DARK SOULS

DARK SOULS

Having played the excellent DS2, I was curious to find out what made the Dark Souls series a popular one in the first place. After sinking yet another sixty hours into its brutal, unforgiving world, I had my answer. As its sequel reaffirms, this game is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for those who just want to have some mindless fun. No, this game is all about its epicness in scope. It’s about making mistakes, learning from them, and executing tactics to the point of near-perfection. Because this game rarely forgives you for your mistakes, if at all.

The game begins with the player at the Undead Asylum, after watching a ten-odd minute cutscene which is supposed to add some semblance to the story, but will most probably leave you with a “what just happened” kind of feeling. Undead Asylum serves as a tutorial area to the player, and teaches you the basic mechanics of the game [Bonfires, Estus flasks, fighting]. The tutorial ends in a boss fight, and defeating him gets you the key out of the asylum, and on you travel to Firelink Shrine, the hub [so to speak] of the game world.

The player can choose from a variety of character classes during character creation. The classes range from bandits to warriors to battlemages to clerics. Each class has its own advantages and weaknesses. I chose the bandit class for my playthrough, which gave me greater damage output for sneaky backstabs and moderate proficiency in the use of daggers and bows, but lesser health than, say, the warrior class.

The player is an undead, cursed with the ability to come back to “life” even after being killed. The plot of the story : meet the king of Lordran [for that is the place we wind up in] and somehow convince him to reverse our condition. At least that’s what I said to myself as I trudged on forwards into scarier, deadlier places than the ones I just left. To be honest, the plot is ambiguous throughout, and often the plot elements and lore are hidden in character interactions, item descriptions and the environment itself. The ambiguity of the plot makes the story being told, open to interpretation. You could pretty much say that the plot depends on the person playing the game, for DS. The same storytelling style returns in DS2.

Combat in DS…now that’s the reason gamers either love or hate this series. It is unlike any other game in this regard. The player’s attacks aren’t fast by any means, but generally cause decent damage to the grunts. But even the grunts are not to be taken lightly. Get cocky against them, and you’ll be splashed with more of the notorious “YOU DIED” screens. Combat is more about tactics here. Draw out the grunts one or two at a time, finish them off, hopefully with minimal damage taken, rinse and repeat.

The logic of souls, Estus flasks, deaths and other such things are more or less the same as in its sequel. Please check DS2 review for more info.

The boss fights are just, wow. Every boss feels unique and each of them require a different kind of strategy. Most of them can finish you off in two combos, so one’s reflexes need to be at their best to keep away from their constant barrage of attacks. Lingering for too long near the boss trying to chunk his health down will quite possibly kill you, as you’d end up using up most of your precious stamina, leaving little for blocking or dodging attacks. This may not be always true, though. Also, if you are not hollowed, you can obtain some help in fighting bosses by summoning other helpers in the game world.

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                              Solaire, you the man…Praise the sun everyone!

And quite frequently, it’s not just the boss you’re battling, but also the treacherous terrain. Quite a few deaths are caused by misjudgment of the environments, leading to the player tripping over ledges, getting kicked off high-rise platforms and such. But these limitations can also be used to our advantage. Some battles end prematurely just through successful baiting of the bosses near such locations. May feel a little cheap, but after coming out of the game, you’ll say “Nothing is true, everything is permitted” like an AC fanboy.

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                                      Yes, this is a boss, And yes, he wrecks.

DS isn’t without its flaws, though. The same faulty collision-detection issues we notice in the sequel are prevalent here, too, with some of the boss fights ending in cheap ways. And there is ONE noticeable difficulty spike late into the game, which may or may not discourage you from venturing further. Some of the environments in the game look pretty dull, especially the dungeon sections of the game.

Nobody ever played DS for its graphics, though. It’s all about the challenge it offers gamers, those who want a welcome change from games which hold your hand all the way to their conclusions. Want something challenging? Wait ’til you try this one…

RATING : 9.3/10

PROS :
– open-ended game
– combat mechanics
– intense boss fights
– story-delivery technique
– multiple story interpretations

CONS :
– some dull locations
– faulty collision detection

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DARK SOULS 2

DARK SOULS 2

 

993 deaths. That’s how many times I died on my way to finishing my journey through Drangelic, which went on for about 57 hours[played over a span of two weeks]. And I’m bloody happy about it. I guess I’m going to take a sabbatical from gaming, after such an amazing, brutal experience. Because I’m pretty sure no other new game is going to be as brutal as this one.

The plot centers around the protagonist, who has been cursed for his sins, and is trying to seek a cure for it in the mysterious world of Drangelic, an abode of dragons and presently, also the undead. The protagonist seeks an audience with the King, as he is the only one capable of doing something about the curse, or so we’re told. The plot is pretty vague, with most of the snippets in some of the items you collect, and some important chunks in dialogue with the NPCs.

In Dark Souls 2,death is a certainty.You WILL die in this game a lot,but more
importantly,what you learnt about your enemy by the time you died, that’s what
matters. Because this game is all about dying, respawning, and trying to not repeat your previous mistakes. And that exhilarating feeling you get after you defeat a boss, no other game I’ve played has even come close to giving me that excitement because, mind you, bosses in this game don’t go down easily by any means. Depending on your fighting style, you will find yourself constantly dodging out of harm’s way, or blocking the super-powerful attacks that are sent down your way, then putting in two-three quick attacks. Rinse. Repeat. Unless you die, which you will, a lot, as the game is by no means lenient on mistakes you make. More often than not, you’ll be penalized heavily for making even a slight miscalculation, as I found out, to my chagrin, on more than a few occasions. Also, every boss has a distinct way of fighting, be it melee or magic. Despite this,the game never feels impossible to beat,just difficult to master.

But it’s not just the bosses. Even a low-level grunt packs enough in him to take you down, if you try to get a little too cheeky with him. And if you somehow end up facing of against three or four of them,good luck to you, mate, as something tells me that that is all that’s separating you from yet another grisly death. The key to fighting your enemy is to lure them out, one after another, and dispatching them one at a time. Safe, if somewhat inefficient, but one must make do with it. Also, combats with grunts aren’t always necessary, some sections of the game you can afford to just run through until you reach the next checkpoint, unless you are interested in farming souls.

Souls. They are the most important things in the game, as they help you level up, upgrade your armor/weapons, buy stuff…basically, souls are what keep you surviving throughout the whole of the game, which you obtain by killing enemies and collecting some items. When you die, the souls you had on you fall at the place you die, and in the next attempt, if you die without collecting your souls, you lose them forever. Hence, your next attempt [if you happened to have a crazy amount of souls]turns into a mad dash for recovering them, and this is where the game tends to screw you over  royally, as in your hurry to get to your souls, you try dodging and running through enemies you could rather have fought and defeated comfortably, and die by their hand, or by accidentally rolling of one of the numerous cliff and ledges in the game, then curse at your carelessness.

 

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Bonfires. The other most important thing in the game. They serve as places for you to rest[double as checkpoints], and also refill your Estus Flask, an item which serves as a health potion which can always be replenished at bonfires. Initially, Estus Flask is a one-time use, but it can be upgraded by finding Estus Flask Shards, which increase the number of uses by one, for every shard collected. Also, there is an item called Sublime Bone Dust, which, when burnt at the Majula bonfire[the safe haven of the world], increases the healing potency of Estus.

There are a myriad good things to speak of in this game, but it isn’t perfect. It has flaws, and a few of them will frustrate you to no end, especially when they are the reason you end up dead against a boss. The one notable flaw is the collision detection system the game has. The game shows you getting injured, even though you might have executed a perfect dodge, and sometimes enemy weapons cause damage to you even after you have dived under its range, which makes no sense. And some of the bosses have ridiculous weapon range, almost a 300 degree range in fact. Also, there was this one boss-fight about 15 hours into the game, who wears pitch-black clothes, as if the dimly-lit area wasn’t enough, and he’s fast. I died more times trying to figure out where he was, than actually fighting and losing due to mistimed attacks/dodges.

But my advice to you is: do not let these negatives stop you from trying out this game. This game isn’t for everyone; I admit it. But if you are the kind of gamer who hasn’t ever let the game’s difficulty put you off, prepare yourself for a brutal, tense journey that will temper you. So, are you ready for this trial by fire?

RATING : 9.6/10 [ SINGLE PLAYER ONLY ]

PROS :
– beautiful environments
– non-linear gameplay and story
– boss-fights
– challenging overall

CONS :
– vague story
– faulty collision detection
– occasional difficulty spikes

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