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.

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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.