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Dark Souls – Is It For You?

Dark Souls – Is It For You?

First off, this isn’t a review. NowGamer is home to our in-depth Dark Souls review, which delivers the full ins and outs of the experience itself.

Instead, this is a blog about the first few hours of Dark Souls, that should help you decide whether it’s the right game for you or not.

As you will have likely heard by now, or as you will have experienced playing its predecessor Demon Souls, Dark Souls is tough. Really tough. While games in general are trending towards fluffy titles that surround you with multiple safety nets in case of failure, Dark Souls doesn’t waste time with such piffle.

You begin Dark Souls at a character creation screen – picking your classes (Thief or Pyromancer? Cleric or Bandit?), your item (Master Key or Old Witches Ring?) and most importantly, your haircut (grey mess or pink pigtails?). Then your Dark Souls adventure begins properly, as your withered character stumbles out of a dungeon cell and towards weird creatures down the hallway, broken sword in hand.

Why It’s So Tough
You can kill the first three enemies without too much bother and then you start to wonder – is this it? Is this the dreaded Dark Souls? Then suddenly WHOOSH, an Asylum Demon appears, swings its club at you and you’re dead. It’s 10 times bigger than you are, its energy bar is about 20 times the size of the first three enemies and there’s no obvious way of beating it.

What makes this fight harder is you can beat the Asylum Warden and stories of Dark Souls and how difficult it is may distort what you think you’re supposed to do in this situation. You might strike its scaly hide with your pathetic broken sword for 20 odd minutes or so while avoiding all of its attacks and defeat it. It is possible but it’s much easier to run through a door to the side and away from battle, a solution that isn’t immediately obvious where a huge dragon-esque demon is stomping you to death. Ahhh. Right.

Dark Souls then carries on with its tutorial-in-linear-level ritual – here’s how to defend, here’s how to parry, here’s how to save – and then you have to fight the Asylum Demon again, this time with no escape hatch to scamper through. It took almost an hour to complete the tutorial and a large chunk of that was spent fighting the Asylum Warden. Die, return, fight. Die, return, fight. Die, return, fight. Die, return, fight.

It’s a huge difficulty spike and one that could put off a number of players before they ever get to see the full game that’s waiting behind the tutorial door locked by the Asylum Warden.

It Gets Harder
Then the game begins truly and properly, with a bonfire serving as your initial starting point and comfort blanket, as it replenishes your health. You can talk to the vaguely sinister man nearby or touch the bloodstains littered on the ground and watch how other players have fallen to their death. Then cack yourself as you realise the campfire isn’t a safe place at all – if they can die, why can’t you?

Soon after setting off, you realise Dark Souls doesn’t explain anything to you. At all.

It’s strangely refreshing rather than frustrating, as you’re dripfed just about enough information to see you through via community messages, player feedback and your own experience. Which is just as well because wherever you turn from the campfire, death awaits.

Venture up the grassy hill and you fight an army of undead soldiers, a giant rat and there’s the threat of a dragon, which crashes into the stone bridge next to you before disappearing into the sky. Venture through the ruins next to the campfire and you’ll hit a graveyard, full of skeletons which attack in pairs and slice you to ribbons. Venture down the spiral staircase and you’ll run into ghosts by the docks, who can’t be fought with traditional weapons. Death lies around every corner, waiting for a mistake to steal your life and send you hurtling back to the last lit bonfire.

It’s a bleak, threatening world illuminated by messages from other players (“Gorgeous view” writes one optimistic player, followed by “I can’t take it anymore…” a few steps further down) and their ghosts, which show everyone is struggling through the same battles you are. That’s the progress which drives you on. If they can make it, why can’t you?

Is It For You?
There’s a strange thing at work under Dark Souls grey, miserable surface of perma-death and that’s how compelling it becomes. No matter how hard it hits you, there’s almost an instinct to fight back and each death offers a tiny glimmer of hope and progress, which pushes you on.

It’s also due to the community spirit that powers the game. Though there’s no traditional co-op at work per se, seeing other players fight through their ghosts and having their messages influence you (for good and for bad) adds a unique twist to the ritual of constant death.

Having said that, it’s not a relaxing game. It demands your attention at all times as you can never convince yourself that you’ve landed in safe territory with brave exploration. You’re constantly reminded that behind your sword and shield lies a brittle, fragile character which can be torn apart if you allow a few seconds of distraction and carelessless to seep in.

It’s that balance between progress and death littered with the footprints of those on the same journey that will make Dark Souls a brilliantly addictive experience for some and an exercise in frustration for others.

If you were to be entirely honest with Play, you already knew if you wanted Dark Souls or not when you heard how bastard tough it is. All we can do is confirm your suspicions as correct, as Dark Souls is every bit as tough as you’ve been lead to believe…

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  • stephen

    when is out ? it looks good

  • Ryan King

    It’s out on Friday 🙂

  • stephen

    question for ryan king , is there an easier game mode option in dark souls because im not a big fan of really hard games

  • Ryan King

    Stephen – no there’s not. There’s no option to change the difficulty so you’re stuck with bastard hard!

  • Anand Sevani

    is it worth buying? help me out please

  • stephen

    prob get it anywayz

  • Do’G

    yh i played demon souls and good god that game was bastard hard!!!!!!!!!!! i never completed and i didn’t get that far, but it was a pretty good game though

  • Hutton121

    Completed Demon Souls last night…hardly got a wink of sleep as I was so chuffed about my achievement, and that’s what’s so good about the game, yes its tough as hell but not impossible and the sense of accomplishment is available nowhere else.

    Dark Souls looks amazing but if you have no patience and slow progress isn’t your thing then leave well alone, you could end up killing someone!

  • Dan

    Game sucks. Waste of money. Tried hard but you die and die too often and as a punishment you need to kill the same creatures over and over again. Till you die again and back to square one. What’s the point in that? I’m giving it back to the store.

  • Dan

    The beauty of this game almost extends beyond words. I can’t accurately portray the feeling of elation i received upon defeating my first boss. Knowing i had died multiple times beforehand made that victory all the sweeter