themanwithnoplan's Dark Souls (Xbox 360) review

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Dark Souls: Prepare to at first cry, then fly high

Some games leave a lack of mystery and wonder. They clearly spell out what to do, where to go and how to do it. Dark souls stands at the counter opposite of that and for the most part stands firm in keeping its mouth shut. The player is dropped into the game with only the knowledge that you’re a cursed being who will eventually succumb to the unfortunate fate of turning hollow, and that you now have to set out on a journey to ring two bells. One high above the land and the other to the very depths. The prologue section gives the player basic information about the various systems within the game such as bonfires and mechanical nuances, but other than that you’ll be left to pretty much figure things out on your own. Once you’re out of the tutorial section, you’re presented multiple options of where to go. You’ll meet various Npcs throughout the game, that aid and sometimes hinder the player. They also provide further exposition to the game’s lore and story. The open ended nature of Dark Souls can be somewhat confusing and even overwhelming for those first coming to the game. It can be easy to get lost if you’re not careful.

The world of Lordran is an interconnected wonder. Throughout my time with the game I was amazed at how the map seemed to connect. Wherever I went there seemed to be shortcuts to other areas I’d slowly uncover. It really gives the game a sense of fluidity and connection. Exploration is also heavily encouraged given the amount of loot scattered across the world.

Armor, weapons and accessories abound within Dark Souls. It truly is an Rpg in the full sense of the term. Souls are collected by defeating enemies and consuming items which are relegated to being the currency within the game. They’re also used for leveling up. The universal aspect of the souls currency is an interesting one indeed. You have the option to spend your hard earned souls on items from the rare merchants you come across or to level up your character. You do have to be careful, because when you die you lose all your souls and humanity. You then have the option to return to where you were defeated to recover your bloodstain which gives you back said lost valuables. Thankfully, all items are kept forever regardless of failure. When you do level up, you’re given a point to put into your character’s stats. In the immediate they can be a minuscule difference, but over time the change is definitely felt. Despite starting the game by picking a character class, you can really mold your character into whatever you want. There are also weapon restrictions based on a minimum stat requirements. Some of the more effective weapons you’ll come across can only be wielded if you have the stats to back them up. Going down specific routes early on will benefit you in the long run. For example, if you’re a sword and shield guy then go down strength. If you’re a magic guy, intelligence and faith. Thief-Dexterity. You get the point.

The combat system is made to make every encounter meaningful. It really is the true heart of the game. Even the lowliest of enemies can become a nuisance if you’re not careful. The game presents a seemingly simple system of combat. Slow methodical pacing is how you have to approach each situation at first. If you rush in with no attention to your surroundings you’re most likely going to die. What’s important to remember when making your way through areas of the game, is that progress for the sake of progress can be meaningless if you don’t actually pay attention.

I endearingly refer to this game as a Giant puzzle. While your first encounter with the myriad of bosses in the game may seem impossible, you’ll eventually be able to break down its move set to take advantage of.

This is where the true nature of Dark Souls comes in. Dark Souls is about methodically breaking down and memorizing sections of the game until it becomes second nature. What at first seems impossible, then becomes a simple set of patterns and animation cues. Each situation can be solved if you’re willing to slow down, step back and assess the situation. What may seem unfair and impossible at first, will soon become a breeze if you make sure to play it cool and smart.

There’s a multiplayer aspect to the game’s online system. You are given the option to invade other player’s worlds to help or hunt other adventurers or be invaded yourself. PvP fights can happen at any time when in a certain state. This state can only be achieved by reversing your hollow and becoming human. This is done at bonfires by using Humanity, a consumable item found by playing the game.

Dark souls also features another very interesting online component. Hints are littered across the world of Lordran. Other players have the ability to warn others of immediate dangers, treasures, shortcuts or even strategies. Caution for the naive, these hints can also be to the detriment of players, as trickery abounds within the confines of the hint system.

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Dark souls is a game that will at some point test the patience of everyone who plays it. For some, it may be too much to ask, given the steep learning curve and oppressive nature of the game. For those who stick around and press onward, they’re rewarded with a very special game that while may seem impossible at first, but will give an immense feeling of reward and satisfaction to the steadfast. Praise the Sun!

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