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.