As a spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls deserved much more than what From Software put forth. Their grand idea of near seamless open world was well realized, but craftsmanship was still lacking. Technical issues ranging from abhorrent framerate drops to weapons poking through what was supposed to be solid stone made their way from the last game. But to say they didn’t improve in other areas wouldn’t be fair either because there were notable changes made throughout.
The standout difference to me was the game’s accessibility. The obtuse layers that were added on top of Demon’s Souls were no longer present. I was able to understand the stats screen without having to resort to an online FAQ. Even their rudimentary in-game tutorial and tooltips were better than what was offered in the last game.
I also found Dark Souls to be more fair with fewer cheap deaths. The controls felt a bit tighter and the character was less susceptible to “slipping” off ledges. There were also numerous “bonfires” to save and cash in souls. Thus I wasn’t wandering aimlessly into the unknown for a half hour with two or three level’s worth of souls. The end result was a more streamlined and pleasant experience for the most part. I sporadically ran into a handful of brick walls, but that usually meant I was in the wrong place and had to head into a different direction to gain some more levels.
I felt From Software did a great job nudging me towards the right direction from the onset. There was essentially three directions to go from the starting point and I would push and prod my way through them until I reached the aforementioned brick wall. But there came a point of bewilderment where I had to do a bit of back tracking of previously traversed locales to find newly opened doors and passageways. I quickly discovered that things weren’t so easy to keep track of without a map of some kind. I finally started enlisting the help of my brother who consulted the Dark Souls Wiki for a bit of his adventure.
The added layer of online elements in Demon’s Souls made it a unique star in the eyes of many. Needless to say, I was one of the many who were looking forward to what From Software was going to do next with this fusion of single player and online connectivity. Unfortunately Dark Souls’ online elements appeared to have been subdued. Players weren’t able to leave or even rate messages without purchasing an item, the blood stains were not as apparent and I would go for long stretches of time without encountering the ghost of another player doing their own thing.
I made it a conscious decision to stay online to play Demon’s Souls, while in Dark Souls, I felt it didn’t really matter in most cases. I knew these new fangled Covenants affected online interactions in some form or another, but if it wasn’t readily apparent in-game, I wasn’t going to invest much time into it.
With Demon’s Souls under my belt, getting accustomed to Dark Souls combat system took no time at all. With trusty tower shield and spear in hand, I handled the undead foes and their ugly cousins without much trouble. It was still a numbers game where I had to ensure I was squaring up with one foe at a time or at the very least funnelling them into narrow paths so I wouldn’t surrounded. Still, some scenarios and most boss encounters resulted in exploiting the feeble A.I or glitches in the game physics.
The final boss battle in Dark Souls exemplified the key attributes of the Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls experience. It was tough and unrelenting at first. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or if I was even supposed to be fighting the boss yet. But after several tries, I used the game’s broken rules against it and prevailed. A fist pump and the feeling of gratification followed soon thereafter. But then the credits rolled and I didn’t feel like I played the game properly at all.
After Demon’s Souls I was hoping for a similar experience, but without the issues that plagued it. Now that I finished Dark Souls, I don’t know what to think of this “franchise” anymore. I enjoyed trekking through their dark and desolate worlds, but I do not wish to put up with their technical and mechanical issues.
Worth a Try
For more information on Dark Souls, visit the official website.