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Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

Video Game Review: Dark Souls

7.5 out of 10

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There's something a little terrifying about getting a “good luck” from your local video game retailer. One, it never happens. Two, I couldn't help but notice the retailer's wide eyes, to say nothing of the tone in his voice that seemed full of genuine sympathy for me. Thirty minutes later, I understood: this is a difficult, punishing game. It's not for everyone and so let me preface this review by summing it up succinctly for the skimmers:

Rent Dark Souls first.

Really. I know, all the other gaming sites have given it rave reviews, but you have to understand the people who reviewed it on those sites clearly enjoy punishing themselves on a level most human beings cannot comprehend. And so I offer you this warning in hopes that you won't go in expecting something along the lines of Elder Scrolls.

Dark Souls may not be your cup of tea. You're going to die, and you're going to get frustrated, most likely on a level you haven't experienced since the good old days of Legend of Zelda II: Link's Awakening. The good news: Demon Souls is a better game than that. You'll get to explore a massive open world and fight a lot of crazy fights using a combat system that's pretty easy to understand and control. You'll enjoy the visuals, and if you like your battles Medieval, you'll enjoy the overall style, too.

There are some other perks, too. The game lets players interact with each other in a variety of ways, which I didn't fully understand at first. But eventually it got clearer: players can leave messages for each other. It's simple, and sometimes devious, but it helps with the difficulty level when used in a nice sort of way.

That's about the only thing you have going for you, unfortunately. The game is hard, but you get to “recharge” and save at strategically-placed bonfires. The only problem? Enemies respawn every time you use them. Not only that, I noticed that there are more than a few ways for other players to cause havok on your own game in a variety of ways (leaving misleading messages is just the beginning …), which means there are probably going to be even MORE headaches coming up once the die-hard players start mastering the quirks of the game.

Don't expect a very cohesive story, either. Essentially, you play an undead hero who is trying to do something heroic. I don't want to spoil too much, but you can expect the story to fill out a little bit once you really get going. You'll enjoy it, but this is by no means a George Martin masterpiece.

Still, Dark Souls is fun to play. For awhile. Then, suddenly, it's fun to turn off. But maybe you'll want to come back for another try …
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