majormitch's Dark Souls (Xbox 360) review

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The gamer's game

I loved Demon’s Souls. The way it completely ignored many of gaming’s modern trends to create a gripping, demanding, yet rewarding adventure was refreshing, and I’m happy to report that Dark Souls follows firmly in its footsteps. This is an epic RPG that is in many ways bigger and more ambitious than its predecessor, making for an equally special experience. Any fan of a deep and challenging RPG should look no further than Dark Souls.

If you've heard one thing about Dark Souls you’ve probably heard that it's incredibly hard, but I personally don’t think it’s as balls-to-the-wall hard as people make it out to be. It’s more that Dark Souls is a really dense, really strict game. It doesn’t explain a lot of its mechanics, and it rarely tells you where to go or what to do. Furthermore, it punishes you fast and hard for making careless mistakes; this is a game that doesn’t tolerate not being taken seriously at all times. You have to put effort into learning its ins and outs, and even the crummiest of enemies can kill you if you aren’t paying attention. I can certainly see how this would be off-putting for anyone used to the extreme hand-holding of most modern games, but this also makes it a haven for those (like me) who enjoy overcoming challenges on their own. When you do manage to figure things out and beat an area that originally felt overwhelming, it’s a feeling of accomplishment like no other. Dark Souls may demand a lot of investment from the player, but it gives just as much back in return.

That’s really the crux of what makes Dark Souls so exciting, and it allows for some pretty extreme emotional highs and lows. It’s not uncommon to feel completely hopeless one moment only to feel like you’re on top of the world the next. There's a certain edge to the adventure that makes it that much more intense, which is really what it’s all about. Dark Souls is, in many ways, one of gaming’s grandest adventures. You’re tasked with exploring an unfamiliar and hostile world with little guidance, and the way the game revels in being deliberately obtuse leads to countless epic, memorable moments. In fact, the act of discovering Dark Souls’ many mysteries on your own is easily my favorite thing about it; there are just so many surprises packed into every corner of the thing. There are certainly plenty of other great qualities I could get into: the precise technical combat, the wonderfully moody atmosphere and soundtrack, the imposing enemy designs, the slick online features, or the incredibly nuanced character customization options to name a few. But it’s the pure adventure of it all that makes me keep coming back, as there’s simply nothing else like it.

Like Demon’s Souls before it, Dark Souls is not a game for everyone. It’s not for the modern “blockbuster spectacle” seeker, or for those who halfheartedly play games to relax. Dark Souls is a gamer’s game. It’s a game for people who like getting down and dirty with an intricate and demanding RPG, who like immersing themselves in a fantastical and hostile world that offers seemingly endless surprises. Dark Souls is one of the most memorable, rewarding games this entire generation, and for those who are up for it, it will likely end up being one of the best.

For additional information on my review style and scoring system, click here.

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