Dark Souls-Full In Depth Review Part 2 of 2 (PS3 Version-Post Patch 1.05)

For Part 1 Click here

Took me a bit longer than expected to write part 2, but I was eagerly awaiting the new Patch 1.05 to see what kind of changes were made. They were quite extensive so I would just direct you to this thread at GameFAQs.com if you are interested.

The patch really changed the game quite a bit. It nerfed a lot of equipment, changed how weapons scale to make the game more balanced, increased the amount of experience (souls) enemies drop, and greatly improved matchmaking for the online components.

While I could go more in depth on the single player experience I think I may have covered a bit too much in part 1. I mentioned most of the mechanics of the game as well as how to traverse this world. What I did not mention at all was the story…hmmmm…the story.

If you played Demon’s Souls you already know what you are in for in terms of story. This is not a CGI cutscene JRPG that will show you 10 minute scenes talking about all the characters. There might not even be 5 cutscenes in the entire game that I can recall. IF you were a fan of walkign 10 feet to see a cutscene in games like FFXIII and this is your top priority in a game look elsewhere. Immediately.

Like Demon’s Souls the story of Dark Souls is woven into the lore of the world. It is not spelled out for you. Sure there is a general overview of some objective your character is supposed to do, but honestly you will probably forget about this the second you get control of your player. These games do everything unique. Not just the online experience, but also the story. The history, the lore, and even direction comes from many places. You get some background info and slight direction from NPCs that you can actually talk to, but mostly, the lore and the background is found in the item descriptions themselves.

Every item you pick up, every weapon, armor, boss soul, etc. has a tale on it. It may not be in depth, but combining sets, searching out areas, and piecing things together weaves a very strange and interesting view of the lands you travel. Let’s just say that the story is yours to figure out and it won’t actually spell anything out for you. It’s more about the characters that inhabit the world than some grand story. When you pick up sword you read its description in your inventory and you have a piece of the lore. Some things build on others. Some have nothing to do with it. The items tell stories of the people that wield them, that they were made for, or who they worked for. This is about gameplay, not a simple story, but if you take the time to read all of your items you may be immersed in a complex and interesting world you didn’t know was even there.

Let’s get into the online component of the game. Many things are similar to Demon’s Souls here, but there are also a lot of additions. As long as you are playing online you can see messages that other players leave that offer help, or they are just trolling you for their own amusement. You can rank these messages up , or down. You also see the ghosts of other players in their worlds wandering around at times to make you feel less alone. Their bloodstains litter the grounds in areas and if you select them it will show you a brief clip of how they died to help you avoid the same fate.

As we talked about earlier, Humanity is one of the great needs to be able to interact in PvP battles, and many other things. If you are not in Human form you can play online all you want and never have to fear an invasion by another player. If you do play in Human form, however the world is a much scarier place. At anytime a player from another world can invade you and you must fight to your death. Winner gains souls (EXP) and more Humanity among other things. If you lose as the invaded you are sent back to your last bonfire, but you keep all your souls and Humanity (you do lose Human form, however). The Invader is just sent back to their own world with little loss. You can only be invaded in an area where you have not yet killed the boss.

There is a good reason to be in Human form if you are not really interested in being an invader. While being in human form still leaves you open to invasion it allows you to summon other players as phantoms to help you out. They can help dispatch invaders, but typically you will summon them to help you defeat an area boss.

You can help fight bosses for other players as well. In fact, this is probably a good time to bring up Covenants. It would take far too long to go into each one in detail, but I will give a basic background on them and their main purposes. For in depth info on these look at the Dark Souls Wiki

As I mentioned you can co-op to help other players beat invaders, or to help them through a level and defeat a boss. There are actually 3 covenants that are highly favorable to being a helper rather than an invader. The Way of White, Princess’s Guard, and Warrior’s of Sunlight (nicknamed Sunbros by most players now). These 3 covenants give you more dedicated access to co-op. All 3 make it easier to find another player to co-op with if they are in one of these covenants. So if you are looking to co-op you would do well to join one of these covenants.

There are 6 other covenants that you can join. Most of these are designed to be a PvP covenant. Where you are to invade, or “protect” your domains. Either that, or you are used to hunt down sinners, steal humanity, and even change their worlds to Darkness. There is way too much detail of these other 6 covenants to go into, but let’s just say that you can be in covenants that are serious about PvP, and you can be in a n00b covenant like the Forest Hunters and gangbang other bad players only once in a while finding out someone is Twinking (stayed low level and got a ton of good equipment to troll new players) in the area and you get demolished. They may make you rage and reach for your medication carts :) .

In addition to the PvP and co-op aspects of these covenants, they all have levels and rewards. Each rank up as you perform the required tasks, obtain items that those you defeat will drop, etc. You start at +0 and can go up to +3. Some covenants offer new spells, miracles, and even weapons you cannot get otherwise. One offers a shortcut if you offer up enough humanity. The Gravelord Covenant allows you to turn 3 other player’s worlds dark and have them come to your world and hunt you so they can fix their own worlds. There is even a covenant that can turn you into a DRAGONOID and can breath fire! Yeah this is kick ass.

Everyone may have been anticipating Skyrim this fall, and most casual players will insist that it is a greater game, but it has absolutely no comparison to this. Only the settings and themes are similar, but Dark Souls is focused on crisp gameplay and challenge, while Skyrim is your choice for a more casual world of exploration and NPC interaction. Both have large open worlds, but are almost nothing alike. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing them as similar games. They are two GREAT games and Dark Souls is for a more hardcore gamer than Skyrim is. If you want something that is more challenging than all the other crap in this casual gaming generation buy Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. They are like nothing else this gen.

RECOMMENDATION: Must Buy 9.5/10. This is my GOTY. Just like Demon’s Souls was in 2009. We are blessed with a ton of amazing titles this winter, but I call this my favorite among them. Arkham City, Skyrim, Uncharted 3, and Dark Souls are ALL must buy games IMO, but Dark Souls is my GOTY by far.

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