Dark Souls Review: Death by Design

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Using special items, players can also temporarily inhabit the gameworlds of others, for good or evil. PVP-minded aggressors will want “invade,” but more sympathetic players (and, in some cases, powerful NPC’s) can be summoned to help with tricky boss fights. Unfortunately, this system is finicky — you can easily burn through all your invasion-enabling consumables on attempts that game’s matchmaking utilities can’t or won’t fulfill.

Covenants are a notable new feature in Dark Souls, enabling players to ally themselves with various in-game factions. Some are more easily joined than others, but all provide special items or perks, along with unique PVP opportunities. The run-up to one boss is defended by a corps of warriors that resemble player characters. By joining a certain covenant and donning the ring you receive, you enable the game to summon you to that location, where you can help thwart fellow players attempting to get at the boss.

The requirements and procedures of other covenants are more convoluted. Dark Souls is a game that puts little stock in tool-tips or explanations — figuring out how it works is part of the challenge. Item descriptions often contain crucial information that is obscured by bad translation. Important stats are easy to overlook. The quests, such as they are, are barely explained. To master the game, it can be necessary to turn to online sources; the game has an active, helpful playerbase that relishes in unraveling its most byzantine secrets.

To your average gamer, obstacles such as these might seem like bugs. Indeed, the Souls’ series cultivates a special kind of Stockholm syndrome, causing players (and reviewers) to excuse design missteps as simply part of the fun. Opaque mechanics can lead to wasted time, missed opportunities and gimped characters. Finicky target lock can lead to dubious deaths.

Most unforgivable is the game’s wildly unstable frame-rate, which slows to a crawl in certain areas, or when there’s too much going on onscreen. Deservedly proud of the word they designed, From’s development team were clearly reluctant to rein it in.

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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.