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Game Info:

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition
Developed by: From Software
Published by: From Software & Namco Bandai Games
Released: September 22, 2011
ESRB Rating: M
Available On: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Genre: Action-RPG, Adventure
Number of Players: 1
Price: $43.99 new ($29.99 for PC), $40.00 used

Prepare to die. Has an interesting ring to it, huh? A game that teaches you the old school way, Dark Souls is not for the weak of heart, and provides a challenge for even the most hardened veterans of gaming. This game is a true testament to how video games were in the days of the NES and the SNES: hard, frustrating and rewarding. However, the title does allude to some less than brilliant themes, but more on that later. 

The story behind Dark Souls is one that that seems rather simple at first, but is actually completely determined by the player’s understanding of it. Here is the long and short of it: In the beginning there was nothing but darkness, and in this darkness ruled the dragons, who were immortal. Soon fire was born, and humanity seized it and with its power they slaughtered the dragons and began the Age of Fire. Humanity prospered like never before, although this was not to last. After a while a dark circle began to appear upon people. This was named the Darksign. Humans with this ‘sign’ emblazoned upon themselves would be gifted with a form of immortality. They would be able to die, but would be reborn next to a bonfire, their resting places, after they had died. Instead of this immortality being a blessing however, this instead became a curse. When a human dies and is reborn, they become undead, lose their humanity and become crazed.

Your character, which you get to make yourself by way of character creation, is the chosen undead. The chosen undead has been prophesied as the one who will go forth to ring the two bells of Lordran. For the most part the story is simple: battle your way through many different and varied locations fighting towards the end goal of either saving humanity, or condemning it. Given the context of the story, it is hard to figure out what you’re doing is right or wrong, as the game has 2 endings. Both of these are completely determined by the player’s view of which one is right or wrong.

The gameplay is what really sets Dark Souls out from the rest of the crowd. While most action-RPGs have the tendency of swinging your sword and rolling haphazardly out of the way of attacks, Dark Souls punishes you for making even the slightest of mistakes. Even the most basic of enemies can kill your character relatively easily, so it’s up to the player to memorize how an enemy attacks and wait patiently to counter attack. When you start the game, you get to choose between 10 different classes. You have the beefy Knight, built to weather strikes, the strong Bandit, designed to send your foes flying and others. The best part about the class system however, is that these class only dictate your starting gear and level. They do not tell you where you need to spend your skill points. That is up to your playstyle. Don't like swinging that sword? Put a few points into intelligence and your warrior can now cast spells. Swords, axes, maces, lances, magic, and even whips are at the characters disposal. The game’s difficulty is super high, and while this might turn off a lot of players, the game system is balanced incredibly well considering the amount of weapons, armour, and spells that line the game’s huge inventory. When you do die, it feels like less of the game’s fault and more your fault for not being able to beat a certain enemy.

And they told me it wouldn’t hurt me… Liars
Highlights:

Strong Points: Challenging gameplay focused on learning enemy’s attacks and slowly progressing. Great replayability.
Weak Points: Has a high learning curve. Not a “casual” game.
Moral Warnings: There is a lot of spell casting in the game. Also there is a lot of violence and some enemies are made to look demonic.

Tip on how to stay alive? Look before you leap. The terrain serves as a big part of the game’s difficulty with invisible walkways, lakes with drops into the abyss and even crystal caverns. Enemies are carefully placed through each area so that you will not be safe until you have cleared out an area. Enemies with bows will snipe you from afar while their sword wielding counterparts will rush you head on. This may sound hard, but if you know the landscape, you can run past some enemies to kill the weaker ones. Once you've taken out the small ones you can turn around and defend yourself from the other, larger enemies. If you take the game slowly and strategically, it becomes much easier to succeed. The game difficulty is in how you play. Slow and steady definitely wins this race. 

All of this is all fine and dandy until you die however, which you will be doing a lot of (the sub-title of ‘Prepare to Die’ isn’t just for show). When you die you lose all your souls (the currency of the game) and have to restart at the last bonfire you rested at. Did I mention that the game doesn’t have a pause function? Yeah, don’t expect any favours from this game. You play by its rules or not at all. At least you can go pick up your gear from where you died.

The online play in Dark Souls is unique in two ways. The first way is that players can ‘summon’ other people to help them with boss fights. The second way is less satisfactory and is where the online play becomes a double edged sword. When playing the game you are either in human or undead form. In undead form you cannot summon other players or call for help whereas a human can. Being in human form, on the other hand, means you can be invaded. Being invaded means that another player is entering into your world with the intent to kill you to steal your souls. If you are invaded you cannot enter a boss fight until you have killed the invader or he has killed you. If you defeat your invader you gain a set amount of souls based on your invaders level. However, should you die to your invader, you will be turned into an undead and you will, again, lose your souls.  Do not fear though! Every person that can invade your world will be similar to you in levels. The only difference between you and your attacker is that they might have played this game a lot while this might be your first time. Because of the skill difference between hard-core invaders and regular players, many players choose to play this game without connecting to the internet simply because they find it hard to deal with the other online players.

When you finally do finish Dark Souls, what do you do? Well, you run the entire game again, but this time with enemies having more health and doing more damage thanks to the game’s New Game + feature. And what should happen when you finish New Game +? You get New Game ++ of course! Where the enemies are given even more health and damage. Around New Game 7+ the difficulty no longer increases, but it will take you a while before you get to it. Also, with the release of the Prepare to Die DLC, you can now explore a new area filled with new bosses, enemies and more beautiful scenery than you can shake a stick at.  Although you will never truly be finished with Dark Souls, if you are a person who enjoys replayability in their games, this should suit you down to the bone.

Yes ladies and gents: This is in-game graphics
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 64%
Violence - 4.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 1.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7.5/10

The graphics of Dark Souls may not be the greatest but they are far from average. Each area is crafted down to each individual bush and has amazing set pieces for each area. Every area that you can see you can travel to, or at least that’s what the game tells you. After a very short loading time (5 seconds on PS3 and almost immediately on a high powered PC) you are thrust into the land of Lordran, the world in which Dark Souls takes place. From this point, until you die or exit the game, there will be no more loading screens. Considering the quality of the enemies and places you visit, this is no small feat. There are a few times when the game will lag from the amount of things that will be on screen but thankfully this doesn’t happen often. For the PC players, you can download mods that will increase the graphical quality of the game, as well as fix the controls.

The music of Dark Souls is fitting and is orchestral. Everything sounds how you would expect. Tense and dark for normal areas and fast and furious for bosses. The game does suffer from a few glitches, moreso on the PC port but overall is really good, suffering nothing game-breaking. And finally the controls are good although using a controller is much, much easier than using the keyboard and mouse.

There are a few things that sets Dark Souls back in its morality. The first and most obvious is that there is a lot of violence in Dark souls. There isn’t much gore but there is a little blood. Also the game’s currency is the souls of others which are obtained by killing any enemy in the game and even some friendly units. The game has many references to witches, demons, and undead and are commonplace within the gameplay elements. The game also forces the player to think only for themselves and put everyone else second. However, the game’s overarching theme behind violence is that you are only fighting to defend and protect yourself from enemies, while you adventure through Lordran. Also when you start the game you have the option to play as a class called the deprived. The deprived class starts out with no armour and has only a loincloth covering their dignity. However this only lasts until you decide to put on armour so it only exists to show the player that they are not wearing any armour.

At the end of the day Dark Souls is a hard but rewarding game that has some issues morally, but is enjoyable if you are willing to look past this. There are witches and undead, demons and spells, but the real meat of the game is in its gameplay. The rewarding play style coupled with the huge scale of the areas, amazing replay value, and optional side quests to keep you going for weeks, maybe even months on end, definitely make this worth a buy gameplay wise.

~Ben

 

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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