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.
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.
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
– open-ended game
– combat mechanics
– intense boss fights
– story-delivery technique
– multiple story interpretations
– some dull locations
– faulty collision detection