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Thread: Homebrew Review: Dark Souls

  1. #1
    Plane Touched
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    Default Homebrew Review: Dark Souls

    Dark Souls is a game you'll love to hate. It's brutal, bloody, and beautiful. Kills are satisfying, boss encounters never fail to impress, and reaching that next bonfire without having your balls handed to you in route is incredibly rewarding. That's not to say the game is perfect. Far from it, actually. But we'll get to that.

    The game opens up with a gorgeous cinematic about a war and dragons or something. I don't know - I kind of lost interest in the narrative and instead focused on the 1080p explosions lighting up my living room. If you're in dire need of understanding the story, go ahead and google it. Although you won't find much, because evidently no one knows what the hell the story is. Either way, let's move on.

    You begin in the game as a cursed human - now zombie - in a prison waiting to die. An anonymous stranger breaks you out seemingly arbitrarily (you'll see) and the adventure begins as well as my first minor complaint.

    I get that a lot of games don't want to hold your hand and sometimes exploration / trial and error are the best ways to introduce you to a harsh reality, but Dark Souls goes a little overboard. If you played Demon's Souls you'll be fine. Control schemes, orange scribbles on the floor, lock targeting, stats, equipment requirements, consumables and other elements will be familiar and comfortable. Your Dark Souls game manual will end up on the back of your toilet on top of the 1987 Nintendo Power magazine.

    But it'll probably end up there anyway, since the manual is about as comprehensive and useful as the toilet paper. Each major facet of the game is described in mediocre, vague detail. Enough to intrigue and confuse. Assuming you've never played its predecessor, you're in for a rough ride. Although that's probably a design philosophy that coincides with the "die and learn" concept, it's still very frustrating at times and could have been introduced better without holding your hand. In short, this game can be a little less of a gritty education and more or less just kind of an *** hole.

    However, the first dungeon of the game will hook you. The first few "creatures" don't do much, so you'll have the opportunity to practice attacks and experience the gory, fleshy crunch that is combat. There are not an excessive amount of moves, but you can string combos between strong and weak attacks, roll, jump, dodge, and counter your way to victory. But this isn't the Yellow Turban Rebellion. You don't mindlessly plow your way through swarms of monsters by smashing your face into the controller. You have to be methodical, systematic and cautious as hell. The majority of time you spend fighting you'll be locked onto your target, strafing and blocking the onslaught of attacks and waiting for your opportunity to return the strike or time a parry and execute a sexy God of War slow motion counter that'll cover your screen in red mist.

    The first boss you meet is sooner than you think. (Spoiler: Like in five god damn minutes). And while you'll be inspired to fight because you've successfully downed two shambling corpses that didn't fight back, you'll realize pretty quick that boss fights are no joke. There is usually a pretty random pattern, the AI is not ridiculously dumb, and when you do get hit, it hurts. Boss fights are, in my experience, what make the game so intense, but also horribly frustrating in the best way possible. Defeat means you'll wince and consider quitting, but victory means you'll streak naked down a busy highway because you can finally die a happy man/woman.

    What makes Dark Souls truly unique, outside of the array of neat ways to ruin your night and murder you, is the multiplayer dynamic. While you are alone, you're not exactly alone. Think of the game as thousands of servers - just like Rift. And each player gets their own server. On occasion, the servers blend together, and you see another player kind of phase in and out of your world, just for a moment. Or their death leaves a bloodstain (literally) and interacting with it shows you how they died in their world. For example, if you're about to traverse up a steep hill and you notice a bloodstain at your feet, you might want to watch the ghostly apparition of another player run up the hill and at the halfway point get mauled by an unforeseen force. Now you know there's something dangerous up the hill, and you should tread lightly.

    More importantly, there are bright orange streaks on the ground everywhere. These are player-generated scribbles either pointing you in the right direction, making you aware of secrets, deceiving you, or offering general insight. These notes are generated with a series of canned words, like "Be Wary of ... " as the first part and " ... the Dragon" as a second. More often than not however, the most common one I see is "Need Head" which appeals to my juvenile nature and makes me laugh every damn time.

    Oh, and "how the hell do I write notes?!" is a common question and a prime example of game's attitude towards f'ing everything; "you'll figure it out." Once you get to the first real, open dungeon area of the game, after briefly crossing a bridge and fighting two pole-armed skeletons on the right side, there's a ramp hidden by crates. Smash them, go down, and head through the door straight ahead. The merchant that sells the orange chalk is on the right. There, I just saved you like two hours.

    You can also summon people to help you, invade other's worlds (server) and so forth, but you'll figure that out. I haven't played with it much so not much to criticize / praise on my end.

    There are some pretty obvious fundamentals I'm going to leave out, like soul gathering, resting at bonfires, humanity and such you don't need me to explain as this is a review, not an explanation of everything the game does. And everything outside of the brutal learning curve stated above has been both exciting and demoralizing at times. However, there are things about this game that never fail to piss me off ...

    If you're going to make a game with excruciating consequences of death and terrifyingly difficult fights, you better be damn sure your combat mechanics are flawless. They're good, but they will murder your patience more often than you think.

    Target locking is annoying. Flicking the right thumbstick between targets doesn't always work, and when it does it might not produce the results you were hoping for. You'll find yourself locked onto a monster ten feet away while an archer shoots you in the teeth half an inch from your stupid target locking face no matter how many directions you flick the thumbstick, you'll end up clicking, turning and clicking again to target the archer now that you've lost a handful of precious hit points.

    Walls and solid objects should probably reward souls. While there is a lot of open area combat, the majority is in narrow stairways, halls, and structures that don't leave a lot of room to breath. This is a problem because you'll hit the god damn wall cumulatively more times than every monster in the game, combined. And it gets really annoying. I don't have a proposed solution here, and clipping kills the realism. Most people will suggest you simply switch to a thrusting weapon for those tight areas, but even then, you'll find most weapons have some kind of sweep that will contact the wall. Not to mention keeping up with two reinforced weapons and the stats to use them is not as easy as it sounds, either. Sometimes your weapon will glide easily through the stone with a grinding fluidity and other times the weapon impact will reel your arm back and cause you to fracture your controller. If it has to be annoying, consistency would at least be tolerable.

    Lastly, a lot of people have been asking about the grind. While From Software (that's their name) says they tried to avoid it and don't want to encourage it, I call total BS. You will absolutely grind. You'll grind your balls off and then grind some more. If you manage to go through the entire first ten hours without backtracking or intentionally respawning the monsters by visiting a bonfire, it must be nice being a cyborg, because most people cannot do that. You'll keep grinding to finally get enough souls to level up, then rinse and repeat. And while (useful) loot is somewhat sparse you'll be upgrading weapons at the blacksmith, buying stuff from the merchants, and possibly buying weapons or armor if need be. Which, by the way, all use the exact same currency you use to level up: souls. So yeah, good luck not grinding. I think From Software was being sarcastic.

    In summation, it's an amazing, addictive, and rewarding challenge. It's gorgeous and rich, with epic atmosphere and sound effects that'll become your ringtone. Just keep in mind you'll need to take this one slow and steady. If you die, and you will, make sure to go for a walk, lift some weights, or eat a sandwich in the bathtub. Take a break now and then, or your controller will do it for you.

    Much Love,

    Homebrew

    Edit: Special thanks to Asono for suggesting this game.
    Last edited by Homebrew; 10-12-2011 at 07:47 AM.

  2. #2
    Ascendant tro44's Avatar
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    I heard something from another reviewer on IGN say something like

    "if you play games for entertainment, than Dark Soul isnt for you"

    well I play for entertainment, not frustration. many of the stuff seems purely for frustration.

    anybody remember the combat animation locking from the original game? it is just very sluggish.

  3. #3
    Plane Touched
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    Quote Originally Posted by tro44 View Post
    I heard something from another reviewer on IGN say something like

    "if you play games for entertainment, than Dark Soul isnt for you"

    well I play for entertainment, not frustration. many of the stuff seems purely for frustration.

    anybody remember the combat animation locking from the original game? it is just very sluggish.
    To be fair, the player's skill level and patience determine whether it's entertaining or frustrating.

    And the "sluggish" issue in the first one was pretty bad, but has been greatly reduced in Dark Souls.

  4. #4
    Rift Disciple sohma's Avatar
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    love your posts-love this post.you are pretty accurate with what you are saying.i played the first game-demons souls on release day and was hooked.
    this game is awesome BUT not for every one.this game requires patience and perservence and if you get it-you get it.
    your review is right on a lot of things,there wasent much of a story in the first game,but what story was there was good if you paid attention.

    theres a lot to learn in dark souls,so those new to it will have a bit of a tough time.

    My Advice for people trying dark souls-
    1-walk dont run
    2- pay attention and listen
    3-turn your lights off in the room you are playing in and maybe have someindirect lighting so you can see and turn your surround sound up so you can hear.
    4-be willing to experiment-remeber you can upgrade your weapons and armor
    5-everything wants to kill you in this game,you must be aware at all times because werid things do and can happen at any time
    6-bosses want you dead even more so
    7-multiple ways of killing things-just again be willing to try something new and or different-think outside the box
    8-look in every nook and cranny,you never know what you will find
    9-be willing to play in living form and summon help/pvp-all kinds of fun and at times fustration.
    10-most of all come into the game with an open heart and open mind,be willing to learn new ways of play and you will love this game

    p.s.the first boss is truly like 5 to 10 minutes into the game,that guy took me 3 tries to beat-i will be nice and give a hint--think up and above-what can you do??with that --enjoy this awesome game

  5. #5
    Soulwalker
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    I will play anyone and I do mean anyone rock paper scissors. Oh well there is just so many things you can do with a controller.

  6. #6
    Rift Chaser
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    Good review, I concur with most of what was stated.

    /signed
    Asono, Guild Leader / Main Tank of <Chaos Legion>
    4/4 River of Souls / 5/5 Greenscale's Blight / 10/11 Hammerknell

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