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161 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Souls will consume yours
I own both a PS3 and an Xbox 360 and my personal favorite type of game to play are RPGs, so when Demon's Souls Greatest Hits generated huge buzz upon it's release in 2009, I had to try it. Man, I'm glad I did because the game quickly became one of my all-time favorites. So, when the (sort of) sequel Dark Souls was announced, I knew I had to get it as well. Now, I went...
Published on October 9, 2011 by TMH

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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept/atmosphere; lacking in some areas
I own an Xbox so I never got the chance to play Demon Souls so when Dark Souls (DS) came out I wasn't familiar with either. I don't game much anymore so my naivety didn't surprise me. Anyways, I read a few reviews discussing Dark Souls' brutal difficulty and I figured why not challenge myself.

Pros:
1) Atmosphere. I love how the world of Dark Souls makes...
Published on November 14, 2011 by SLH


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161 of 177 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Souls will consume yours, October 9, 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I own both a PS3 and an Xbox 360 and my personal favorite type of game to play are RPGs, so when Demon's Souls Greatest Hits generated huge buzz upon it's release in 2009, I had to try it. Man, I'm glad I did because the game quickly became one of my all-time favorites. So, when the (sort of) sequel Dark Souls was announced, I knew I had to get it as well. Now, I went with the Xbox 360 version simply because I wanted the achievements for my Xbox gamer score, plus I just prefer Xbox Live over the PS3 Network. Both are great, but I just prefer the Xbox slightly. Now, on to the review...

This game, if given a chance, will consume you. You'll think about it constantly, think of ways to get better and will count the hours until you can play it again. Yes, it's difficult in the beginning. Most RPGs are, but this takes it to ridiculous levels of frustration at times. With that said, if you stick with it and level up I actual think it gets easier. However, some players may think it's too difficult, which is understandable. Everyone's tastes are different and if dying repeatedly and losing valuable souls forever that took you hours to accumulate doesn't sound like fun to you, then don't buy this game. I urge anyone on the fence about this one to rent it first. This is a unique gaming experience and it definitely wont appeal to everyone. I like it because I don't like to lose and when this game crushes my character with ease, I become all the more determined to pick up the controller and try again and achieve victory, because when you finally do, there's no better gaming experience!

Is there are story? Not really. Is it all just difficult combat? For the most part. Then what makes this game so special? The experience, it's the ride man. It's all about starting out with a weak character in the beginning that gets squashed by just about every enemy it comes in contact with, but ending with a powerful character than can take out just about anyone with ease! That's what isn't being said enough about this game in my opinion. Everyone is focusing on how weak you are in the beginning, but trust me, you have the potential to become God like in this! The maximum level you can reach is level 792 (for the record, it will cost you 11,938,030 souls to reach level 792), but just reaching level 100 makes you incredibly powerful. There are an array of amazing weapons you can master that at first are so heavy that you'll literally swing them in slow motion, but once strong enough you can swing them with ease. There are rings like "The Evil Eye" ring (gives you HP from fallen opponents) that give you an advantage over any foe. There's armor like the "Armor of Thorns" you can earn that covers you in spikes so that when you roll into enemies you'll deal out damage to them! You can take ordinary weapons and enchant them with special powers and abilities. I could go on, but simply put this is an RPG and gaming experience you'll never forget... and I haven't even mentioned the online capabilities! In online mode, you can enter other player's games and help them fight demons and be a heroic figure or you can be evil and invade other player's games with the intent to assassinate them and rob them of their items and souls. If you do this, your name can be entered into an online book that will allow others to hunt you down and assassinate you in order to avenge the player you killed. Plus, you can leave messages for other players regarding key moments of the game that either help... or hurt them. It's a fascinating world and experience that I strongly urge everyone to at least try. Don't let all the talk about difficulty keep you away. Yes, it's tough, but it's not impossible or nearly as bad as people make it out to be (in my opinion) in other reviews. I defeated Maser Ninja mode on Ninja Gaiden II and that was a million times more difficult than this. The worst thing that can happen to you in this game is that when you die the first time, you leave a blood stain on the ground in the exact spot where you were killed and however many souls you had on you at the time are now in that blood stain. So, you restart at your last bonfire checkpoint with zero souls. If you want those souls back, you'll have to fight your way back to where your blood stain is located and touch it. This is easier said than done because all the enemies in that location that you previously killed have respawned, so you have to kill everyone again in order to get them back. And if you die again on your way to that blood stain... you can kiss those souls goodbye for good. The most souls I ever lost was in Demon's Souls, I once lost over 150,000. It was a real spirit breaker to say the least! The most I've lost playing this game is a little over 1,500. Souls are important because they're like money in the game. The more you have, the more you can level up, upgrade weapons, buy items, etc.. So, if you can deal with that potential loss, than you can handle this game.

Now, I want to give people that are new to this series some tips in playing this game, if you don't want any spoilers, than stop reading now, but if you want some valuable advice that will save you some potential mistakes early on, then please read...

Tip #1 - I've read a lot online on Dark Souls forums that people are attacking and killing the first merchant they come across in the game, don't do this! It's kind of easy to do, because he looks like one of your enemies, but don't harm him! He sells some very important and valuable items that are critical to your survival early on in the game. He's located in the Undead Burg, which I highly recommend you start your game in. After the crow cut scene at the end of the tutorial, the crow drops you off at the Firelink Shrine. The path to the Undead Burg is located up a long hill and the entrance is guarded by some undead soldiers, one of which is constantly tossing firebombs at you. Defeat these guys and head inside the tunnel with the undead rat. Kill him, walk down the tunnel and out onto the steps and your at the Undead Burg. You'll find the area to the merchant guarded by two lone undead soldiers both holding spears and shields. They're easy to spot because they're both standing far out on a landing by themselves. Defeat them and then destroy the wooden crates that's guarding the lower level entrance to the merchant. Kill the lone soldier in this room (he's hiding behind furniture... sometimes) and then head into the outdoor room. The undead merchant is sitting on the ground, just talk to him to start buying from him. He has a pretty good bow (don't bother using crossbows, you can't really aim them) and has a large selection of arrows too. Also, he sells firebombs which are very important. Stock up on these to easily kill the large knights you'll find scattered thru out the game (target them, toss a firebomb, back up, repeat... easy). All of the knights have a low level tolerance to fire, so burn them up!

Tip #2 - Never consume special souls! I've also read online where people have consumed the first Fire Keeper Soul they come across, which is early in the game. Don't do it! Instead, head back to the Firelink Shrine bonfire, head down the path next to the man who is sitting close to the bonfire and give the soul to Anastacia of Astora (she's the mute woman in the cell). She will upgrade your Estus Flask to +1. She will also upgrade the flask every time you send here a Fire Keeper Soul, so save them. By upgrading your Flask, each drink will give you more health. All of the unique souls you find in the game can be used to perform an upgrade or can be traded for something really cool, so never consume them. The only souls you should ever consume are the ones you find from dead humans in the game, and those should never be consumed until you're at a bonfire and ready to level up. For example, if you consume a hero's soul as soon as you find it, die and then fail to get your souls back from your blood stain, it's gone for good! So wait to consume them at bonfires only.

Tip #3 - Once you reach the blacksmith in the Undead Parish start upgrading your favorite weapon immediately! You can upgrade most weapons to level +5 using souls and titanite shards. Don't worry, if you haven't got any enemies to drop any titanite shards yet, the blacksmith sells them, and pretty cheap too. Do this asap! It will allow you to kill enemies way quicker than if you kept using standard weapons. To increase weapons past +5, or enchant them, it'll take more powerful stones and items that you'll find later in the game, but if you play Undead and Undead Parish in that order, you can easily reach the blacksmith and can start making +5 weapons. I would also upgrade my armor to as high as it will let you at this part in the game.
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132 of 145 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic game that requires time and effort, October 24, 2011
By 
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I found out about Dark Souls through one of my close friends who is an absolute Demon's Souls fiend. After reading all the previews and checking out the game play footage, I decided to buy this game and give it a try (and yes, I knew about the difficulty going in).

After spending about 10 hours on the game, I eventually decided to trade it in. Contrary to what most people are probably thinking (and before any of you Dark Souls fan boys start bashing me), I didn't trade it in because of the insane difficulty. I traded it in because I am a new father and after playing the game for about 10 hours, I knew I would not have the necessary time and effort needed to complete this epic game. If you are a dedicated gamer like my friend, I salute you. There were plenty of moments in this game that left me with a terrific sense of accomplishment after completing a certain area or defeating a certain boss (asylum demon, gargoyles, taurus demon, etc.), but in the end, this game just wasn't for me.

One word of advice to anyone who is considering purchasing this game and has not done any research on it... DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT buy this game if you are susceptible to gamer rage, or if you are prone to getting frustrated very easily. This is not the type of game you buy if you want to relax and take your stress away.

PROS
* The level of character customization is ridiculous. There are plenty of classes to choose from and plenty of weapons, armors, spells, rings, etc. to equip on your character throughout the game.
* The unique multi-player experience is second to none. The ability to read messages left by other players helps tremendously, not to mention the fact that you can summon another player to help you defeat a difficult boss.
* The world of Dark Souls is HUGE. There are a ton of areas to explore in this game. The graphics were superb in my opinion. The enemies looked great. And the music was tension-filled during boss battles.
* You really get a sense of accomplishment when you complete a certain area that you've been playing for a while, or you finally defeat a boss that has been giving you problems.

CON
* I would've given Dark Souls 5 stars if not for the fact that you lose all your souls if you die before reaching a bonfire. Yes, you can reclaim your lost souls if you make it back to the place where you died, but you only get one shot at it and the repetition of having to play the same area over and over again just kills it for me after a while. I just felt like it was a layer of difficulty that wasn't needed and doesn't add much to the overall experience of the game. I can deal with the challenging gameplay, the inability to pause the game, the limited number of bonfires, the dying after getting hit 2-3 times, etc. But I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to play an hour or two, collect thousands of souls, then lose it before reaching a save point. This is where "not having the necessary time and effort" comes into play.

So overall, would I recommend Dark Souls to someone? If they have patience, dedication, and are not prone to frustration, then hell yes I would recommend it. But if they are just looking to relax and get away from their everyday lives, then I would steer clear of this game.
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66 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skill and patience required, October 5, 2011
By 
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Dark Souls is an extremely demanding action RPG that requires a lot of practice and patience to progress. It's brilliant in many ways, it looks great, the combat is fast and responsive, and it will have huge appeal for hard-core gamers. I salute those of you who have the moxie and determination to master this game, but I'm afraid I don't.

After spending nearly eight hours on the first boss in Undead Burg, after doing the research, after grinding for levels and gear, I still can't manage it. I've come close twice (after nearly 20 attempts), but this game is just beyond my skill level. I'm a little older and have never been great at twitch games, so the blame is mostly mine. Just be aware of what kind of gamer you are and what you want out of a game before you harrow your soul with this game. You may end up weeping on the floor trying to unclench your dead fist from the controller. Good luck!
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept/atmosphere; lacking in some areas, November 14, 2011
By 
SLH (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I own an Xbox so I never got the chance to play Demon Souls so when Dark Souls (DS) came out I wasn't familiar with either. I don't game much anymore so my naivety didn't surprise me. Anyways, I read a few reviews discussing Dark Souls' brutal difficulty and I figured why not challenge myself.

Pros:
1) Atmosphere. I love how the world of Dark Souls makes me feel. The world is bleak and depressing (usually) but also one of absolute wonder. I constantly found myself thinking about the world in general, who were the original builders/settlers of this world? Why is a architecturally beautiful place like Anor Londo so completely devoid of random, "normal" people? Who is Sen? What's his problem? (I could go on and on but i don't want to spoil too much for new players). All in all this world fascinated me. (Note, maybe the preamble before the game begins answers the above questions but sadly I was a tad distracted at the time of my first boot up). I found the experience to be very reminiscent of "Shadow of the Colossus" in many ways (Shadow is one of my all time favorite games). (however, unlike Shadow, I never felt bad for any of DS's bosses, especially the fat guy with the hammer and the skinny spear guy, they can suck it) (actually that's not true, I did feel bad for a certain mini-boss who later shows up sporadically throughout the game, his "race" is missing their left leg and I actually felt kind of bad for them).

2) A real challenge reminiscent of the "old school" games of my youth. I grew up in the mid to late 80's and early 90's so I have fond memories of pouring quarters into arcade machines on games that essentially got harder, faster and then you died. No real story, no real ending, just harder and faster and then death (can't remember what comedian first made that statement but he was dead on with it). Anyways, the fact that lowly foot soldier enemies can kill you as easily as traditionally stronger ones is very refreshing and makes you always take the game world seriously.

3) The enemy bestiary is also very strong with original enemies at every turn. This wasn't the standard bad guys: zombies, trolls, bandits, etc....The edition of the game that I purchased can with a bestiary art book which was fun to look through before playing to get a sense of who or what I would face.

4) Joy of victory. This is related to #2 above, but there is no better feeling then finally defeating a difficult boss or challenging area of this game. You literally breath a giant sigh of relief and realize that your heart is beating a mile a minute. Not too many games today can offer you that sense of accomplishment.

Cons:
1) The game is difficult but what makes it even more so is the concept of humanity. In essence humanity allows you to summon players and NPCs to help you (it also boots HP, estus flasks, item discovery rate, scales certain weapons, etc...), long story short, the more humanity you have the better off you are. If you come up on a super difficult area, encounter or boss, you will quickly find yourself completely out of humanity. If it's a boss that is giving you problems then you will likely have no way to wave the white flag and summon help (unless you go spend a few hours "grinding" for the rare humanity drop). The previous wouldn't be a problem if humanity was something you could find through reliable means. Typically if you have no humanity and you need some, you're going to spend a lot of time either killing rats or skeleton babies. The game is set up so that truly elite players will likely be able to summon help if they so desire while the not-so-elite will be forced to grind areas in the hope of accumulating humanity.

2) Camera angles. Unfortunately, certain areas of the game can be very frustrating to deal with due to the poor camera angles chosen by the game. Obviously you can rotate your camera as you go along but my issue deals more with camera angles in cramped areas. One certain area of the game involved navigating narrow walkways in some kind of shanty town. One misstep meant instant death. In DS, death meant starting from your last bonfire with all accumulated souls left at the scene of your death. I don't have a problem with the enemies respawning or the loss of souls, but when I die because the game chose a ridiculous camera angle or some overhead structure completely blocked my character from my view and I foolishly plummet to my death.....beyond frustrating.

3) Enemies attacking through walls, items or each other. In many ways, DS is like a medieval combat simulator. You can't wildly swing your weapon and hope to survive. You have to be precise and calculated in your decisions. However, I found it very annoying that enemies could literally swing through one another without any kind of friendly fire damage (note, there is one "type" of enemy that I can think of that inflicts friendly fire damage, but I believe it's the only one and I'm not including ghosts in this discussion because they make sense). There were other times when I was hit through walls or items. This complaint just goes back to the nature of the game: it's extremely difficult and death is punished harshly, but it really ticked me off when an enemy was attacking me while his buddy smashed him with a giant hammer but with zero damage to the recipient.

4) Non-responsive controls (rare). Every once in a while, I would press a button to do a certain action and either my character wouldn't do it or it would be delayed. This was rare so it's not that big of a deal but in the middle of a major boss fight it could mean a quick, frustrating death. (And yes I played with 2 different controllers to see if one was defective and I found both had the same (if not rare) lag problem.

5) Homing arrows. I'm not talking about a magic arrow or magic in general, I mean an archer firing a shot from far away that tracks with my movements. In a world where magic exists, I can buy a lot of "impossible" things, but arrows that literally home in on me? No, I'm not on board. (and the particular sequence that I am writing about in the game is one of the most frustrating sequences in the entire game).

6) Enemy attacks that track with amazing efficiency. Related to #5, but dealing more with melee attacks. My preferred melee fighting style is to bait my opponent into an attack so that I can counter with an appropriate attack. However, some enemies will commit to an attack but as you move to avoid (even getting halfway around them at times) their weapon will still find you. I liberally block so this wasn't a giant problem but it was still something that really took me out of the full immersion into the game.

7) No pausing. I honestly don't understand why pausing is not allowed in this game. I guess I can somewhat understand if you are playing online, but even then you only interact with other players if they summon you or vice versa. Other than that, I don't see why pausing is not allowed. Unfortunately, my real life doesn't pause when I play DS so there were many times where I just had to stop playing because of work, phone calls, neighbors, etc...(not to mention needing to take a restroom break). I do see how pausing in the middle of combat to completely change your armor is unrealistic but I wish they would have found a happy medium. Maybe only preventing pausing during boss fights or you can only pause if no enemy has engaged you in combat?

8) Magic "lock on" issues. I found the lock on button to be annoying as well. Many times in my adventure would I frantically click the lock on button to target enemies in the distance or on a ceiling, etc...to no avail. This made magic use annoying at times (this issue coupled with the animations attached it its usage = quick death (or at least a few cheap shots from the target)). Additionally, even if I was locked on a target certain spells would fly off in some other random direction or straight into the floor. Once again, for a game as brutal as Dark Souls, these lock on issues were frustrating at best and infuriating at worst.

All in all, even though my Cons outnumber my Pros, this game is a 3 out of 5 for me (would probably give it a 3.5 if given the option). I thoroughly enjoyed the world that From Software has created but there were enough issues to me that prevent this game from being a true classic. I will say, if you are planning on playing DS, you better have plenty of free time, especially if you are focused on leveling or finding rare items. (I almost complained about the grinding required in DS, but I think that aspect of DS has been made abundantly clear so if you are upset about it you were most definitely forewarned). If you have the free time and are willing to deal with some of the above minor annoyances, I definitely recommend stepping into this bleak, unforgiving world. Seriously the feeling you get from getting past a difficult boss or area is great. Unfortunately my free time is limited (and getting scarcer by the day) so this will likely be the one and only venture I make into the world of DS.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything Gaming is About, October 12, 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Dark Souls is a surprisingly fantastic game that is absolutely not for everyone. Some people are saying that this is a game that is even better than Skyrim will be, and some are saying that is is a terrible game. I believe that it is neither. Or both.

I was not inclined to like Dark Souls, and only picked it up on the insistence of a friend. I had heard about Demon Soul's brutal difficulty level and did not feel like starting a game that had the goal of killing the player over and over again. So against my better judgement I started playing Dark Souls. To my complete and utter shock, I was swept away into a dreary world of death, despair, and hope that produced in me a feeling that I haven't felt since I was a little child playing the original Zeldas for the first time.

Dark Souls's environment is completely awe-inspiring and pulls the player in. The storyline is utterly weak, and all of the enemies are unexplained and largely unknown quantities. However, instead of feeling like a confusing mess as one might expect, instead it produces a sense of wonder. The player doesn't know what fantastic creature is waiting around the corner (and there are brutally challenging enemies around literally every corner). For instance, after pillaging a key from a giant spellcasting butterfly I went into a dark tower where I was confronted by a short little creature with a giant hammer. I was intrigued and ran up to him, and was promptly squished flat in one blow. After about the seventh time of trying to beat him I finally did, and went into a lushly dark and moody forest, where I was promptly slaughtered by a hydra shooting bolts of death at me.

Death is the ranch dressing that Dark Souls pours liberally on this salad of nostalgic wonder. I considered myself a decent game up to this point, but almost every new enemy manages to kill me at some point. It is not possible to die. You WILL die TONS playing this game. But through that death comes perseverance and hope. I thought that I would get super frustrated at the game and that my controller would end up through my TV, but I haven't felt like that. Every death just challenges me to do better. None of the fights seem cheap, just strategic. And you aren't alone on this journey of death and exploration.

The online integration is possibly the most thoughtful and effective that I've ever seen in a game. Players can leave messages for one another either helping or hurting their fellow players (NEVER follow the suggestions to jump off a cliff ;)), and players can be summoned into other worlds to help their fellow players with boss fights. But no meaningful communication is established (no use of mics), and all too soon the player is left to fight alone. But knowing that you are in a community of people who are experiencing the same joys and frustrations at you somehow adds so much more to the mood that the game sets.

I could go on for a long time about what this game means to me in terms of the nostalgic feeling that I used to get as a kid playing games that I've never been able to recapture until now, but suffice it to say that Dark Souls accomplishes everything that it wants to in this game. That being said, what it wants to accomplish will simply not please everyone.

This isn't a game for 'only pro gamers' to prove how great they are. This isn't a game for casual gamers just looking for a fun afternoon. This is a game selling an experience, not bragging rights (although they may come). This is not necessarily 'relaxing' to play, nor is it emotionally taxing. Rather, it is a complete escape into an undefined world that is what you want it to be. You will be beaten bloody and made to come back for more, but in the process you will start to overcome the challenges that killed you before and start to master the death that rules over the whole game. If you don't think you want a game this frustrating and (at times) unfulfilling, then this isn't for you. But I do recommend it to gamers who want to see what the gaming genre is capable of producing. This isn't a masterfully written epic, or a revolutionary system, but it is what games are meant to be, and as such can be extremely satisfying at times. Then you die again and have to take a break before you get too frustrated :)

Overall:
PROS:
Graphics are great, detail is stunning
Sound effects are very well done
The mood that the game creates is intoxicating and addictive

CONS:
Music is at times underwhelming
Game difficulty is brutally difficult and death is assured

This game is not for everyone. But it is for some people. If you're on the fence, I recommend borrowing it or renting it for a bit before committing to the purchase, just to see if it's for you. Hope this helps you make a decision.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest review of Dark Souls, November 26, 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Is Dark Souls one of the best games of this generation? Yes.

Now, is it a game you will actually want to play? That depends.

I'm sure that, if you're reading this review now, a year after the game has been released, you are most likely someone whose interest has been piqued due to A) the $19.99 budget price it's at now and/or B) it's near legendary status on the internet (wikis, forums, etc). You've heard that it's hard. You've heard that it doesn't hold your hand. You've heard that it's the hardcore answer to a gaming generation dominated by mindless shooters where you walk in a straight line as enemies line up to get shot by you and, if you get shot yourself, you just hide for awhile until your health regenerates (which, by the way, is exactly what happens in real life). You've read reviews that proclaimed it a modern classic of gaming, and also reviews where the reviewer didn't even give a score because he or she couldn't finish the game. Now you want to know if it's actually worth picking up. Should you give this $20 game a fair shot?

First off, you know how, if someone gives a new Zelda game a 7.0, the internet explodes because it's too low? Or if someone gives a game like Final Fantasy XIII a 9.0, the internet ALSO explodes because it's too high? I want you to know this about Dark Souls: every single review you read, whether or not the score is a 3 or a 9.5, is accurate. You can't say the game sucks on a technical or artistic level. It has way too much character, personality, and detail to be accused of being "phoned-in." The developers at From Software knew exactly what kind of game they wanted to make and they succeeded in making it. That is without question. The thing is, their vision was to create a game that doesn't care if you like it. Enjoy it. Figure out how to play it. Figure out where to go and what to do. So you have a game crafted with the kind of personal detail and singular style that most modern big-budget games don't have anymore due to sales pressure and huge development teams who work separately from each other, but with that comes two huge barriers to entry: level of difficulty and method of storytelling, which is also related to gameplay in ways I will explain later.

On difficulty: There are many reasons Dark Souls is hard. One, your character is just one of many that roam the dying land of Lordran. Absolutely ANYTHING can kill you in a few hits if you are not careful because,in the context of the game, you are basically only as strong as any one of your enemies (and naturally, we're talking non-boss characters here). Leveling also scales as you reach higher levels, so in essence, it is very difficult to become overpowered at any stage in the game. This is unlike other RPGs where, by the end, you have so many meteor-summoning, turn-into-a-dragon abilities that it becomes a cakewalk. Dark Souls is hard, and hard all the way through, because you are always fighting an uphill battle. Your enemies, from a lowly undead soldier to screen-filling demons, are all REALLY good at fighting. They come at you mercilessly and follow you outside their zones. They fight without abandon. They want you dead, period. Yet, in classic 8-bit style, they all have specific attacks that they telegraph. Their respective animations are the same each time and almost always have a visual cue that you learn to pick up on and anticipate. You learn when to have that shield up,when to dodge out of the way, and you learn to NEVER turn your back on anyone. You see an enemy, lock on, and strafe around until they miss and you punish. You treat every enemy with respect because any one of them can end your life. And, anytime you have more than one enemy coming at you, the threat of death is exponentially greater. You have to be aware of all your surroundings because you and your enemies are subject to the same rules. A specific example:

I walk into a dark and foreboding castle called "Sen's Fortress." I step onto a trigger in the floor and three arrows are shot at me, doing damage because I didn't have my shield up. Little did I know that, as soon as I triggered the arrows, I also triggered two serpent soldiers, who step out of the darkness and down the staircase, right towards me. Unprepared and in disarray due to the arrows, they flank me. I am helpless. I don't know their attacks at all. I have never encountered them before.

You Died.

I re-spawn at the bonfire closest to the zone and try it again. I have my shield up, this time prepared for the arrows. They bounce off my shield. The two guys come at me. I have an idea. I back up as they follow me. I lock on and, all the while facing them, back all the way up, outside of the castle and onto the narrow bridge I walked on to get here. About halfway on the bridge, the two huge serpent men stop. An invisible wall is now blocking them, one erected by the AI. They are still running toward me, but they aren't getting any closer. I gloat. I initiate a gesture that looks like a shrug. I have beaten them. I have broken the game. For fun, I switch my shield and weapon and hold a bow two-handed. I shoot an arrow at them. They can't do anything to me, so I can just pick them off at the other side of this AI wall. I zoom in, aim for snake brains, and let go. As soon as the arrow lands, taking off a mere 32 HP, the invisible wall is lifted by the game, seeming to say, "This is what you get for trying to cheat me." They rush at me as I struggle to put my bow away, go back to two-handed mode, and re-equip my shield and weapon, which is a 3-4 step process in that exact order. They bumrush me before I can even get my shield up.

You Died.

I put the game down. I take a deep breath. I go back in. I walk ahead of the tile in the floor that triggers the arrows. I trigger the serpents. They come at me. I go back to the tile. The arrows shoot them this time. I still back up to the narrow bridge outside, but only to siphon them so I can engage one at a time. I block the first guy's attacks and hit him while he recovers. I do the same for the second guy. It takes probably 4-5 hits to take each one out. This is the same sword that I was killing most enemies with in 1-2 hits in the previous zone. It's a new zone now and the game is telling me that there's going to be a difficulty spike ahead and that I should prepare myself. I kill them both. I go back to the bonfire again to re-spawn them. I kill them again. I do this for awhile, farming souls to level up a little bit and upgrade my weapon. When I am finally comfortable entering the zone, I do so very carefully, having learned from the very first encounter that things are going to get sticky. The zone is the most trap-filled in the entire game. Everything is dark and you have to traverse narrow ledges that get higher and higher until you are at a height where one wrong step means instant death. There are also boulders rolling down everywhere that you can't disengage until you get to the top. I probably die 50 times or more getting to the boss. I want to quit every hour or so. I make it to the boss. He is a huge iron giant. I take him on. He's easy. His attacks are slow and easy to dodge. I forget to take out the giant above us that has thrown exploding fire boulders at me the entire level. He keeps throwing them at me as I am engaging the boss. I curse myself for not taking him out beforehand, being lazy, and I barely survive the boss encounter when he mercifully falls down the platform we are fighting on to his death. I beat him but the giant is still slinging his fire rocks down at me and I have to be careful to navigate to a section of the platform where I won't get hit, as I am almost out of health from the boss battle.

Victory Achieved.

Those two words are enough to ease the pain of the previous 50 deaths. To make me feel a little bit better about that giant, still tossing explosive rock boulders down at me. I touch the ring of light where I fought the boss and two gargoyles fly down and carry me to the next zone. Anor Londo. The city of gods. It is the largest and most beautiful zone in the game. It is a majetic city with sky high towers bathed in warm sunlight. I will go back and trigger this cutscene another five times to marvel at its beauty.

I'm ready to die again.

On storytelling: I think people use a lot of inaccurate terms to describe the plot and story of Dark Souls, so let's be clear about a few things. Dark Souls takes place at the end of days of its fictive setting. The entire game is, essentially, the endgame. You spend your time discovering new zones, new characters, and more about how this world has gotten to this point, but your purpose is always exceedingly simple: kill the old gods and become one yourself. While the plot is made simple, the "story" is not. You see, in Dark Souls, the story is really your character's journey. Each battle you win or lose, each place you visit and treasure you find, coalesce to tell the story of Dark Souls. The rest of the game is not storytelling; it's setting and atmosphere. You'll meet NPCs along the way, and some might steer you toward a specific direction or goal, or give you some insight about the world, but in the world of Dark Souls, no one is an omniscient authority on anything. They are telling you about the things they know as they have come to know them, and that's it. You know how, in Mass Effect, you discover the Reapers are coming, you discover their goals, and you know in definite terms that they are a threat to the universe and you have to stop them? Yeah, that's not Dark Souls. In this game, you save a thousand year old magic girl by smashing her out of a crystal golem at the end of a lake, and she tells you she's been stuck there a long time, as well as her name and where she's from. Then she sells you spells. And that's it. Everyone you meet in that aforementioned beautiful city named Anor Londo is a liar, protecting a secret, but it's up to you to decide if that's really a bad thing. There are two possible endings, personified by two characters who are both probably manipulating you for reasons you never explicitly learn about. One of them, and thus one of the endings, you probably will not even stumble across unless you specifically read about it somewhere, as it involves a specific set of steps that most players won't perform, as well as defeating one of the hardest bosses in the game at a level before you are really equipped to take them on. Everything is presented incidentally and by chance and happenstance, and it's up to you to come to your own conclusions about things that are mostly mentioned in passing, or at least not in detail, and colored by a very murky, ambiguous sense of morality. NPC questlines can be a pain because of this. There are two characters, a father and daughter, who wear distinctive onion armor. You will save them a few times because the game suggests that they are both pretty inept. You meet the father first and save him from a few dicey situations. You then save his daughter. When you see the daughter again, she will be by your central hub/bonfire called "Firelink Shrine." She asks you if you've seen her father again. If you haven't seen her father recently because he has moved to a zone you already cleared and answer no, guess what? You can't ever trigger that answer again and her questline is over. You will never see her again and you can't undue it.

Yes, even the dialogue trees are brutal in this game.

I chose to use specific situations to illustrate the actual experience of playing the game and hope I was successful. Here are a few more relative pros and cons to help you make your decision:

+Weighty combat that is always tense and satisfying...
-...Except when the lock-on mechanic chooses the wrong enemy, swings the camera around awkwardly so you fall to your death, or when the game cheeses you with hidden enemies (which it does all the time).
+Extensive leveling and equipment system with tons of options...
-... With tons of stats, represented by small numbers and icons with no headers, that have a huge impact on your performance. Plus, sometimes the game is so hard you often feel like it doesn't matter what your gear is because you're going to die anyway.
+An inventive multiplayer system focused on assisting each other through messages left on the ground...
-Tempered by untimely invasions by predatory advanced players that will cause many who just want to play at their own pace to unplug the network cable.
+Intricate gameplay systems that are incredibly sophisticated...
-...That almost never explain themselves and reward twitch players heavily. The best and most efficient way to play Dark Souls is to use light armor, two-hand your weapon so you don't have a shield at all, know the hitboxes of your weapon so you don't even use the lock-on mechanic, and use parrying and dodge rolling as your sole defensive options. It is near impossible for the average gamer to play the game this way, and I can't help but think that this kind of breaks the game ultimately, especially in pvp, where strength/tank/defensive builds are basically helpless.

Sitting with the guide right in front of me, as well as the trusty iPad, I completed Dark Souls at level 92 in about 60 hours. The truth is, I don't think I would have known where to go and what to do if I didn't have a guide. I honestly think I would have quit, and even with the guide I still died countless times. Yet, I look back at my experience fondly and consider Dark Souls one of the best games I have ever played. It's going up on the shelf with Persona 3, Dragon Force, the Ninja Gaiden remake, Fire Emblem, Fallout 3, Final Fantasy XIII (yeah, yeah) and Castlevania: Symphony of The Night, where it will remain to collect dust forever in tribute to my gaming life. What a treat to play such an original and uncomprising game.

And I am never going to do it again.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a older gamer, this is how I feel about Dark Souls, October 30, 2012
By 
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I'm 39. That's not really that old (right?) but it does put me in that group of gamers who still have clear memories of the 2600 and the NES era of gaming.

My first console was the NES when I was about 12 years old. I remember every day coming home from school, running upstairs and sitting down with Metroid, Castlevania, Metal Gear and Rygar. I spent hours, days and weeks on those games and I was pretty much consumed by them and fully immersed in their worlds.
Rygar, in particular, holds a special place in my gaming memory because not only was that game hard as hell and confusing to even know where to go (remember those top-down map sections with the caves?) but also because I was so determined to beat that game.

Anyway, one night when I was playing Rygar my family all wanted to go out to dinner to some Greek restaurant in Boston. I had no interest in spending an hour in the car to eat olives and feta because I was very near the end of the game. But off to Boston I went and so I hit pause, and left the NES on so that I wouldn't lose all my progress.

The whole night all I could think about was "Is my NES going to be alright being on for hours?" and "I bet if I do X, I can climb that tower and get to that boss".

Such are the thoughts of a 12 year old who has little else in life to worry about.

Those were great days to be a gamer and I'm sure little has changed for 12 year old kids today either (except they can at least save their games now - lucky bastards). Games could consume you at that age and the worst consequence you had to face for it was missing a homework assignment every so often.

Needless to say I have always been a gamer but have missed that feeling of being so passionate about a game.
As the years went on (and the systems got better), I never really got that same rush as I did when I was 12 and was struggling to beat Rygar or find my way through Metroid or get all the way through Castlevania. Sure some great games have come along that really captivated me - Okami, Half Life 2, NHL 94, Final Fantasy 9, the Mass Effect series and Silent Hill 2 - but I just assumed that as I was getting older the window for me to ever have that pure youthful gaming experience had long since past and that the best I could hope for was to just really enjoy a game.

But I was wrong.

Dark Souls has reinvigorated me.

I am 12 again.

A lot of it has to do with the difficulty of the game. So often I'm reminded of sitting on my bedroom floor as a kid and punching the side of my bed or swearing at my tv when I got killed in a game only to pick up the controller again and try once more.

But that's not the only reason.

There is something special about this game. I've spent a lot of time trying to put my finger on exactly what it is about Dark Souls that has really captivated me and what I've come to realize is that Dark Souls is a true video Game (capital "G").

Lemme explain that better.

Dark Souls is pure gameplay. Like Rygar and Metroid you have to do things in a very specific order, memorize every enemy pattern in every level, perform each maneuver perfectly every time, know how to use all your abilities and, of course, just keep at it.

I miss that about games. Not that all games need to be like that, mind you, but there is just something so rewarding about doing something well and doing it right and making progress to the next section. Every parry and backstab have to be dine just right, every step down into the Hollow has to be just right or you fall to your death, every boss fight has to be taken on in a full state of gaming zen.

I'm so often reminded of my NES while playing Dark Souls - those games were incredibly difficult (either because they were designed that way or because they were poorly made) but they were also so much fun to 12 year old me. Beating those old games was an accomplishment - like surviving a digital obstacle course in the boot camp of a gaming academy.

And so here I am 24 years later feeling like a kid again. I'm back to swearing at my tv (a much nicer one these days than what I had back then) and I even occasionally feel the need to slam my fists in the couch cushions to vent all that pent up game rage.

In fact if someone was taping me, they'd probably think I was having a terrible time with this game - but they'd be wrong. The torture is amazing and I want more of it.

So to sum up, Dark Souls for me is the first pure video game I have played since I was a kid and I feel like a kid again. I'm not as good at gaming as 12 year old me but I'm savoring this experience because I never want it to end.

I want to be 12 again for as long as possible until I have to go back to being an adult once more.
I know the game has only been out a year but it's officially on my best of all time list - right after Rygar which, by the way, I beat that very same night when I go back from the Greek restaurant. Though the NES had been left on for hours, it was fine.

If I had known then that nearly a quarter of a century would pass before I'd ever feel this way about gaming again I'd have never turned the NES off.

(I originally wrote this not long after the game came out and posted it on reddit (I can verify that if need be). This is my updated and edited version to reflect picking the game up again since the excellent DLC came out.)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You need to seriously be into battle stategy, May 23, 2013
By 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I don't have the patience to play this game. I had to keep doing things over and over. I had my brother try it as well. His skills are way better than mine. He felt the same way. He rarely stops playing before he beats a game, but he had no desire to finish this one.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, July 14, 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
Glad I waited to pick this game up. I knew when I bought it that it might be an exercise in frustration. I was well aware of the games reputation as a difficult game. I have played and beat many games that I thought were a bit difficult (Devil May Cry 4, Bayonetta, Knights Contract, etc) but this game is not going to be one of them. After spending the first few hours trying to give this game a fair shot, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't fun. The cranked-to-11 difficulty feels a little cheap. Also, having played some games recently with far smoother (read: better) controls (Kingdoms of Amalur and Darksiders) Dark Souls felt a little slow and clumsy in the controls department.

I will say that the graphics are absolutely beautiful and the theme and atmosphere were definitely appealing to me. I loved Skyrim and all its epicness, I just don't have the desire to wade through the endlessly unjoyful difficulty of this game.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Game ive ever played in my Life, March 25, 2012
By 
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls - Xbox 360 (Video Game)
I have been playing videos games for almost my entire life, and nothing really surprises me anymore. I bought this game on a whim just because the box looked cool, and let me just say that this game is amazing. i wish it couldve gone on forever!!! it took me about 2 months to beat where most games i can finish in a weekend........BUY IT!!!
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Dark Souls - Xbox 360
Dark Souls - Xbox 360 by Namco (Xbox 360)
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