Dark Souls is the follow up to 2009’s cult hit from Namco, Demon’s Souls, an intense, punishing third-person action RPG with swords, sorcery and possibly, the cruelest creatures of the HD generation. Those who haven’t played the original will surely be quick to judge: “Oh no, not another action-RPG!”
At its core, that’s what the Souls series is. But whereas most of them will lure you in with its mythos, its cinematic values, its twitch appeal, and most commonly, its scantily-clad heroines, Dark Souls, like its predecessor, appeals to the masochist in us gamers. Dark Souls is unforgiving. You will die a lot in this game, and you will like it.
In an age where you can simply lay low for a couple seconds to regenerate health (we’re looking at you Halo) Dark Souls rarely ever makes you feel safe. The trap-laden places you’ll navigate along this 50-hour quest—crumbling castles, mausoleums of the undead, dank swamps, plague-swept towns, suffocating dungeons—make sure of that. The atmosphere is bleak, and reeks of death and decay, giving you the feel that no, there is no light at the end of a tunnel, only another monster hell bent on your demise.
Remember how we told you we love killing zombies? There are zombies here too. And skeleton knights. Dragons. Hellhounds. Gargoyles. Nameless abominations. Creatures you might have vanquished before, only this time around, they’ll be doing most of the vanquishing. There’s a lot of trial-and-error (and dying) involved as you try to learn how to defeat a specific enemy. You’ll have to make full use of the game’s selection of swords, sorcery, and armors, and find out the right combination to have a chance at victory.
Sometimes, you have to use the surroundings, and if the going gets really tough, you’ll have to grind it out a bit to raise your level a little higher. But know this: once you do break through, and discover the proper strategy to efficiently fight a certain enemy, it’s an awfully rewarding experience. Victory is sometimes so hard to come by, that when you finally take it in your hands, it’s like holding your first born.
And that’s the beauty of Dark Souls. It challenges you, sometimes, to wit’s end, especially when facing off against one of the game’s epic bosses. Persevere, and you’ll swear that’s you’ve never felt so accomplished disposing of what should be cannon fodder in most other games. Best to enter the game with the mindset that game’s website advises: prepare to die. Dark Souls truly is hardcore gaming at its deadliest, so if you just want to have a little fun, you might be better off shooting hoops in NBA 2K12, ya pansy. But if you’re after an unadulterated, uncompromised “action RPG” experience, then Dark Souls just might be the hell you’ve always wished for.
Dark Souls is out now for the Xbox 360 and the PS3. It is published by Namco and developed by From Software.