Dark Souls Review: Death by Design

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When you die in Dark Souls, you will resurrect at a Bonfire. Bonfires act as hubs, waypoints, save points, and eventually opportunities to manage inventory and repair and upgrade your gear. They are oases of calm in a world of depravity, and discovering one while in the bowels of some fetid dungeon is cause for celebration. Resting at a Bonfire will restore your health and refill your Estus Flask, a sort of rechargeable potion canteen that replaces Demon’s Souls’ unwieldy system of consumable grasses.

Resting will also ensure that the next time you die (soon, more than likely) you’ll respawn at that particular spot. There’s only one catch: all the world’s monsters (except bosses and mini-bosses) will respawn also. This is frustrating, to be sure, but the agony is mitigated by From’s incredible level design — Dark Souls’ environments deserve to be played through more than once. The developers are also careful to ensure that progress is always just over the horizon, in the form of a new Bonfire or a convenient shortcut.

Still, every death means that you’ll have to wade back into fray, with all of Lordran’s nastiest denizens rejuvenated and hungry. Creature design is the third pillar of Dark Souls success, and it demonstrates the same understanding of the uncanny apparent in the environments

At various points, players will confront shambling undead, flailing wildly with torches; armored warthogs; poisonous, multi-tentacled horrors; madcap walking shrubs; grim knights; knife-handed, razor-toothed ghosts that attack through walls and can only be damaged in special circumstances; and headless, one-legged, one-armed demons whose limping gait belies their devastating strength.

Special mention is reserved for the game’s demonic frogs, which feature bulging, reddened eyes and belch forth huge clouds of smoke. Unfortunate adventurers who get caught in the smoke are cursed — frozen, like victims of Medusa. They are turned not to stone, however, but into strange statues, bristling with silver leaves that are subtly but unmistakeably those of the marijuana plant. Whether this is intended as a pro- or anti-pot statement, only From Software can say.

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11 Comments on Dark Souls Review: Death by Design

Darkraidor

On October 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

damn, nice review ben

Hangedman

On October 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Good work on this huge review ! I loved your opening, it is EPIC !

JosephPS3 Dead State

On October 15, 2011 at 7:58 am

great in depth review Ben.

Turbo-Maniac-

On October 16, 2011 at 6:16 pm

After reading your review I will not yell
at the tv screen anymore and die with without
complaint. Cheers

LeonPS3 Hollowed

On October 17, 2011 at 5:43 am

One of the best reviews I have ever read. Well done.

Method

On October 17, 2011 at 8:04 pm

EPIC Review !!! This is the only Dark Soul’s review that has even came close to describing this masterpiece of a game into word’s like you did.

Atmic

On October 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Absolutely fantastic review. I’m going to use this review to describe it to any newcomer friends unaware of this fantastic series.

Adam

On October 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm

the problem is, the better you get at something, the more you should be rewarded. Simply dying as a REQUIREMENT to overcome obstacles because there’s NO WAY to avoid it without knowing the encounter beforehand is STUPID. Not fun.

Ninjat_126

On January 5, 2012 at 2:32 am

Just a note, the invasion-aiding-consumables have been patched so they’re only consumed on a successful invasion.

Also, bosses can be breezed through with some aid from a phantom: my pitifully low-levelled character killed the Taurus Demon on the first try with a little jolly cooperation. After my other character died twenty times trying to block the hammer/axe with a parrying shield.

cbogen

On February 16, 2012 at 3:41 am

I just beat the great gray wolf earlier, and later learned there was a way to spare him. I found it strange the sympathy I felt for this giant beast, after it was recently trying to kill me. I played a few more hours, and in his memory, I have not and will not use his soul for anything. Rest in peace Sif.

Jordan

On January 29, 2014 at 11:15 pm

Love the review. I am a Dark and Demon’s souls veteran and you just pointed out every detail someone needs to know before even attempting to play this game, 5/5 star review.