Namco Bandai Games America Inc.’s Dark Souls for Sony Corp.’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 is a challenging action RPG that wields a tough yet addictive thirst for victory even upon death.
Developed by From Software users trek through a dangerous world as an undead being in order to reclaim their soul. Character classes include Warrior, Knight, Wanderer, Thief, Bandit, Hunter, Sorcerer, Pyromancer, Cleric, and Deprived, each with specific attributes to wield weapon or magic attacks.
A combination of weaponry, magic, armor, and shields can be utilized to attack and defend against aggressive soldiers and demons. The right triggers facilitate a light and strong attack, while the left triggers can initiate a defensive item like a shield, or a sub-item like a firebomb. Additionally, users can opt to use both hands to wield a weapon to offer better control. Finally, an evade button allows users to step back or roll out of danger.
Combat is solid with strong elements of physics and strategy. Users can run and strike with the strong attack then follow quickly with a light attack to finish the enemy. However, enemy AI is clever in defense and can block an incoming attack to leave the user stunned, followed with a vicious combination. All weapons include physical properties that are recognized in combat. Equipped items also affect the mobility of the character. Movement can be a clunky but is manageable after practice.
The open world of Dark Souls, three times as large as Demon’s Souls, offers users multiple paths to explore. As players progress, gates can be unlocked to offer shortcuts back to prior areas and nearby Bonfires.
A Bonfire is the only save option in the title. Users can rest at the Bonfire to regenerate health and Estes Flasks used to recover HP. However, reach rest will regenerate all non-boss enemies. In the journey, users can increase their humanity level which determines item discovery and resistance to curses. Humanity can be sacrificed at the Bonfire to double the number of Estes Flasks. Souls acquired from defeated enemies can be used to upgrade weapons and armor or to level up.
After death, users lose all acquired souls and return to the last Bonfire. Players have one chance to recapture all lost souls at the exact place of death.
The lack of Bonfires in the Dark Souls leaves users no choice but to act with extreme caution. Enemies can be relentless with vicious mobbing and juggle attacks. Players will die often but can learn to quickly adapt to utilize a new strategy after each death. For example, users can continuously kill regenerated enemies near a Bonfire to capture souls and level up to be better equipped for battle.
Deaths can be cheap, including being knocked off a platform, instant death from a large boss, or a collision detection issue that can result in the register of only the opposing attack.
Sub-items can make the trek easier, with items that can warp users back to the last Bonfire, acquire souls instantly, or even summon a co-op player in a certain part of the game.
An online component parallels the single-player universe and allows users to view bloodstains of how other users perished and read helpful hints and messages left by other users. Players can even use an item to invade another users’ world and kill them for inventory.
The graphics engine is decent at 30 frames-per-second. Dark Souls relays detailed characters and environments but the frame rate can suffer when large bosses and complex outdoor rendering is required.
The sound engine is solid with eviscerating attack sounds and a haunting medieval soundtrack.
Dark Souls is a classically forged challenge that forces users to retry, adapt, and learn to survive. Take a hike auto-save. Death is imminent.