Archive for March, 2015


Developer From Software has managed to achieve what not many could this generation; an undiluted, pure video game. It doesn’t try to be a film with over-the-top cinematic cutscenes; neither does it trying to narrate a complex story. It just wants you to play it and play a lot. You will spend countless hours in this game, dispelling any disillusions you’ve had about the state of modern gaming. No more will you have to delve into your retro library for that familiar feeling of satisfaction as you press a combination of buttons while getting glassy eyed in front of the screen. Not since the 16-bit days have I ever felt so helpless and small, yet so hungry and determined to carry on. Dark Souls is a masterpiece that will forever have a huge part in videogame history and is still contributing towards its own legend.

Your journey through this third-person action-RPG begins in the Undead Asylum where you, The Chosen Undead, begin to fulfil your predestined fate to journey through Lourdran, picking up whatever weapons you can find to fight your way through dragons, undead and many other horrors waiting for you. You start with a chosen class but that matters little as you go through the game levelling up and customising your character to suit your play style. The world of Lourdran is one that is already defeated with abandoned cities and decimated wonders all around you. The world has been engulfed by the curse of the undead; the Darksign marks those afflicted by the curse. Bonfires are your safe havens, their purpose is to refill your finite healing Estus Flasks, level you up with the souls you collect and spend your precious humanity. However, this also resets the level, with the afflicted foes rising again (thankfully not the bosses) and each death causing the loss of humanity until hollowness sets in.

The story of Dark Souls is one that is rich full of lore and will not be explained to you with multiple cutscenes. The game demands you to figure it out for yourself by reading descriptions of items and piecing the story with your own interpretation. I found myself to be a part of a huge community of fellow Souls fans in my pursuit for knowledge about the game’s lore and this gave me a rich refreshing experience in digesting the game’s story. One of the biggest changes of Dark Souls from its predecessor Demon’s Souls, is there is no nexus for you to recollect your thoughts and suck your thumb in the foetal position. Dark Souls is open ended with all levels connected to each other in some surprising way. The world of Lourdran is in itself another character in the game, with multiple personalities that make you feel dread in its murky dark swamps to feeling like a God, high on the steps of the incandescent Anor Londo. Looking in all directions at any time during the game, you will most likely see your next destination, or even your next foe. This is another sign of the great effort put into the designing the game.

Dark Souls will remind you why you love video games and it will do that by punishing you all the time with its crushing and addictive gameplay. But that’s not the game being sadistic, Dark Souls is entirely fair and will only punish you accordingly for the mistakes that you make, so play by her rules because there is no safe word. This is what makes Dark Souls so unique. It will not hold your hand and let you try again with no consequences, the game elevates you to a new state in your skills as a player. When you die, be prepared to trek back to where you perished and retrieve your lost souls, but not before you face the monstrosity that killed you again. The game demands absolute focus and concentration, with the reflexes of a cat to topple knights three times your size. Almost everything in Dark Souls can kill you with little more than a few hits; conversely you can do the same back.

The splendour and tears of joy may come from defeating the colossal bosses, but it is the basic enemies that make the gameplay so addictive in a masochist kind of way. From Software have carefully crafted each foe, forcing you to change the way you fight every time you are confronted. The sadist developers basically don’t want you to be comfortable; just when you think you’re doing well, you will be humbled straight away, probably by a giant swinging axe or some other sharp pointy object hurtling towards your moneymaker. When you encounter Solaire of Astora (Dark Soul’s unofficial mascot), it is not to pick up that important item. It is to take in his babbling and learn to take a moment to embrace and appreciate the harsh, decadent and beautiful world around you. Incandescent or not.

There isn’t much to fault Dark Souls on except perhaps the lacklustre tutorial. Demon’s Souls is also guilty of this and this will force some to give up or stick it out and research for themselves the full mechanics of the game. At times the game can go from harsh but fair, to brutal in some of their challenging set pieces. But then this is Dark Souls, a game that pushes you to experiment and forge an experience that is incomparable to other games. If you are one to passively play video games then this is not for you. But if you are willing to commit yourself and spend some of your own humanity, Dark Souls awaits. Your sacrifice will reward you with truly one of the best experiences in gaming.

9/10 By Manny Pham