For roughly a month or so, I’ve been unable to escape Dark Souls. Whether it’s the numerous streams and let’s play videos on Twitch and YouTube on the leaked Dark Souls III or the general chat for Middle of Nowhere Gaming constantly talking about Dark Souls since several people on staff are currently playing various games in the series (including Bloodborne and Demon’s Souls), the game’s have been on the brain. I recently finished my playthrough and review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD and also finished Sonic Unleashed (of which a review may be imminent) and decided to really give the first game in the normal series a shot.
First, a bit of history. The first game I’ve played in the series is Demon’s Souls. I managed to get as far as the first boss you can defeat and it took me three hours to do that. I was stressed out the whole time and decided the game was not for me. I then tried out Dark Souls 1 and it didn’t really grab my attention. Finally, I tried out Bloodborne at a friend’s house a month and a half ago. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit and it was the first bit of exposure to the series recently that started the barrage of coverage I’ve been seeing. I thought about starting with Demon’s Souls, since I own both that and the first Dark Souls thanks to PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold, but ultimately went with Dark Souls 1 on the Xbox 360.
Alright, so what do I think of this game? Well, I’m nearly 10 hours in and I’m pretty hooked. The game is really difficult and you will die a lot, but the game is mostly fair with its challenge, making it satisfying when you best an enemy or a group of enemies that have been giving you trouble. Combat requires you to be methodical and patient. Enemies won’t “wait their turn” when you face a group of them so you’ll need to figure out a strategy to take a bunch of them out at once or to lure them out one by one. There’s nothing really flashy about the combat but slashing or bashing through enemies feels really satisfying thanks to the great sound design and the weighted animations your attacks have. It’s really a testament to how gratifying something as simple as slashing an enemy can be with just good sound direction and simple yet effective animations.
What really makes me want to play the game over and over however is the exploration aspect. For me right now, the game is relatively linear as there are multiple ways I could go but many of them are locked. However, there are small forks in the road that I can explore and they often hold some kind of reward. Whether its more souls, a merchant, an alternate route around a big enemy, a different means to defeat an enemy or more, I really like the different paths I can explore. At first, I was stuck at this part with a bridge. So I backtracked, grinding for souls and finding some other pathways that I had missed the first time. I then came back later, stronger and with a better understanding of the various pathways I could take and found another way past the bridge. This game really encourages you to explore and you are usually rewarded for it, though you still need to be on your guard.
I do have some grips with the game. First off, the frame rate drops happen more often than I’m comfortable with. Sometimes, I wouldn’t be able to parry an attack thanks to a drop in the frame rate. Secondly, I don’t think the game looks all that great. It’s not terrible but there’s an awful amount of gray and brown that can make some areas feel just downright bland. Finally, I wish I could reconfigure my button layout but that’s a complaint I have with a lot of console games. I’ll also say that I think I’m going to play another game alongside Dark Souls since I can’t really relax while playing it and I need another game for when I want to just relax.
I’m going to continue going forward as I’m only at the bonfire with the blacksmith and I might write another post with more thoughts on Dark Souls later before maybe writing a review. It’s not for everyone but if you really give it a shot, as in give it three hours or so, I think you might just surprise yourself and enjoy it.