Review in Progress: Dark Souls

We invade the bleak world of Dark Souls in advance of our full review.

The soul harbors many mysteries.

It's appropriate, then, that Dark Souls harbors a multitude of them as well. I've been playing the follow-up/non-sequel to Demon's Souls for over a week now, and I have uncovered some of this game's secrets, but many horrors and delights still await. Demon's Souls sunk its claws into me, poisoning me with its glory. That game coursed through my veins so that I was living it--feeling it--whether I was at work or at play. How impressive that Dark Souls' invasion of my being is even more complete than I thought possible. I breathe this world; it fills my lungs until I am high on the dread and fear it instills in me. This might be the most terrifying game you'll ever play.

A full review comes next week, but for now, I wanted to give you a taste of this action role-playing game's delicious stench. Explaining how a stench can be delicious is difficult, but if you played Demon's Souls, you might understand what I mean. The world has weight. The thick atmosphere burdens you. In the depths of Darkroot Forest, you walk cautiously, wondering when the foliage might turn homicidal. In the dreary burg of Blighttown, you can almost smell the swamp gas as you trudge through the marsh, fending off fire-breathing monsters on your way to the ghastly spider-lady who awaits at the end of your journey.

And through it all, you can expect to die. Often. Death is woven into the experience, though the particulars have changed. In Demon's Souls, death took you to the hub zone known as The Nexus. But Dark Souls is an actual world, rather than separate levels connected by a hub. After the tutorial, you begin the game proper at Firelink Shrine. You then set out to explore, making your way through the game's interconnected regions. Within them, you find bonfires, where you can rest, level up, replenish your supply of health flasks, resupply the number of spells you can cast, and perform a number of other tasks. (Though you do have to purchase the ability to do certain things, such as upgrade your equipment.) When you rest at a bonfire, you set it as your spawn point upon death. The caveat? Every time you rest--just like when you die--most creatures you defeated respawn, and you have to battle your way through them again.

And what a world this is; I am 80 hours in and still pushing ahead. Slowly. It's a treat to defeat a boss and encounter a new area, as well as the new creatures within it. Dark Souls is much, much larger and even more atmospheric than Demon's Souls. You explore a fortress filled with deadly traps and long-necked lizardmen; a valley infested with lightning-spewing drakes; a castle guarded by towering dark knights; and other incredible-looking regions. The creatures that murder you repeatedly are some of the most fabulous ever devised. You've seen rats before--but Dark Souls' rats? The glowing gashes infecting their skin make them more grotesque than garden-variety rats. Shambling undead, flame-spewing bugs, and giant trolls that roll boulders at you are just some of the standard enemies. But the bosses are something special. After many grueling attempts, I have triumphed over a humongous demon coated with flames; a gigantic wolf wielding a sword in its mouth; and a creature called a gaping dragon. I'll let you imagine what such a monstrosity might look like. Or better yet, allow me to show you:

Oh yes. It gapes, all right.

Some mechanics have been changed, and others have been added. For instance, you earn a rare currency called humanity and use it to regain your human nature. Possessing humanity has its advantages, perhaps the handiest of which is the ability to "kindle" at a bonfire. Doing so increases the number of healing flasks you earn at a particular bonfire when resting. The covenant system is a brand new mechanic in which you align yourself with a particular faction. The reasons to join a faction are numerous. For example, I am currently in the Forest Hunter covenant, which allows me to traverse through certain areas without being attacked. There are multiplayer benefits as well, though at this early stage, those benefits aren't immediately obvious. (In some cases, you can have a beneficial effect in another player's world; in others, you gain access to unique spells.) I haven't yet experienced how covenants affect your interactions with other players, but betraying your covenant might have dire consequences.

As for standard multiplayer interactions, well, you still see ghosts of other players and encounter bloodstains that show you the final seconds of another player's life. You still may write messages to other players, as well as view and rate other messages. And you can still summon/be summoned to the worlds of other players--or invade them. Invasions have returned as well, but some parameters have changed. For instance, a key non-player character was killed in my game, and I was given the chance to invade the world of the phantom that assassinated her.

As you can tell, Dark Souls is complex, sometimes extraordinarily so. Everything you do has consequences, but sometimes, those consequences are a mystery. And that's part of the joy. You never know what is around the bend or what fate might befall you if you don't take care as you make your way through this extraordinarily challenging game. At one point, I had bizarre froglike creatures breathe a cursing mist all over me, causing me to become cursed. Becoming cursed means losing half of your health bar, and lifting the curse involved sprinting through the murky New Londo ruins, avoiding ghosts while seeking the special healer who could lift the curse. After idling for too long in a demon's abode, a bulbous growth sprouted on my head, and I could no longer equip a helmet. Now I have a giant tumor growing on my neck instead of a head and no access to the defensive benefits of the black-hemmed hood I love so much!

And yes, Dark Souls is exceedingly difficult, but it's almost always fair. Like Demon's Souls, it has its quirks. The lock-on system hasn't changed, so if you don't manage it properly, you might whip the camera around rather than target an enemy or lose your lock if a boss jumps too far away from you. And the frame rate can get a little rough from time to time, especially in Blighttown and Darkfalls Basin. But it rarely interferes with the combat, which is still ultraprecise. When you die--as you so often will--it is because you didn't manage combat properly. I could go on and on about Dark Souls and the unique pleasures within it. What game could make me shout, sweat, and gnash my teeth--and yet make me want to spend every waking hour playing it? What RPG could so forcefully break the rules we've come to expect from most games, yet never feel cheap or unfair? For now, I will simply say this: It's good. You'll find out just how good soon enough.

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Discussion

397 comments
devastion913
devastion913

@ApatheticClone I would have replied to powerfulone1987 but you pretty much nailed it. If I could add anything it would be that the vast majority of single player based games in the eastern world have been watered down soo much in difficulty that when a truly legit, challenging games comes our way people reply like powerfulone1987 did. There is the occasional cheap death such as the dreaded "enemy I locked onto falls off of a ledge and the camera goes with him and results in my death" but that dosen't happen alot and you learn to counter that. The game is very challenging with more to learn than Demon's Souls and is also very rewarding. I miss the World Tendency system and they need to patch the duping bug involving The Path of the Dragon, but then again, if you dupe your only ruining your own experience and game. A sucky lv 100 on thier first playthrough still couldn't beat this game if they were that bad.

rohn13
rohn13

Dark Souls deserves the 9.5 review in got from gamespot and all the rest of the high scores it is getting. Namco Bandai deserves a 0 rating as a publisher along with criminal charges over the the collectors edition fraud. After advertising the mini strategy guide and other goodies with the collectors edition they switched it over to a download at the last minute. The game comes with a card with a code to go to their collectors edition website where you register it and they want way to much personal information. After registering it says you can access the downloads for 24 hours but none of the downloads will complete, they constantly reset and the website keeps going down so not only did the pull the old bait and swith with the physical media if you registered the right after buying the game not only are you not getting the printed guide and soundtrack on disc like promised you won't even get the downloads they sneakily swapped it out with. I hope they get hit with a class action lawsuit because they are the trying to compete with Activision for the worst publisher in the world.

musalala
musalala

Dark souls is not hard just unforgiving and ruthless if you play this game like an idiot guns blazing and what not then you will die many many times, but if you play it patiently trusting none and being suspicious of everything you will still die but not so much and at least you death would have served a purpose. The problem with modern gamers is everything is handed to you on a sliver platter..where is the fun in that.

ApatheticClone
ApatheticClone

@powerfulone1987 (cont.) Listen, I fully understand why some people may not enjoy this game; I'm completely cool with that, as various individuals have various reasons in playing games. But trying to attack its legitimacy by only scolding its difficulty, while overlooking all of the other stellar aspects, is just insulting. Say what you will, but you must respect From Software's efforts in making these titles; games that should be absolute failures from an business perspective, yet, they don't care; they make the kind of games that they want to, and if it doesn't end up being a AAA franchise, that's alright with them; they have a vision, and they've adhered to it. Also: your speculation on how it's going to bomb in sales is verifiably false, as the first-week Japanese sales are at almost 300k, completely outselling the entire lifespan of Demon's Souls in Japan, with over 90% of all retail copies being sold out, causing massive shortages in copies. US and European sales are projected to be a lot higher. Personally, I'm glad that FS is reaping the reward and recognition for producing such stellar, risky endevours.

ApatheticClone
ApatheticClone

@powerfulone1987 But it's not hard for the sake of being hard; having a fair and challenging game is actually FUN for some people. In my personal experience with Demon's Souls (Day-one buyer, by the way), it was like gaming ecstasy -- I can't recall the last time I was so absorbed and enthralled with a game; a game with excellent, fluid control and combat; a game that doesn't spoon-feed it's story through stale narration and bloated exposition, and a game with a completely absorbing, convincing, and disturbing atmosphere. Numerous people describe their "annoyances" or "frustrations" with the difficulty in the first game, when I simply viewed it as punishment for not improving or learning. Yes, even during these instances, I never stopped enjoying myself, because where other games would have simply frustrated me, Demon's Souls never convinced me it was being cheap or artificial in its difficulty, punctuated by its precise control and seamless combat mechanics (collision detection is superb).

powerfulone1987
powerfulone1987

It's predecessor was utter gutter trash and this one will not disappoint in living down to that same standard. Being hard for the sake of being hard doesn't legitimize a game or the person playing it as a gamer. It appears so many are so eager to praise this game's ridiculousness in order to cement their "Hardcore" Gamer Status into the minds of people who don't care. There's a reason the first game sold piss poor and there's a reason this one will sell even less. The media may have a louder voice, but gamers are what's left once the media's loud voice gets hoarse and dies out, reduced to sucking on a cough drop to relieve the scratchy soreness that their bull has caused. Now you're voice is gone and no one is playing these games. K?

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Mon6ana You're just contradicting yourself, then. I said it improves on everything, then you say I'm right, THEN you say it'll be a "Cut and Paste with little improvements".

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Mon6ana You're just contradicting yourself, then. I said it improves on everything, then you say I'm right, THEN you say it'll be a "Cut and Paste with little improvements".

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Destructionzz
Destructionzz

I wouldn't agree with the review that it's "fair". It is overly punishing which I know, is why you like it. A game can be difficult without making you want to slam your head in a wall over and over. Something called balance. It's odd if it isn't too hard, when I've never had a problem completing any game on hard, and I love it, but this game not only was it hard, I had to give up. And I never give up, I go on and in the end I make it. Demon Soul's just made me angry, that's not why I play games. I wish Dark Souls would be Demon Soul's and more, like it seems it will. Just without the silly difficulty. It could still be massively enjoyable. My beef with DemonS was that it was too hard, a bit easier and it would've been an awesome treat. Then not only will Dark Souls follow this, but making it EVEN harder ? Disappointed indeed. If anything, why the need to make it harder ? That was my only beef with it, and they make the sequel harder.. oh well.

lockdown010
lockdown010

I am amazed at how they have made a "spiritual successor" to such a groundbreaking game as Demon's Souls and, from what it looks like, have improved on it in every way. Such a treat in this video game era of mindless, numerous sequels and few bright spots. Can't wait to play it!

Mon6ana
Mon6ana

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

DEMON SOULS WAS GREAT GAME CUZ THERE WAS NO STORY ONLY LORE!!!! thats what maked demon souls GREAT!!! and with camera was okay i dont get it whats your problem was with camera

kozzy1234
kozzy1234

Does it have a decent story this time? Is the camera fixed? I loved the gameplay in the last game, same with the atmosphere, but the camera and lack of story kinda stopped it from being a great game imo.

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

well ofc i wont feel in dark souls as much as in demon souls when i killed boss in demon souls i was so happy that i runned around my room and screamed omfg i beat that boss yey woot in dark souls i wont do it but still i think dark souls will be better than demon souls only the same feelings wont be when i will kill boss

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Mon6ana Have you even played the game to jump to this silly conclusion? This is a spiritual successor to DS, so it doesn't matter if it's a "Cut and Paste". That's like saying Castlevania 2 shouldn't have been like 1 and should've had entirely different gameplay and characters. And how do you know it has "improved little" when you haven't even played the game?

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Mon6ana Have you even played the game to jump to this silly conclusion? This is a spiritual successor to DS, so it doesn't matter if it's a "Cut and Paste". That's like saying Castlevania 2 shouldn't have been like 1 and should've had entirely different gameplay and characters. And how do you know it has "improved little" when you haven't even played the game?

Mon6ana
Mon6ana

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

in demon souls i died like 400-500xtimes in dark souls i will die 400-500x10

Rovelius
Rovelius

@Mon6ana Grown people don't need to bring ages in conversations. But, just to satisfy you, I'm going to shamefully admit my great immaturity and tell you the great secret : I'm 21. Btw, make your comments clear if you want matching replies. You said "I don't think this game won't be as good as Demon's Souls'' there's no way in hell anyone could have guessed you meant ''I don't think this game will be as much a revolution as Demon's Souls was'' Also, I could never bring myself into finishing inFAMOUS. I completed inFAMOUS 2 in one sitting. Badass game, nothing like the broken mess that was the first one (in my opinion)

Mon6ana
Mon6ana

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

dark souls has no story too the only story is everyone start transform in zombies look here http://www.giantbomb.com/quick-look-dark-souls/17-4966/ a video 1hour and 24mins about dark souls and i finaly know what master key giv opens basic any lock so in dark souls will be lockpicking loool omg i will DIE die die die i want this game so badly i everyday watch trailers and other videos about dark souls i want this game now !!!! i just cant standit anymore i will colapse if i wont get dark souls now! :(

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

All I want to know is, does it have a story. I loved Demon's Souls, other than introducing a loose story at the beginning, there was nothing more.

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

oh yes could somone tell me 1 thing each class has special thing right? well in wiki i saw that the thief have master key and there was no description about it is there a lockpick in demon souls or what? i want know what giv master key

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

oh okay its sounds better now :D btw i will be pyromancer and i will join the sister guild cuz then i will get 2 powerfull fire spells lava bomb and random powerfull firestorm

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Nuke_FonKillazz No, anyone can summon you, even in Flesh Form. Just use the White Soapstone in Hollow/Flesh form and someone will summon you

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Nuke_FonKillazz No, anyone can summon you, even in Flesh Form. Just use the White Soapstone in Hollow/Flesh form and someone will summon you

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

hey guys wanna know much information about dark souls? use wiki i used it and i gathered prety much information there was like 8 fractions where u can join and much more go read it :)

franzito
franzito

Seems as tasty as the previous one!

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

in demon souls when u died somone could summon u but in dark souls nowon can summon u

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@Nuke_FonKillazz You couldn't summon someone when you died though. Hollow form and Flesh form are basically Soul Form (Without HP cut) and Body form.

Nuke_FonKillazz
Nuke_FonKillazz

ah damn it i will be the 90% of the the game in hollow form so i wil have to do all things alone that sooo not fair why in demon souls u could summon when u die but in dark souls not p.s. hehe i pre-ordered limited edition hehe

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@ProdjectAUSM Yes, it's back. There's now four types of rolls: 1. Fast Roll 2. Somewhat fast roll 3. Slow Roll 4. No roll, can't sprint or walk quickly.

Oil_Rope_Bombs
Oil_Rope_Bombs

@thurinthurinam No, you won't be able to invite a player to co-op with you. To even see the signs of random players at the ground, you need to be in "Flesh Form", which you can get if you are "Hollowed" by offering 1 point of humanity at a bonfire. In flesh form, you can summon anyone in your level range by seeing their sign on the ground, and can be invaded at any time. If you die in Flesh Form, you become "Hollowed" and can't summon NPCs or players to help you and you can't get invaded either.

ProdjectAUSM
ProdjectAUSM

These guys are geniuses. It's hard to make a responsive game with punishing, but justifiable difficulty. Although in the previous game, I enjoyed being agile with light weight armor. Will that same speed still be around?

Rovelius
Rovelius

@thurinthurinam Everything is the same as Demon's Souls, except that now you need a decent amount of Humanity before you can summon other players. No summoning Blue Phantoms and lazily "beating" the game.

thurinthurinam
thurinthurinam

Kevin, I read your review preview and you didn't clarify the most important point of multiplayer game in my opinion. Will I be able to invite a specifically player to join me in co-op or not? Is it just going to be random invitations of players like in Demon's souls? Will I have some control of it? And can anybody invade my World at any moment during the game like in Demon's souls?

travisallred
travisallred

Tell me why I want this game so badly. I suck so bad, bought the first one when it first came out, before all the hype, and i have gotten absolutely NOWHERE. I keep reading the word "fair" well maybe it is if you're worth a darn playing videogames. I'm just sad because I know i am missing something special.

Falru
Falru

AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH (jubilant cry of frustration)

Rovelius
Rovelius

@Mon6ana I just love random assumptions based on nothing. 100% useless post. Dark Souls is tremendously better than Demon's Souls and anyone who has been following the news even the slightest knows this.

Rovelius
Rovelius

@badnewz013 Right, because "moves" are the only thing that make up gameplay.

q8360
q8360

GS if you give this game an 8.5/10 I'll hate you forever, the game deserves a 9/10 at least

Jorlen
Jorlen

@Kevin VanOrd - I'm glad you are the one who gets to review this. Looking forward to the full review!

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

Preorder it now people while you get the collectors edition for the price of the standard.

Goods_Merchant
Goods_Merchant

@Kevin-V Do you like Dark Souls more than Demon's Souls?

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

Cant wait to decimate everyone i run into.Not that i try to, they just keep invading me all the time on DS.Im sure they will here too.Stop invading me dammit! Im tired of killing you!