Get past a high barrier of entry to find a wonderful world to explore.

User Rating: 8 | Dark Souls X360

There are many different reasons we play videogames; to relax, compete, socialize, and challenge ourselves. Dark Souls is probably best known for its difficulty, and rightfully so. This is a brutal and unforgiving game that expects the players to be able to figure things out for themselves. Personally, I feel like it goes a little too far in its lack of information, in turn, creating a huge barrier of entry to new players. However, once you can get pass the the first couple hurdles this is quite a rewarding game that has so much more to offer than just its difficulty.

Combat is the heart and soul of this game. This a third person action/rpg with a variety of fighting options from magic, to pyromancy, to blades and shields. One of the most unique elements of this series is the stamina bar. Every time you attack, block, evade, or cast a spell you'll use some stamina. This means you can't waste actions and you'll have to wait, exposed, for seconds at a time to let your stamina fill back up. Combine that with the fact the the enemies can drain your health in seconds you quickly learn that battles in this game are best fought one on one.

Where Dark Souls shines brightest is in its superb level design. After you escape the Undead Asylum you'll wind up at Firelink Shrine. This shrine acts as the main hub of the game and as you play it will become increasing populated by NPCs, many of which will help you on your journey. What is allure incredible is how no matter how far you go the game will very naturally wind you back to Firelink. The way all the levels intertwine is pretty surreal and makes the world feel very believable. Each area offers really unique and entertaining challenges from the traps in Sen's Fortress, to the narrow ledges of Anor Londo, to the maze within the Depths.

For me this game was at its most enjoyable as I tried to make my way from one bonfire to the next. The bonfires in this game act as save points and they also restock your Estus which you can use to recover health. The problem is every time you sit down or respawn at a bonfire all the normal enemies will respawn. This means you'll have to do each stretch in one go instead just picking off enemies and running back to heal. All the bosses and some tougher enemies won't respawn, giving the player a satisfying sense of progression. All the bosses in Dark Souls offer different challenges but they all have patterns, learning and adapting to these patterns is key to victory.

I had tried playing Dark Souls a handful of times before this play-through but never got farther than a couple hours in before I quit. The game really isn't too bad once you get used to it but its near impossible to go in blind. It was only after watching a Lets Play on YouTube I finely felt I had enough knowledge to give the game another chance. There are so many mechanics that never really get explained which is really too bad because in many ways it makes the early game the hardest.

Even after overcoming the high barrier of entry Dark Souls will continue to test both your skill and patience. For those who persist there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction for each challenge you overcome. Even more than that this is a wonderfully designed world, its just fun to explore all the different environments and collect all the loot. For the longest time I didn't think I could get in to this series but with the help of walk-throughs and the Dark Souls wiki I managed to fight my way to the end. It had its ups and down but I'd still say this is a worth while journey for those up to the task.