Dark Souls Review: Death by Design
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Some gamers will be able to reconcile themselves to Dark Souls’ many frustrations, some of them toe-tapping annoyances, others hair-tearing, controller-throwing crimes against humanity. Others will not. This, to be clear, should not be construed as a criticism. Dark Souls, it bears repeating, is not for everyone.
It is not a game that can deliver the dramatic satisfaction of a narrative. It is at once more primitive and more sophisticated than that. It is a showcase for all the aspects of video games that least resemble books or movies, and that most resemble obstacle courses, gladiatorial contests, and vision quests: level design, combat design, and creature design. There is no story to unfold, only a series of challenges to supersede.
The harrowing journey of the player and the character are one in the same. Both are thrown into a dangerous, terrifying world, and must struggle to escape it. The game’s unremitting difficulty and deadliness provide a constant, aggravating obstacle.
Early on in Dark Souls, you emerge onto a balcony. After an hour or so of shadowy dungeons and foreboding clouds, you suddenly see the radiant sun. It is an arresting sight, a welcome relief after the stifling darkness that preceded it. Success, in Dark Souls, elicits this same feeling. After hours and days spent in darkness and defeat, victory is that much sweeter, that much brighter. If you can get past everything the game throws at you, it will all feel worth it. Good luck.
- Immaculate, varied level design
- Deep, nuanced, tactical combat
- Terrifying, inventive enemies.
- Punishing difficulty won’t appeal to everyone.
- Finicky online features.
- Unstable framerate.
Final Score: 88/100