I know what you’re thinking. “Zeph, people already know it’s a good game! We knew when it was released!” I know, I know. But it hardly hurts to have another person state that. I’ll keep this spoiler-free, for people like myself who got into this game late.
5- The Community
Let’s be honest, people don’t like playing with jerks, no matter how good the game itself is. Case in point, Call of Duty lasted 5 minutes in my disc drive on multiplayer. I’ve been playing Dark Souls for a month now. With so many games having a multiplayer component these days, you’re missing a big chunk of the game if you try to fly solo. Dark Souls finds a good middle ground. The worst someone can do is invade you at a bad time, but you can solve that without playing offline. The main way you’ll be interacting with other players is seeing their shadows moving through the world, their bloodstains which can reveal important info about the area, and the messages they set down. I gotta say, ~1% of the messages I saw were outright bad. The rest were either helpful, or at least amusing (“Imminent amazing chest” in front of a fair maiden, anyone?). If you can handle the risk of being invaded, you can also summon other players to help you with particularly tough bosses. One of my favorite moments from the game is when I was in the crystal cave, and had to deal with a winding invisible path to a treasure. It could have been painfully slow, but all the turns in the path were marked by player comments markers, and it took me maybe 10 seconds to get across.
4- The Gear
Dark Souls has a lot of weapons, armor, and spells to use. More importantly, it’s not just a matter of what has good numbers, like you’d see in Mount And Blade or World of Warcraft. A number of the weapons have unique movesets or cool effects such as making your target bleed. And it’s tough to find an overall “best” weapon. For example, the Black Knight Greataxe I’m using right now is great for dealing massive damage in one swing, but it’s nearly useless in a narrow corridor where I can’t find room to swing it, or in a bunch of enemies who won’t give me time for the wind-up. If you’re like me, you’ll probably end up with a dozen different weapons in your inventory to switch between as you please. I don’t have as much experience with the spells, but my time with pyromancy suggests they’re plenty of fun as well. Oh, and you get dress up as pretty much any NPC in the game and even some of the bosses, if you’re into that sort of thing.
3- The Characters
Dark Souls has a bare-bones cast compared to many games, and interaction with the ones that aren’t trying to kill you (And even most of the ones that are) is minimal. That said, it works. There’s just enough personality and backstory to interest you. I looked forward to stumbling across characters like Solaire and Siegmeyer, especially because they are dealing with the same challenges you are (albeit off-screen). And who didn’t have a smug smile on their face when they managed to deal with an obstacle the NPC’s couldn’t handle?
2- The Secrets
This game reminds me of the original Doom in this regard. There are secret areas and such for those willing to look. Anyone who found the chainsaw or the BFG knows what I’m talking about. You don’t need these items by any means, but it feels awesome when you find them. And the resulting bonuses… well, this is a tough game. Every little bit helps. It also ties into the community point. I found several of my favorite items because someone pointed out an invisible wall, or said to cut off a boss’ tail.
1- The World
I’ll admit, I’m taking a bit from Yahtzee’s review, but the world looks very… complete, continuous. It’s an awe-inspiring feeling to travel down through several areas, and then look back up at where you started, or vice-versa. It’s the difference between feeling like a game world and a real one. An incredibly hostile world, that turns anyone determined enough to keep pushing forward into a badass that slays gods. At the end of the day, you’ll look at the path ahead, brimming with enemies. Then you’ll look back at everything you had to do to get this far, and tell yourself “I’ve got this.”
Note- Lack of pictures is due to owning this for PS3, not PC. And I’d rather not run off with someone else’s screenshots.