This is perhaps the third console I’ve played this game and its remained true to its first release. Each time it’s been released it has been tweaked, this is by far the most tweaked and refined it has been. With the new hardware, it’s only gotten better.
Live, confront the many creatures, get in over your head and then miss time an attack or block, die then repeat. Take care when gathering the souls you need to upgrade, as you will lose them easily and quickly if not careful. Not only are you collecting souls for your statistics, but to improve your armour and weapons too. This is perhaps were Dark Souls feels the oldest. No way to reset your stats, so take care when you decide to buy an improvement.
Finding the right blacksmith is a boon and a curse, the singular currency in this game the souls you earn from defeating foes. The arrows you may fire, the titanite you need to upgrade your weapons, armour and your statistics. Keeping a solid pool of souls is one key to survival. Upgrading your equipment is another key to survival, with perhaps a slight focus on your armour. The more you can resist damage, the longer and further you can venture into the world. Your weapons as well become more potent, when you invest the time and souls into them. Even gaining elemental effects. Some, like Divine grant bonuses that make it possible to explore areas like the Catacombs.
If you’ve not visited the first Dark Souls in a while, you could have forgotten just how unforgiving this game is. You can easily kill a NPC, forget a switch or find yourself in a place which is far too tough for you, with only a very narrow path back to areas of relative safety. Until you find the right item, you can’t even fast travel between fires. Even more importantly little guidance is provided to you, the only clues you easily get are the many boss creatures that you encounter. When you are encountering these creatures, you are definitely going in the right direction.
What is perhaps still the best feature of this game is that you have been left to explore at your pace, on your choice. If you wish to explore an area nothing is stopping you. It’s also a very necessary part of the game, looking for the short cuts, the areas that link together. Working to find the best paths between the areas, shortest path to save your potions is something you will keep in mind. Especially when you’re only just starting out.
Timing is the heart and soul of this game. Learning the patterns and attacks of the monsters is what is the difference between a good run and a bad run. The ability to parry is a close second, opening up tough enemies to strikes they can’t block. Even a touch of stealth isn’t out of the question either, getting close enough to your foe to get a free attack or two in. Some of the time, an instant kill. Perhaps at the top of the list is the ability to lure and trick your foes, keeping them at range. Stamina is a resource and is used both to attack and defend. The best defence is not to be hit in the first place.
Audio and Visuals
As odd as this sounds, this game feels cleaner and neater than previous versions. Rather than the world that’s cleaner, it’s the engine. Running at a higher FPS, it just feels better to explore the world. From even the Depths to the Undead Burg, all of it feels that much cleaner. Moving through these areas hasn’t looked so good or flowed so smoothly. Even the weapons and armour seem to that bit cleaner, sharper. When I finally got the claymore it felt that more detailed. Nicked along the fuller, the bronze, copper of the cross guard feels that brighter.
The music and sound of this game is where the game is perhaps the least changed. Though it’s far from needed. The first time the drake flew over head, the roar is just as powerful, shaking as it was the first time. The sound of weapons and heavy impacts, just as much as they did in the previous versions. Perhaps now the sounds of the Elite Knight armour are amplified, but nothing seems worse. That’s more important here. I think there’s even a few more audible clues to know when to parry, evade, block, than in the other incarnations.
Multiplayer features are here, with the ability to invade another world. Some of the time as a spirit, either to hunt players or to avenge other players. Perhaps even to help others with the many creatures that make up this world. Messages can be left for others too, some of them less than helpful. Calling them outright lies would be understating it.
If there’s such a thing as a definitive Dark Souls experience, this has to be it. It’s everything the original was, the core of it untouched. Where it has been improved is in the engine. Here it runs a lot smoother. Some of the larger monsters and the battles with them run that much better. As well, I have to say the shadows seem a little deeper, the lights that much brighter. You will die, a lot and then again. You will need time and patience to remember the short cuts, the weapons and the style that works for you. You will die, a lot. That’s the point of Dark Souls and that hasn’t changed at all.
We would like to thank Bandai Namco and From Software for the review copy.