Prepare to read the obvious
So, first things first. This review is written by someone who absolutely loved Demon's Souls. It's one of the most immersive experiences I've had on a console. The game appeals to me in the same way ArmA and flight sims do. You mess up, you die. What you're left with is a game that makes you feel stupid every time you get killed. It's not a game that uses cheap tricks to kill you - it penalizes your for being impatient. This adds to the atmosphere of the game, which is absolutely fantastic. When you know death lurks just around the corner, you explore new areas with extreme caution.
One of the thing that sets Dark Souls apart from other rpg's on consoles is that it doesn't cater to idiots. I'm not saying everyone who loved Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age 2 are idiots, but if that is where you draw the line for complexity of gameplay, don't even bother with Dark Souls. There's very little in form of a tutorial. You learn the basic controls, that's it. Every time you use souls to level up, you assign a stat point. The way in which you build your character determines how you'll play the game. It's very much a standard rpg character building setup. Dexterity for ranged and quick blades and such. Strength for massive swords and axes and the like. The flexibility of this leveling style means that the first time you play through you might make a lot of mistakes that only become apparent as you get deeper into the game. Luckily there's really no level cap to speak of in this game, at least not for the first playthrough. You can grind levels as much as you want, although that becomes slower and slower as you level up. Need 3 dex for a new weapon, that's 20 minutes of grinding monsters. In a way it feels a bit like an mmo, only not quite. There are other players in the world, or rather in their own world, and they cross over into yours in the form of shades - Transparent people of whom you get a glimpse every once in a while. They can also leave notes on the ground for others to read, such as "Use ranged attack" or "Strong enemy ahead". Some of the time they try to trick you into jumping off ledges. Sometimes there's actual treasure down there, other times there's nothing but death.
I won't go too deep into the way the world works, Vinny did a good job explaining the workings of bonfires in the quick look as far as checkpointing goes, but he didn't quite grasp how the reverse hollowing and Kindle Bonfire thing worked. It works as follows. Reverse hollowing means you go from undead to human. While in human form there will be more rare drops, or so people tell me. Also, you need to be human to kindle the bonfires. What happens when you kindle a bonfire is that you get 10 estus flasks instead of 5 every time you spawn or rest at that bonfire. Also, any other person in other games that are bound to that bonfire when you kindle it get one estus flask temporarily. You'll see this effect some times when your head glows and there's a hissing sound. Someone kindled the bonfire you are bound to.
So, yeah. That's the game. Final thoughts, after 20++ hours of playing I still have no idea how far into the game I am. My character is sort of a jack of all trades, master of none, and I feel like I might want to start over. I'm getting killed a lot. Bosses are a mixed bag, sometimes they are excruciatingly hard, other times I do them on the first or second try. It's such a rare gem in a time where console games, in particular, are just 5-12 hour romps through some half-assed story.
- It's a game made for people who have played games for a long time, and I love it.