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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Dark Souls is not a simulation
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
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.