Old 12th October 2011, 02:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Raith's Dark Souls Review

(I can modify this as an actual review for the review section if it's wanted, just PM me)

This game is so hard to properly illustrate the complexities of so I'm going to give my score first, which is 9.5/10. It's important to know first and foremost that this is a classically great game, because the abject brutality of its first impressions could easily turn someone away before they had a chance to realize exactly what it was they were playing.

Now this one is going to be a tough write-up because Dark Souls is very unconventional and difficult to compare to other games(apart from it's predecessor, the awkwardly named, and I suspect poorly translated Demon's Souls), so I will do my very best to describe it without generating a vast wall of text in the process. The game has a pretty standard RPG framework, there are character types, they have stats and what the stats do is reasonably well explained (unlike the first game).
The graphics are good, but the consoles are really starting to show their age now. As I high end PC user I cringe somewhat at the low rez environment textures, but I suspect those have been intentionally sacrificed to allow for the far more detailed character models.Even more impressive is the wonderfully organic way the models are animated; weight and momentum are meticulously illustrated and characters flow from one action to another with striking realism.

I chose the Knight class because it seems well rounded and a good baseline to start the game on; that and the ultra-classic suit of gothic plate armor you start with looks absolutely bad-assed. The game starts with very little exposition and away I go making my way through the starting area. The game is third person with a free camera, and the combat system is ultra-precise and incredibly complex. Every action depletes stamina, which needs to be managed carefully. Over-exert yourself with a flurry of blows and you risk leaving yourself with too little strength to block the counterattack. Weapons themselves have their own collision detection so if you swing a sword it will damage exactly what it hits, or clang uselessly off the wall if there isn't room for the particular swing you tried to perform. You never get hit because the game decided that an enemy at appropriate range attacked while you weren't blocking, if that spear missed you then it missed you.
I hack past the few beginning enemies with relative ease and just as I’m beginning to think they toned the game down a bit from the first one I run into the first boss; it’s massive, and it wields an axe the size of my character. The axe comes my way so I hold out my shield to block it. The shield deflects some of the damage but the force of the impact devastates my stamina bar and sends my poor guy sprawling on the floor. While I struggle to get back up the axe comes down again and kills me in one hit.
The gamer in me protests: “What the hell that’s so cheap I was knocked down I couldn’t avoid that!”. But then I realize, that gamer is weak. ‘That’ gamer has grown to rely on games holding my hand, moments of invulnerability after you get hit, or bosses that politely wait until you get back up before they resume attacking you. Dark Souls strips that all away and challenges you to succeed without any gimmicks, just the cold determination of knowing that if something looks like it would kill you in one hit, it probably can, and damn-it you are going to go over there and fight it anyway.

There’s multiplayer too, of sorts. It isn’t a discrete mode that you select, it’s just woven subtly into the game. The game world is huge and seamless, with no instanced areas or load zones, but each player’s world is their own. However, the worlds of other players have ways of bleeding through to yours in various ways. For instance, if you pass near somebody in another world you’ll see a glimmer of their character for an instant; you might even have time to wave at each other across the void before they fade away. If someone dies they leave a blood stain that sometimes appears in other peoples worlds, if you interact with this mark then you can watch the last few seconds of that characters life and potentially gain an insight into what killed them, and how to avoid it happening to you. You can also write short messages and mark them on the ground with a rune that appears in other worlds for people to read.
You can engage directly with other players but to do so you need to be ‘alive’, which requires the consumption of a very rare resource in the game. The base state for all players is to be undead (you even look like a corpse), but if you find and consume ‘humanity’ you can kick the game into ultra risky mode and take human form. When you are alive you can summon (consenting) players into your world to team up and take on tough obstacles. You can also invade the worlds of other living players and try and defeat them to steal their experience points and life force. But if you die in human form you come back as undead and the humanity you consumed to revive is lost.
This is definitely a single player game, but the interwoven multiplayer elements make it feel like a shared experience.

In summary, as you would expect from a 9.5 I don’t have too many con’s, but I should list a few. The most important one is that this game cannot be played casually, it’s all or nothing. You’ve got to work the ultra-precise combat controls all the way into your fingers if you want to succeed, if you press a wrong key and accidentally make your character do something dumb the game will make you pay, harshly. Also on the controls, although you can use ranged magic and bows and things, the precision of the controls doesn’t translate nearly as well to it and it feels very clunky in comparison. Ironically, there is an increasing online library of strategies people have developed to exploit/glitch past difficult bits in the game using the clunky ranged system, and that’s resulted in a swath of players trying to play the game that way and in doing so stripping it of its greatest elements (hard as a boss may be, glitching into a tree and firing 5000 arrows at it to kill it can’t be that much fun). On the bright side, these noobs are really easy to kill if you invade their world.
I would have taken an entire point off if there were any platforming sections in the game because the otherwise wonderful simulation of velocity and weight makes it rather easy to slide off edges. Luckily, you are never required to do any really squirrelly platforming, but the game often holds out bonus loot for players willing to risk it.

Lets see if I can break down exactly why this game is so good: We play games because (broadly) they are fun and satisfying, and in a large part the degree of that fun and satisfaction is derived from being challenged, and overcoming that challenge. Without challenge there is no satisfaction, just idle distraction, like watching the latest Michael Bay video game movie remake. Dark Souls can be more fun and satisfying than any game you've ever played 'because' it's more challenging than any game you've ever played.

I’ll wrap this up with a food metaphor: If fun is a meal, then playing Minesweeper would be like finding an old mint behind your computer screen; it's there, its free, its quick, but you could hardly call it satisfying. Playing the Call of Duty modern warfare campaign would be like ordering a pizza; it's nice and it fills you up, but you're just enjoying something someone else made, and it'll be exactly the same next time. A good RPG like Dragon Age is like a nice home cooked meal, it's full of your own personality, there was a risk you could have made it badly, so the fact that it turned out great makes it all the more satisfying.
Dark Souls is like gearing up for a hike, planning your route, trekking up an increasingly treacherous mountain for a week, finally encountering a massive bear at the top, besting it in combat with your bare hands and consuming its heart while you roar at the sky in defiant victory of the insane odds you have beaten. That is the meal Dark Souls offers, but you have to scale that mountain and wrestle that bear if you want it.

Last edited by Raith; 12th October 2011 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 12th October 2011, 04:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice one, hits the nail on the head for me. The challenge can be frustrating if you're having a continuosly bad run, but once everything comes together and you get a win, it feels awesome.

My girlfriend was laughing her arse off at how excited I was when I beat the Gaping Dragon yesterday.

It had taken me a couple of attempts, when I went back for a final try I summoned some help again, but as I was fighting I noticed the guy I had summoned was doing absolutely nothing, just running around the area doing various emotes. I gave up hope right then but kept slashing away, with my good friend the Knight Solaire of Astora taking most of the hits.

Solaire fell and despite me being the one dealing damage, the Gaping Dragon decided to go after the idiot I'd summoned, allowing me to stay at it's back and hack at it while it killed the other guy. Of course he fell fairly quickly and that's when shit got real.

The dragon came at me, only a sliver of health left. I rolled out of the way and ran around behind him again to avoid his deadly frontal attacks. Suddenly he slams his foot on the ground, knocking my character off balance and draining most of my stamina. He starts turning towards me, my health is low, I'm sure I'm done for so in a last ditch effort I perform a jump stab.

It hits, the demon is destroyed and I start yelling "f**k yes, f**k you dragon, you see that? I am f**kin awesome!"

Like Demon's Souls it definitely offers some of the most rewarding and satisfying gaming experiences around. As a whole the only issue I've had with the game is severe framerate drops in some areas, most noticeably in Blight Town which is hard enough without it running at 15 fps in some parts, as low as 10 if you have people summoned. Hopefully they can patch it somewhat.

That won't stop me though, it just means we have to climb that mountain and wrestle the bear while wearing a ball and chain
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Old 13th October 2011, 03:22 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Good stuff Raith!

When I'm not playing Dark Souls I'm either dreaming about it, or reading about it. Its great to see that other people are enjoying the game as much as I am.

As far as my experience; I'm playing a Knight as well and I'm taking my time and farming Souls. I'm in no rush to finish or beat the game. And while I do enjoy the game immensely I think I'd probably give the game an 8 out of 10. Although I am enjoying the feeling of being in a desolate world, the lack of any true explanations forces me to hit the web or, in my case, purchase a guide. I picked up a ring, it says that it adds to Poise? Poise isn't a stat? I'm sure a lot is lost in the translation, this lack of information is bewildering, but at the same time this is what Dark Souls is all about.

And we would only get a game like Dark Souls from a Japanese developer, my favorite console games are developed by Japanese developers. I'm also a huge fan of Anime, so, you know where my tastes lie. I just think American developers are very predictable, and develop within a set timeline using a very structured process, there's no room for creativity. Games like Demon's Souls, Metal Gear Solid 4, etc., would never have been made by EA, it wouldn't fit in with their 3 year development cycle, or provide them with the back-end DLC mechanics their stockholders value. Dark Souls wouldn't have the mass appeal for EA, EA is way too busy with bad movie tie-ins and sequels, Madden 19 anyone?

At the end of the day, the few things I dislike about Dark Souls is not enough to tarnish the overall experience of Dark Souls. And those things are minor, and in some sense the things I do dislike are what gives the game its charm.
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Old 13th October 2011, 09:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Awesome review, I love your food analogy and laughed out loud about the bear heart!!

I share the feelings of the other posters here. I am playing a ranged class though (sorcerer), so the bosses I struggle more with are different than the knights struggles.

I beat the gaping dragon in one try without reading anything about it!!, but the titan demon caused me to murder my wife and shoot my dog.

On the Titan Demon, I probably died 25 times in a row without getting a single hit or spell cast. It took me that many times to get past that asshole and behind him. I am not sure I have ever been so frustrated in gaming, but when I finally slaughtered him I felt like I could rule the world!! Of course, then I had to deal with disposing of my wife and dog's bodies.

Ok, going back in now!!!
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Old 14th October 2011, 08:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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On the Titanite deamon (assuming its the one guarding the forest entrance near the blacksmith), he has a fatal flaw. Fight him from lower down on the stairs than he is standing he will allways swing over your head.

It was the one camping in a narrow corridor that nailed me multiple times.
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Old 14th October 2011, 08:54 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raith View Post
On the Titanite deamon (assuming its the one guarding the forest entrance near the blacksmith), he has a fatal flaw. Fight him from lower down on the stairs than he is standing he will allways swing over your head.

It was the one camping in a narrow corridor that nailed me multiple times.
Ahh, I had a typo!! I was actually meaning the Capra Demon, not the Titanite! The Titanite demon was simple for ranged, and I never even got hit....

That damn Capra Demon cost me 10 years of life!!!

I am now done with the depths, darkroot basin (Hyrda), and working on a portion of Valley of the Drakes.

I am going to Blightown next and I hear lots of bad stuff about it Anyone have any input about Blightown?
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Old 14th October 2011, 01:27 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah, Capra was a breeze for me thanks to high endurance and poise. Titanite was easy as well. Just that damn gaping dragon I've had trouble with, decent physical resist. I might invest in a little pyro magic for future use.

For Blighttown take lots of purple moss clumps/blooming purple moss clumps due to all the poison enemies and toxic darts.

The enemies that shoot toxic darts can be a huge pain but don't respawn so sometimes it's worth going for a suicide kill just to clear them out.

I rolled a bandit and started with a spider shield which I think you can pick up in the depths, in the room with the giant rat? Has good poison resist. Also worth using the Evil Eye ring you find in the depths.

Just take it slow, pull enemies away from each other and don't fight on the narrow walkways (of which there are many) and it shouldn't be too bad. It's just all the damn poison & toxic that's a pain.
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Old 15th October 2011, 10:38 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks Cheif! I am almost done with Blightown now (never to come back!). It really has not been that bad, just takes a lot of thought and consideration. I am saved out of the game right before the spider boss lady, so we will see how that goes tonight...

I am excited to get far enough into the game to upgrade my catalyst, I could really use a boost to damage with my spells

This game is really good. I would like to beat it once before Skyrim comes out. I think I will probably come back to if for NG at some point too.
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Old 16th October 2011, 06:39 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Great review. Agree on all points.

I'm playing on PS3 and had played Demon's Souls.

One annoyance I have is few people seem to rate the messages any more. Occasionally I'll find a couple but most sit on 0 until I recommend them. Hope you guys are all recommending all the messages (besides pointless ones).

My PS3 tag is Grugg if anyone is interested.
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Old 25th October 2011, 03:22 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldGrug View Post
Great review. Agree on all points.

I'm playing on PS3 and had played Demon's Souls.

One annoyance I have is few people seem to rate the messages any more. Occasionally I'll find a couple but most sit on 0 until I recommend them. Hope you guys are all recommending all the messages (besides pointless ones).

My PS3 tag is Grugg if anyone is interested.
Yea the messages dont get much love ... but some that warn of good stuff are hard to go back and rate because I never trust them, I have had so many lead me to death that I always test it first then will rate if its true.

add me also!!!

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