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General Description

Dark Souls is a third-person action RPG developed by From Software and released for Xbox 360 and PS3 in October 2011. It is a successor to 2009's Demon's Souls. Players control a character of their own design that begins the game by escaping a prison and ending up in the middle of a mysterious world. The game's aesthetics are deliberately dark. Skeletons, bloated rats and a horrible troll are among enemies encountered early in the game, and gothic castles, ghostly swamps and foreboding forests are among its early settings. The game's world is split into distinct areas, but they all exist and interlock within one incredibly expansive map.

Dark Souls is touted as being an extremely difficult game, but more than that it is a game that requires constant skill and attention. Defeating a given enemy in battle usually isn't difficult, but losing focus for a second and allowing even your standard opponent an opening can be disastrous. The consequence of death is that a player may lose all of the souls that they're carrying; souls are the game's single currency, and are used to purchase weapons, equipment and magic spells and, more importantly, to level up.

Players choose starting classes which offer different basic character builds and then increase one of their stats by one point each time they level up. Each statistic has multiple effects on a character, and together they form a web of parameters and abilities for players to toy with. It's important to note the depth of the character customization. Each player's character will be radically different, and characters with different strengths will play the game in totally different ways.

The game's biggest strengths, then, are in creativity. It also has a number of truly fascinating multiplayer functions, which make interacting with people interesting and fun.

Grade by Game Type Overall Grade
C+ C
Ratings at a Glance
Facts: 1 Title: DARK SOULS
Creativity: 7 Publisher: From Software & Bandai Namco Games
Business: 3 Developer: From Software
People: 4 Year: 2011
Problem: 6 Genre: Action/Role Playing Game
Simulation: 0 Strengths: popularity, creativity, problem
Popularity: 9 Platforms: PlayStation 3
Xbox 360
Extra: 0  
Rating Details

Classroom Facts

Dark Souls has plenty of numbers. Players raise vital statistics point by point as they collect souls, and all of their decisions affect their numeric parameters in different ways. Players can equip up to a certain maximum load, for example, and equipping enough to reach half of this number will affect the way their character moves. It can be easy to ignore this stuff, but players that take the time to figure it out will have more control over their character.

Creativity & Imagination

By the Player:

Players choose from one of several starting character builds at the beginning of the game. This determines a basic sort of character class that players can build on throughout the game. Leveling up allows players to increase one of their key stats by one point, making character building a steady, deliberate process. This choice is always difficult. Players can choose between numerous stats that allow them to gain health, equip heavier equipment, cast more powerful spells and more. As the game progresses players will need to decide what strengths and weaknesses they want.

This also overflows into the game's fairly elaborate weapon crafting system, which tracts the player's collected materials to increase the power of their weapons and give them various elemental attributes. Again resources are scarce and the choices players make
will be lasting. Moving weapons along certain upgrade paths requires unique boss souls which only appear once per game. Because these souls might be used on a handful of different weapons, players will have to make a commitment in order to take advantage.

Dark Souls never holds the player's hand. From the very beginning of the game a wide selection of paths are open, and they expand into a web of tunnels, castles and forests as the game goes on. Players are free to explore them in any order they can handle, and the game constantly opens up with new surprises and rewards for curious players that poke around.

By the Developer:

Dark Souls is an exploration of several different game genres and mechanics, and it brings along a totally unique sensibility and several truly innovative concepts of its own. The meat of the game is split into two aspects. The first is exploration; players are put right in the middle of Dark Souls' atmospheric, dark fantasy world with little direction or help. As they stretch out into the various paths open to them they will figure out which paths are feasible and which are not, and the world constantly introduces fantastic new scenes and curious interlocking paths between areas.

The second is combat, which is abundant and meticulously designed. Every enemy introduces some unique threat, and surviving often requires the concentration that a competitive fighting game might. The game is notorious for having a brutal difficulty level, but it's really just that it asks players to remain more focused than many conventional titles.

Underneath these elements are complex character creation and weapon upgrading systems and a wealth of interesting, innovative multiplayer touches. Fantastic visuals, well-written characters and a sparse, haunting soundtrack make the game stand out even further.

Business Skills

Dark Souls makes the interesting decision to include just one currency. Players collect souls from defeated enemies, and when enough accrue they can be used to level up and increase one stat by a point. However these same souls are used to purchase items and equipment from the game's various merchants, putting particular pressure on the player's decisions. Because souls are so valuable, the risk of moving away from the safety of bonfires - where getting defeated may mean losing your current supply of souls - becomes a fascinating risk/reward scheme that constantly changes with each new area and bonfire.

People Skills

Dark Souls has a collection of fascinating, innovative multiplayer features. Plenty of them don't even involve directly playing with others. Early in the game players find a soapstone that allows them to leave messages on the ground that other players can see in their own worlds. These can be used to warn players of ambushes or point the way towards secret paths, though you're likely to find one or two designed as traps, too. Giving a message a good rating gives the player that wrote it an extra potion. Bloodstains appear on the ground where other players have died, and examining one causes the player's ghost to appear and act out its final moments, which can give players a hint about what's ahead. Because the game is so rooted in a feeling of being lost and in danger, this kind of half-communication between players that feel the same way gives the game an uneasy, tense feeling.

The game's more direct multiplayer features are even more fascinating. Players that are in phantom form can place a marker on the ground allowing them to be summoned by human players. Up to four players can then work together to defeat the human's boss, which rewards the phantoms with souls and humanity. Players can also invade one another's worlds. At any time a player might receive a notification that an invader has appeared; the invader's goal is to kill the human player for humanity. The game often intends to scare players, though there's nothing quite like knowing there's another actual person hunting you down.

Problem Solving

Dark Souls is a game about being lost and in danger. There is a deliberate risk/reward system built into every aspect of the game. Every point spent in building up a stat is one that doesn’t get spent on every other stat, and Dark Souls is not the kind of game that ultimately allows a player a perfectly rounded character. Every time the player moves further away from the safety of a bonfire they are likely to collect new souls and find any number of surprises. But every step also increases the risk involved, since a player that is killed – which is not uncommon in Dark Souls – will need to get back to the point they were slain at in order to reclaim their experience before it is lost forever.

Dark Souls is made up of a wide selection of large and varied environments that all interlock into one continuous world. Players will explore the various branches of these worlds, and eventually find one that is so challenging that they decide to come back later when they’ve leveled up. One of the reasons the game is so successful is that it never shows players which areas they can or can’t handle, and in fact it’s likely that different players will tackle areas in different orders. It gives players great challenges and a wide range of tools to experiment with and leaves them to decide what they can handle and what they can’t.

Areas constantly open up in surprising new ways, and new enemies and environmental traps are around literally every corner of the world. The high difficulty level, constant flow of new ideas and looming threat of the game’s intimidating multiplayer components make it an intellectually satisfying game through and through.


Dark Souls is not a simulation game.


Dark Souls has been praised universally. The most common praise is that the game's punishing-but-fair difficulty level makes it one of the most ultimately rewarding games in recent memory.

Controls & Options

Dark Souls allows players to customize standard audio and visual options as well as a few other important controls. There are no difficulty levels, though after completing the game players can begin it again, keeping their levels and encountering more powerful foes and other surprises.


Dark Souls was rated Mature by the ESRB with descriptors for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity and Violence.