Demitrius Berkley-Thomas On October 24, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Dark Souls is a fantasy action RPG developed by FromSoftware and is the spiritual successor of their hard as nails 2009 game Demon Souls. Dark Souls promised to continue the tradition of the Souls games being hard with its tagline being, “Prepare to die” and in fact you do die, a lot. Dark Souls takes place in the fictional world of Lordran that was ruled by dragons until creatures crawled from the dark and found souls of the lords. These creatures used the souls to destroy the dragons and start a new age of fire. That’s pretty much all of the story the game readily gives you as you’re dropped into your role in a dark, dank dungeon cell.

The first thing a player will do in Dark Souls is create the character they’ll take through the game. You get to choose a name, class, gift, sex, body types and looks. Choosing a starting class really just determines your starting equipment, stats and abilities. While playing through the game players can choose whatever stats they want to upgrade, use any gear their stats qualify for and can obtain any spells they want. The gift you choose is an item or piece of equipment you start out with at the beginning of the game and range from a master key that opens any locks to a ring that grants extra health. While the ability to customize the look of your character is there it isn’t deep at all and offers a limited amount of customization.

The world of Lordran is open to players from the beginning of the game, well after the brief tutorial, and the only limit to where a player can go is either a locked one way door or enemies that are currently too tough to beat. Dark Souls gives you very little direction and only tells you what you need to through from small conversations with other NPCs, who are very sparse. One thing the game does excellently is it instills a great feeling of isolation and when you come across an NPC you’ll know they’re important somehow. The world and environments themselves are dark and beautiful. Players will go through long abandoned cities inhabited by only the undead, to dark dank underground sewers inhabited by rats and froglike creatures, to lush forests with Ents, golems and mushroom people and those are just to name a few. Throughout the world are bonfires which are safe zones that players can use to take a break from enemies and spend their souls. One side effect from resting at a bonfire is that it resets all of the enemies in the world and brings them back to life.

Combat in Dark Souls is sort of like a tactical hack n slash. Players must be extremely careful when fighting any enemy in the game because one mistake can mean a quick death. No matter what class or weapons a player specializes in they’ll be using a shield regularly. Different shields can block a certain amount of different types of damage and can parry an enemy’s strike. When a strike is parried the player can riposte with a melee weapon for a large amount of damage. Melee weapons are the standard fair for your average fantasy game. There are swords, spears, axes, great swords, daggers, pole weapons, fist weapons and more. A great detail of this game is that the different weapons feel distinct and different. For ranged combat there are crossbows, bows, and magic. Ranged combat is actually pretty effective but not overpowered in the game and when enemies get too close you’ll still have to rely on your melee combat skills. A huge thing that threw me off with this game is the inability to pause the game and that was a huge annoyance that I never really got used to.

Magic in Dark Souls is dealt with quite differently from other RPGs. Each spell in the game has a designated number of uses that must be recharged at a bonfire, similar to abilities in the Pokemon games. Each character has a certain amount of attunement slots, which are slots that players assign spells to use in combat. There are three types of magic in the game; sorcery, which is the art of black magic and has attack spells along with buffs, Pyromancy, which includes fire spells that are mostly offensive, and then there are Miracles, which grants healing and support spells. To wield these spells a player must have a corresponding catalyst equipped in either the main hand or shield hand slots.

The currency in Dark Souls is also the experience and it’s called souls. You can acquire souls from killing enemies and using certain items. These souls can be spent at bonfires to upgrade stats such as strength, intelligence and vitality. Each time a stat is raised the character gains a new level and it costs more souls to buy the next upgrade. The souls can also be spent at merchants and blacksmiths to purchase items, repair equipment and upgrade equipment.

A new mechanic introduced in Dark Souls is Humanity. Humanity can be obtained from items or from killing enemies and is used to restore a player’s humanity by reversing their hollowing and can kindle bonfires to award the player more Estus Flasks. Players start out in an undead form, known as Hollow, and in this form they can be summoned into another player’s world. When in the human form players can summon other players to help them out with bosses and difficult areas. There is a flipside to being human though and that is it opens them up to being invaded by another player and being killed.

Playing through Dark Souls is truly an unforgiving experience. An inescapable aspect of the game is dying and players will do that a lot. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most hardcore gamer you know, you’ll still die a lot. Dying in Dark Souls causes the player to drop their souls and humanity at the spot they died and the player must run back to the spot without dying again to recover it. After the player dies they respawn at the last bonfire they rested at and all of the enemies except for bosses respawn. Dying also reverts the player back to their hollow form if they were human before. You’ll find yourself memorizing areas you’re in and enemy placements from the multiple death runs back to where you died and dropped your souls.

Some of the best, and most frustrating, moments in Dark Souls have to be the boss encounters hands down. The enemy design in the game is spectacular and the bosses truly look epic. It’s hard not to be distracted with the odd beauty of the bosses while the frantic orchestral music swells in the background. The bosses in Dark Souls are nothing to take easy, most have many different tactics and attacks that one must learn and master before they stand a chance of even beating them.

Dark Souls overall is a great, solid game that’s definitely worth picking up if you’re into a challenging experience. If on the other hand you aren’t looking for a tough and punishing experience I’d advise you steer clear of this game. There is so much in this game that is beautiful from armor and weapon design to the environments and enemies. The combat is very solid and rewarding once you get the hang of it and the wide variety of enemies keeps it very fresh and you’ll always be learning new ways to deal with them. Dark Souls seriously throws down the gauntlet and will not hold back so you better make sure you want a challenge before you pick up this game.


This is a very deep game with none of the many aspects of it being poorly done.


The design in this game is absolutely beautiful and I’ve found myself many times just gazing out at the environments and admiring them. One big issue I had with the game was the huge framerate drops I encountered in certain areas.


The voice acting, ambience and music in the game are fantastic. I heard a few weird things with some of the voices occasionally but those were few and far between.


This is a pretty good game that will have you cursing it and praising it through out your time with it. The only big issue I have with the game though is the difficulty and this game should only be approached by those with patience and the will to fight through the fantastic world of Lordran.

Click here to buy Dark Souls online from for the Xbox 360

Click here to buy Dark Souls New or Used for the Xbox 360 from EBgames.comicon

2 Responses

  1. lllenewhaw says:

    Wow, this game seems hard but a blast. Thanks for the review.

  2. Deist says:

    Dark Souls sounds like a fun game, I like TOUGH games…none of this wussy stuff now adays!