Posted by John on October 6, 2011

Dark Souls - Xbox 360, PS3

Beastly difficult

From Software’s action RPG is an unforgiving beast yet its steep learning curve is an intrinsic part of the appeal. Fans of the spiritual successor to the notoriously difficult PlayStation 3-exclusive Demon Souls will know exactly what we mean. The combat-focused gameplay in Dark Souls is so challenging that you’ll feel exhausted and frustrated when you inevitably die for the hundredth time yet satisfied and elated when you eventually manage to overcome such overwhelming odds.

Those who consider hardcore and legendary modes of some games to be difficult will almost certainly reconsider what that word actually means after spending an hour or two in the company of Dark Souls.

Gameplay in Dark Souls largely involves fighting through dark, fantasy-inspired locations against a weird and wonderful bestiary, killing dragons and demons the size of houses, and otherworldly freaks of indescribable nature with a blend of carefully chosen weapons and sorcery. Dark Souls is not a ‘hack-and-slash’ game, though, because every enemy you face, from the small rats that spurt out poison to the skinny sword-wielding zombies that amble toward you, has the power to take you down.

Every battle is a challenge that requires observation skills, advance tactics and a trial-by-error approach if you hope to succeed. Consequently, it’s not a game for the faint-hearted and impatient, but it’s utterly compelling if you’re up for the challenge.

Observe from afar and then make your move

The only thing that is guaranteed in Dark Souls is death. In fact it’s an integral part of the game that you have to experience in order to learn from your mistakes and therefore discover weaknesses in the brutal enemies that you’ll meet on this dark, lonely journey. The atmosphere is thick, with every closed door and every corner harbouring an obstacle you have to overcome, and every big boss a major hurdle of epic proportions. 30 hours in and we’ve barely experienced what Dark Souls has to offer.

Progress is deliberately slow. You barely move a couple of hundred yards in a few hours, but each time you die, you’ll learn something new. Dark Souls is about knowing your enemy inside and out, playing to your strengths and exploiting their weaknesses, and always ensuring you have the right tools for the job.

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