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.

Pros:

  • Immaculate, varied level design
  • Deep, nuanced, tactical combat
  • Terrifying, inventive enemies.

Cons:

  • Punishing difficulty won’t appeal to everyone.
  • Finicky online features.
  • Unstable framerate.

Final Score: 93/100

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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.