantasy world to its predecessor, Dark Souls offers a brilliantly imaginative dungeon crawling experience to the player. The major difference however is in the daunting open world available to explore. Different areas offer varying challenges and a stunning array of enemies to battle. There seems to be a never-ending slew of locations and things hidden within to discover, each more impressive than the last. Sadly, you'll be lucky to see the majority of them, thanks to the already legendary difficulty level.

The words "YOU DIED" will already be loaded with meaning to Demon's Souls veterans, but for those coming in fresh, be prepared to see them a lot. However, the wonderful thing is that it never feels unfair. It's hard, sure, but like the first game you begin to realise that each death is a learning experience, preparing you for the next time around. Combat is practically perfect, with superb balance and plenty to master. If you start to get cocky and take the game at a faster pace, it'll quickly cut you back down to size; and you still rarely come away feeling that it's the game's fault you've failed. So you'll swell with pride and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment when you manage to beat a particularly fearsome foe, because you've worked hard and actually improved while trying to beat it.

Thankfully, Dark Souls brings back the inventive online component of the first game as well. Players can leave hints for other adventurers around the game world, warning of coming dangers or offering tips to avoid traps. It's a creative way of bringing a social aspect to the game without damaging the feeling of solitude that makes it so atmospheric. Also included is a limited co-op capability, but with little communication possible between the players. Really, it's the only way you're going to be able to lighten up the challenge at all. There are no changeable difficulty levels here. Then again, would you expect any less from a game that has the official website

I regret that I haven't been able to pour much more time into Dark Souls. Even from a brief play you can tell it's a special piece of software, one that demands and deserves a certain level of attention. For anyone with an interest in RPGs, it's an absolute must. There really isn't anything else like it out there. Even the first game feels like a shadow compared to it, as though they only released Demon's Souls to weed out the unworthy. Ignore the horror stories about the difficulty and dedicate yourself to playing this one as much as possible. An incredibly challenging, beautiful, and rewarding game.

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