Dark Souls Review: Death by Design
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The game’s bosses are one of the chief sources of Souls, which act as a multi-purpose currency. They can be spent to level up your character, purchase items, or upgrade and repair the gear you already have.
Acquiring souls involves an element of risk, however. Die, and they are temporarily lost. Resurrected at a Bonfire, you must return to the spot of your death and retrieve them. All the monsters between the bonfire and that spot have since respawned, however, and if you die again, your souls are gone for good.
In contrast to other RPG’s, which are powered by the effortless, inexorable collection of XP, earning Souls is more like speculation, a careful balance between risk and reward. Once you’ve earned a significant number, you’ll want to return to a Bonfire quickly to spend them. When you’re close to the number you need to gain a level, is it worth venturing out to top off your supply? Can you risk losing them all? Anyone who has ever played the Souls series has a horror story about a trove of souls accidentally squandered.
This sense of shared sorrow and community is a key element of the experience. If your console is connected to the internet, you’ll be able to take advantage of Dark Souls’ unique online features. Ghostly players will appear next to you at Bonfires, and shadowy adventurers will brush past you as you traverse the world.
Even more fascinating is the Orange Sign Soapstone, which enables players to leave messages for each other on the ground using a primitive but robust sentence-building tool. Some are helpful, calling attention to a secret area or a useful tactic. Some are malicious, suggesting that you “Try jumping” at the edge of a deadly ravine, or promising an “Amazing ring ahead,” right before an ambush. Others are humorous: before a showdown with buxom witch, I encountered a message that read “Amazing chest ahead,” repurposing a word the developers included to refer to a box filled with treasure.