Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dark Souls

Dark Souls Review

      Kid Safe: Low (3.5  / 10)    Game Quality: Very High (9.0 / 10)

Genre: Action/Adventure Role-Playing Game
-          As an Action/Adventure title, players will adventure and fight their way through the world while also finding alternate means of completing their tasks including battles, negotiation, and puzzle solving. Likewise, as a role-playing game, players will are able to create and develop their own unique character based on the decisions they make.

Internet Requirements: High
-          Dark Souls features a moderate amount of internet requirements that comes from a very unique way that players can interact with each other. First off, the game features a slight cooperative and competitive mode where players can invite other gamers to help them along or their world might be invaded players with malicious intent. Aside from that, players are able to leave things for others to find. First, players can leave messages to one another made of pre-determined words and phrases to warn each other about impending danger or inform of hidden secrets. Because these are pre-determined, foul language or insults are unlikely (and would require some inventiveness). Secondly, players can touch a "bloodstain" to see how another the ghost of another player died in a certain spot in the game so that they might avoid the same fate. The title can easily be enjoyed without internet, but it simply adds so much more to the overall gameplay.

Story Summary:
-          Dark Soul's story is, at best cryptic, and at worst barely there. In this action adventure title, you take the role of a hero that you create who finds himself in the pit of an asylum/prison for undead creatures. However, your imprisonment is short lived as an unidentified being tosses you the key to your freedom through a hole in your cell. From there, your journey begins as you attempt to escape the prison and begin the harrowing task of regaining your humanity before the undead curse destroys your mind and soul, leaving you nothing more than an empty, mindless shell of the being before. Will you be able to defeat the four powerful wielders of the mysterious Dark Souls?

Kid Safe: Low (3.5 / 10)
-          Foul Language: Very Low
o   Dark Souls contains a very low amount of foul language in the form of the following words: "d*mn", and "h*ll". These words are used rather infrequently and only in the very sparse dialogue that the characters will have between other sane individuals that they run into in game. Players are more likely to spout profanity over this title than they are to hear it from the game itself. These words are used nonchalantly without any really notable instances of anger or frustration.

-          Violence and Gore: Very High - (FILTER AVAILABLE)
o   Dark Souls contains a high amount of violence and gore that takes place throughout the title. First off, as an action adventure title, one of the primary focuses is to fight and defeat a wide variety of enemies. Some of these enemies include, but are not limited to, undead creatures, zombies, skeletons, demons, giant spiders, dog-like beasts, minotaurs, dragons, gargoyles, ghosts, pigmies, and all sorts of other unpleasant fantasy creatures. Players will accomplish this task with a number of different weapons that include daggers, swords, spears, clubs, maces, crossbows, bow and arrows, and a variety of magical spells that can shoot fireballs, lightning bolts, and more. Players are able to harm and kill innocent individuals that they run to.

o   In combat, the primary focus is to kill or be killed. Players will be able to engage enemies at both melee and ranged combat. Depending on the type of enemy that a player is facing, attacks will cause a spray of red blood from the enemy. The amount of visible blood depends on the weapon: the larger weapon, the more blood. When an enemy is killed, they will stop moving and very slowly fall down and die. All enemies of the same type (zombies vs. demons, etc.) will have a very similar "death animation". Once dead, enemy corpses will become ragdolls and just sort of flop around the world unrealistically. There will be situations of extraneous violence in which players can attack or will be attacked in unique fashions: one situation are where players have to decapitate the multiple heads of a dragon-like beast; another is where an enemy will jump on your back and mimic cutting your throat (though you often do not die from this attack). *See Footnote*

o   Aside from combat, there are a number of notable scenes of blood and gore. First off, corpses are everywhere. Aside from those dead bodies that you will make during combat, you will find a good deal of corpses across the landscape. A number of these bodies have purpose and provide players with a power-up called a "Soul", however they are still dead bodies, nonetheless. On top of this, some of these corpses are not simply laying about all willy-nilly; there are scenes where you will see the remnants of violent acts: such as one scene where you see a number of dead bodies that have been impaled through the midsection on a large spike and then set ablaze.  Pools of blood are regular sites throughout the environment.
-          Sexually-Related Content: Low
o   Dark Souls contains a low amount of sexually-related content that relates more to partial nudity than any real sexually-explicit situations. First off, players are at anytime allowed to strip their character down to their skivvies; in which the character will be wearing nothing but underwear. Buttocks are visible in this situation. Some enemies are also depicted wearing minimal clothing with visible buttocks as well. Finally, there is one female character who is bare-chested and whose breasts are barely concealed by her hair.

-          Use of Drugs and Alcohol: None
o   To the best of the reviewer's knowledge, Dark Souls does not contain any usage of illicit drugs or alcoholic consumption. Unless you take issue with magic potions, you should be doing ok.

Game Quality:  Very High (9.0 / 10)
-          Graphics / Visuals: High
o   The sun filters softly through the clouds, glittering idyllically across the mountain side as you stand on the parapets of an ancient, mossy castle. This is one of the better visuals that you will be able to enjoy in this game. Despite all of the pain and frustration players will suffer at the hands of the game's monsters and traps, this title really is astoundingly beautiful. Players will be able to explore a number of areas from the craggy ruins of yesteryear that have been reclaimed by the wilderness to the massive, sprawling castle the stands majestically against the sunset; from the dark and foggy bog of specters and ghosts to the dark and foreboding dungeons of fire and smoke. Everything is beautifully crafted and, if you can take a minute before being run through by some monster or another, it is quite the sight to behold.

o   Aside from the environments themselves, the game has also taken a great deal of time to craft the monsters that will be experiencing in this title. Despite having plenty of "classic" beasts like zombies and black knights and dragons, each one of them has a very unique feel and design to them. The amount of detail is equally impressive. I have to admit that I quietly admired the red dragon that had been setting me on fire over and over and how the developers had designed the intricate look of his scales, spikes, horns, beak, and other major body parts. Other monsters, like the Taurus Demon and Black Knights, are equally detailed and boast some amazing visuals (even if you don't really get to enjoy it).

o   There are only two real problems visually. First, the human characters have all the expression and realism of a latex mask; a far stretch from the painstaking detail that was put into the monsters of this game. However, given you are almost never looking at the finer details of human characters, this is forgivable. The second, and more frustrating, problem is with the "frame rate" of this game. There are certain, unexplained instances where the game's frame rate simply drops off. For those unfamiliar with this term, frame rate refers to how cleanly and smoothly the moving-picture is delivered. This means that the game will suddenly get very choppy and laggy and will cause a break up in the visuals. While uncommon, when it does it happen, it's frustrating.
-          Audio: Very High
o   A simple and minimalistic soundtrack with an ear for detail make this game stand out not for what it has, but for how it does it. Allow me to explain: the majority of this game's audio is sound effects rather than music. Long stretches of gameplay will go without any music at all and, yet, when music begins to play it's perfect. Soft, gentle, and flowing harmonies reassure the player of safety and victory. Equally, harsher, sudden, and fast paced instrumental pieces peak at a crescendo as players fight for their lives against massive and horrible beasts. No, music is not as focused on as are the sound effects. The clang of metal, the slash of a sword, fall of a footstep, or the crumbling of stone each are perfectly timed, placed, and used to immerse players in this fantasy world.

-          Gameplay / Playability: High
o   There are only one way to really describe Dark Souls. First off, the gameplay reminds me of super-hot chili-peppers. There are some people that take these peppers as a challenge and will gladly grin and bear it and ask for more. On the contrary, for the majority of us, these peppers (read Dark Souls) are nothing but pain and suffering.

o   Starting off with playability, Dark Souls has a learning curve that is roughly equivalent to trying to open a nuclear blast vault with your face. You know that there is a keypad and that you have to enter a code in order to open the door, but until you figure out that code you are simply going to bash your head against the door and/or pad until either sheer repetitious luck wins out or you just knock yourself out-cold. The game will briefly introduce players to the controls with several messages telling them how to move around and attack, but after that you are basically on your own. The controls are simple and easy to use, especially if you are used to other action-adventure titles, however this probably won't save you. The game takes no prisoners and cannot even be paused if you need to take a break: more than once I was murdered just because I had the gall to turn around and take a note.

o   As for the gameplay, what is there to say? It's probably one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences that I have ever enjoyed in a video game. The game provides a relatively open world that will allow a player to explore a variety of different areas. In the most straight forward sense, players will fight monsters and bosses and generally just overcome some really tough battles...but there is so much more to that. They will enjoy light puzzle solving, platforming (trying to safely get from one place or another...e.g. scaling rafters hundreds of feet above the floor to get to the prize on the other side), and a well-designed role-playing feature that will allow players to develop a character perfect for their play style. I died, literally, a minimum of a hundred times and found myself actually jumping for joy when I managed to down one of the game's obscenely difficult boss fights. The game is expertly crafted so that it has a very straight forward design and, yet, there is so much more that can be done with it.
-          Dollar-Value: Very High
o   Overall, Dark Souls has a very high dollar value, and here it why. First, understand that this game is not for everyone. The absolutely ridiculous difficulty in this game will make many turn away from it within hours. This game is truly for those that love a challenge and are wanting to put their wits to the test. For those players, this game is absolutely perfect. Everything is expertly crafted to try you again and again and then reward you handsomely for overcoming the seemingly impossible. For the majority of us, the game will take anywhere from 20 or more hours of solid gameplay: and that's if you don't get caught on any hiccups. Not to mention that players can always retry the title with a variety of very different characters from mages to knights to thieves, etc., you will get quite a bit of playtime out of this title.

-          If you are looking for a game with less mature rated content, you might take a peek at Arcana Gothic 4 or Dungeon Siege 3. If you are alright with mature rated content, you might also get a kick out of titles like Fable, Elder Scrolls, Sacred 2, and Dragon Age 2.

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