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October 27th, 2012, 04:07
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

There are games that make you forget the passing of time and fill you with joy and the hope of seeing another day to continue playing them. It doesnít matter whatís their genre, release date or critical score. But we know that they have a place among our favorite games. Dark Souls can easily fall into this category for people who manage to get into it. It happens a lot when you get incredibly angry or annoyed with a certain obstacle, but the feeling you get after overcoming it canít be described by words, video games can hardly bring any higher level of enjoyment. Dark souls is a mixture of hellish and heavenly moments, but when all is said and done, you mostly remember the latter.

Dark Souls way of storytelling is a bit unorthodox. There isnít any solidarity plot, but in the other hand, there is much effort to present universe lore and story fragments in implicit ways like item descriptions and random NPC gossip.

Basically, youíre an undead who isnít hollow yet. ( means you still have control over your actions. ) Youíre imprisoned in undead asylum, but another undead drops you the key to your cell from a hole in the ceiling. You manage to get out of the asylum with the help of a giant crow who drops you at Firelink Shrine ( which acts as a hub ) in the land of Lordan and learn about the prophecy concerning the chosen undead who will ring the bells of awakening and succeed lord Gwyn.

DSís story is rich and a bit complicated (mostly because of its presentation ) and there are interesting facts here and there about the characters and events , but ultimately, you will have a hard time caring about any of it because youíre way too busy with combat and trying not to get slaughtered in the gameís harsh and cruel world.

Being able to manage your souls, stamina and for mages and pyromancers, attunement slots is the way of gaining success in DS. Soul acts as both experience points and currency. You can either increase your stats or buy and upgrade equipment and useful items with the souls you gain from killing monsters and bosses or finding and using soul pieces scattered around. But the unfortunate thing is that when you die, you respawn in the last bonfire you rested at and your souls and humanities ( you can use them to turn from undead to human which has its own benefits. ) remain in the point where you died. If you donít manage to get there and retrieve them, then you lose them and the time spent on gaining them permanently. This is the main reason why this game is infamously known to be hard, your mistakes lead to hardest punishment. Thereís no room for fooling around or playing casually, you have to be sharp and ready for anything when youíre playing Dark Souls.

Another aspect you have to keep your eyes on is stamina. Running, evading, attacking and blocking all cost stamina and you have to be careful not to run out of it. Lack of stamina means lack of defense and in tight situations, lack of defense means imminent death. If you overburden yourself by wearing heavy armor, your moves and stamina regeneration both become slower, so better defense means more chances to get hit.

Dark souls uses a D&D style magic casting. Instead of mana, you have certain slots ( Their amount is determined by your attunement stat ) to fill with magic spells and until you rest at a bonfire to reload them( which also leads to respawning of normal enemies ), thatís all the magic you have. There are three types of magic: pyromancy, sorcery and miracles. Pyromancy as the name suggests, consists of fire spells and is considered by many the strongest class in the game and rightfully so, because you can easily kill many strong bosses by a couple of fire blows. Sorcery is a bit more professional than pyromancy, but it can be as much effective if itís used rightly. Miracles are usually defensive or supportive spells and I personally didnít use them at all, but according to their description, they can be life savers in certain situations.

DSís combat system is simple, but extremely addictive and enjoyable. There are no combos or super moves, just simple normal or charged blows which can get stronger if you put down your shield ( which is a great risk ) and hold the weapon with both hands. Although contrary to the main character, enemies and bosses will do every kind of super natural and unearthly move which sometimes becomes annoyingly ridiculous ( like in the case of Ornstein and Smough ), but acknowledging the fact that you beat all these enemies with your simple moves grants you a certain sense of power.

Youíll encounter a couple of NPCs along the way which sometimes give you useful hints or sell you stuff useful for the surrounding area. Sometimes they ask you some favors, but it canít be considered any official quest. Although thereís not much character development and NPCs in the game are usually very mysterious and end their speech with a creepy laugh most of the time, but they do a good job giving the game a certain RPG atmosphere.

Thereís a lot of diversity in terms of weapons, armor and enemies. There are swords and spears which are fast, but have a short area of effect. Opposite of them are axes, great swords and halberds. Crossbows and bows can get very powerful if they are fully upgraded mostly because you hurt enemies before they can reach you or even see you, but that requires some resources which are hard to find .

There are many armor sets in the game, but unfortunately, few number of them are useful. Usually the ones with highest amount of protection. They slow you down, but you really donít want to lose half of your health by a normal blow from a normal enemy, no matter how fast and agile you are as the result.

As already mentioned, enemies have a lot of variety too. Even for a small part of the game, a brand new kind of enemy is designed which always makes you think theyíre a big deal, but theyíre just normal enemies like the ones in other sections.

Unlike most of the developers out there who are eager to show-off all their effort to the player, people at From Software were very hard on showing the content they designed for the game. There are large areas like painted world of Aratmis or the DLC content which are very well hidden and itís not easy to figure out the way of accessing them. Without a guide or information, itís even possible to finish the game completely unaware such areas even existed.

Dark Souls visuals are technically weak, but the unofficial mod solves this problem ( and many others which are caused by the bad port ) by unlocking higher resolution and graphical options. Although artistically, Dark Souls can be breathtaking sometimes. Bosses are greatly designed and some of them fill you with wonder and awe with their epic-ness. Areas are different enough to satisfy any kind of taste. They range from Darkroot forest and bright beautiful deity city of Anor Londo to dark catacombs and snowy castles and yards.

There was a bit of talk about the game being nearly unplayable with mouse and keyboard. But I personally played the whole game with them and never had any serious problem. Just a simple key configuration was all I needed.

On the sound, voice and music department, DS surpassed my expectations. Little sounds in the game like sound of that slash after enemies getting killed, rattling of your heavy armor, that beautiful and badass sound after you beat a boss mixed with that lovely yellow text ď victory achieved ď on the screen, All these little sounds makes the whole experience more satisfying.

Voice actors have very deep voices ( maybe itís the way their voices are recorded ) and absorb you into dialogues. They usually provide a great relaxation after long and stressful battles.

Soundtracks are few and only play during boss battles or dramatic moments. But they do a great job setting the mood. If itís a ferocious boss like Great Grey Wolf Sif, it has a threatening tone. If itís a slow and magnificent boss like moonlight butterfly, itís slow and calming. ( which leads to a very surrealistic experience. ) Boss battles owe half of their splendor to the music playing in the background.

After you play games for a while, it gets hard to get 100% immersed in them because you always have that critical look, always looking forward to be impressed like youíre some sort of king and the game is a clown. The best thing a clown can do is to make the king laugh or in other words impress him. King might clap for him or even reward him, but this clown will never have a place in his heart or long-term memory. But what if the clown is so good and clever that king gives him a place in his court? Thatís what Dark souls did for me. A video game that not only deserved my time and effort, but also a big place in my memory as one of the most rewarding and engaging experiences I ever had.
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