If you asked me to describe Dark Souls in one sentence, I would probably say “It’s a medieval fantasy zombie game that’s always set to the hardest difficulty…
Dropped into a mysterious world, as you play this game you will scratch your head and say “What?” out loud multiple times from both confusion and frustration.
If you have heard anything about this game, it’s that it’s difficult… and I mean soul wrenchingly difficult. So obviously, people (me included) took that as a challenge. “How hard could it be?” we all said… we had no idea…
Dark souls starts off with a character creation screen giving an old dungeon crawler kind of feel right of the bat. You pick your name, your class (warrior, rouge, cleric, mage, etc.), your looks, and even a special item to carry with you on your journey. You are briefly introduced to this universe of dark souls via cinematic cut scene. The story is pretty confusing at first, but unless you are really into the lore of this world, it’s not important. Which is actually one of the beauties of dark souls, the story isn’t important unless you want it to be. The first time I played through the game, I knew nothing of the lore, but the sheer challenge and enjoyment of the gameplay pushed me through to the bitter end.
On the other hand, the story is so deep and interesting that once you start to figure everything out, you realize everything and everyone has a purpose, even if the game doesn’t straight up tell you.
The basics of the story is this: you’re a zombie in a land full of other mindless zombies. Your mission is to kill badass monsters and dudes for their souls, and use those souls to either save humanity from the darkness (and hopefully the zombie curse), or to let the land fall into the darkness.
One of the first (and one of the most interesting) details I noticed in this game is the lack of music. Where is the music? You travel through most of the game listening to the sound of your own footsteps. BORING! But this is actually done on purpose; the sound of your own footsteps trudging through this broken desolate wasteland envelopes you, making you feel alone but also aware that danger is constantly around you. The way a zombie apocalypse is supposed to feel: Disturbingly Beautiful.
The graphics of the game are… meh… not bad, but there’s definitely some blemishes that are hard to overlook, such as visual glitches, hit box glitches, and the lack of details, all of which leaves you feeling a little incomplete. Aside from that, the mood of the land is fantastic. You are usually going from one drastic environment to another, one minute it’s a swamp, the next a volcano, each with its own unique feel and quirks that are easy to fall in love with.
A pleasant lack of loading screens makes up for the graphic flaws. You only load when you first start the game, die, warp to different locations, or are being summoned for co-op, and even then it’s not that long of a wait. The entire map of this game is almost built in one big loop. When you finish one section of an area, there will usually be a door or switch that allows you to return to another area you have already been to, which will eventually loop back to the beginning. This saves a lot of time and frustration, so instead of forcing you through the trouble of going through a dungeon and then backtracking through that same dungeon, it allows you to pop out of the other side, returning into an area you should already be familiar with, all without a single loading screen.
The combat of this game is incredibly simple to learn, but extremely difficult to master. Timing is everything, swinging wildly will definitely get you killed, and killed often. Defeating enemies will earn you souls, and you can use these souls to level up, or even as currency to buy items and weapons. On your journey, you can stop and rest at bonfires. This replenishes your health, but also re-spawns any enemies you killed. When you die, and you will die often, you are returned to the last bonfire you rested at. You have an infinite number of lives, which sounds nice on paper, but this is the curse of the undead… You can’t actually get a game over, so the only way to lose the game is for you to literally give up, which is waaay more depressing than any game over screen that I’ve encountered.
The difficulty of the game is, as I mentioned earlier, unbearably hard. Why? Well there are many reasons, the most important of which is the lack of information. The game throws you into this world with simple instructions on how to control your character and… that’s it. Nobody tells you any tips or tricks, weaknesses, strengths, how to kill certain bosses, or… anything of use really. ”A guide I find on the internet can fix that problem right?” Well a guide will definitely help you with regular monster and bosses, another challenge to overcome is pvp.
During your play through, there will be times when other players can join your session and hunt you down like a bounty. Being as how this could be anyone, usually it will be someone who will stab you in the back when you’re not looking. This is where learning combat well is really important. Timing your attacks, blocks, and parries can delay your inevitable death. To also help deal with the difficulty of this game, there is co-op. The downside to this game’s co-op, however, is that it is notoriously difficult to summon your friends, so most likely you will summon random people who may or may not be good at the game.
Overall, the game is fantastic for people who like challenges, but it will be a terrible experience for non-hardcore gamers. The story is fantastic and very in-depth, but it requires actual research which, for short attention spanned gamers, sounds kind of boring. The graphics are lacking for the gen console it’s on, but it’s definitely an enveloping environment. The combat can be repetitive considering how simple the controls are, but depending on who you are fighting, one slip of a finger and you will die. Heck, one slip of a finger while walking, and you will die. If you have the willpower to suffer through the horrible enjoyment of Dark Souls, it is definitely an experience to remember, which in itself is worth the price, especially since it has dropped down to only $30.