Dark Souls Review: Death by Design
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Dark Souls’ many enemies are made more terrifying by their stoicism. They do not taunt, or threaten, or harangue. They simply stride toward you with single-minded intensity, focused solely on ending your existence.
This is even true of the game’s boss fights, which other developers might use as an opportunity to introduce hokey dialogue. The only sound you’ll get out of the game’s bosses is grunting, roaring, and extremely creepy laughter.
The scale of the bosses gives From’s designers full creative license. Some are Lovecraftian horrors, or horned, fanged demons. The “Gaping Dragon” appears normal at first, before the game reveals that it has a 50-foot vagina dentata instead of a chest. One fiery lava golem goes by the unlikely name “Ceaseless Discharge.”
Other bosses represent more inspired, counter-intuitive creative choices. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security by the beauty and grace of the Moonlight Butterfly. Another boss, a giant wolf with a sword clutched in its jaws, elicits unlikely sympathy as it hobbles around on three legs, just before dying.
Occasionally, the game throws bosses at you two at a time, providing a true test of skill and sanity. Dying to a boss is an exercise in patience. There is never a Bonfire directly before a boss fight; every attempt requires a cannonball run through the handful of enemies that directly precede the deadly opponent they guard.
For some players, this added time-sink might serve as the last straw. But these nimble corpse runs have a hidden value. Few games require the kind of careful attention and understanding that you’ll need to defeat Dark Souls’ hardest bosses. Initial attempts end abruptly, health bars chewed up by overwhelming firepower. By identifying attack patterns, tells, and animations, a middle phase of attempts teaches you to stay alive. In the final phase, you can combine survival with attack. It is truly an exercise in problem solving, and time spent running from the Bonfire to the boss’ lair is best spent planning.