Dark SoulsDark Souls is an action role-playing video game set in an open world environment. It was developed and published for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by From Software in Japan and by Namco Bandai Games internationally. A spiritual successor to From Software's Demon's Souls, Dark Souls began development under the working title Project Dark. It was released in 2011: in Japan on September 22, in North America on October 4, in Australia on October 6th and in Europe on October 7. A PC version of the game was released on 24 August 2012 which featured exclusive additional content and was labeled as the Prepare to Die edition. On 23 October 2012, the additional content from the PC version was released as downloadable content for consoles under the title Artorias of the Abyss.
The game takes place in the kingdom of Lordran, where the player's character is a human who has been cursed and has chosen to make a pilgrimage. The plot of Dark Souls is primarily told through descriptions of in-game items and NPCs, with players having to piece together the lore through careful exploration of the world. The difficulty level of the game cannot be adjusted and death in the game has strict penalties which reinforces the requirement for careful decision making by the player. The world is filled with weapons, armor, and items to assist the player as they progress. The game has online features where players can summon each other for help in defeating foes, or invade another player's world with the objective of killing the player.
Dark Souls was well received by critics and is known for its considerable difficulty, which has prompted much interest and discussion. In April 2013, From Software announced Dark Souls had sold more than 2.3 million copies. The PC version was the second most played Games for Windows Live title in 2012 based on unique users. Dark Souls II was announced in December 2012 and will be released in March 2014.
Dark Souls PlotDark Souls has a minimalistic plot: it is mostly left up to the player to put the pieces together. Events and their significance are often implicit and left to player interpretation rather than fully shown or explained. Much of the story and lore of the world is given to the player through dialogue from characters within the world, item descriptions, or the scarce cutscenes.
The opening cutscene details the founding of the universe, where Earth was unformed and the Everlasting Dragons held sole dominion over the world. However, The Lords of Fire along with the human race eventually came into existence for reasons long lost to time. From the Dark, which gained meaning in contrast to Light from the newly kindled flame, emerged four powerful entitiesó Nito, the First of the Dead; the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos; Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight, and his faithful knights, and the furtive Pygmy, "so easily forgotten". With the advent of the First Flame, the Lords challenged the Dragons for dominion of the World. During the war, Gwyn, the Lord of Sunlight used his powerful lightning bolts, peeling their strong stone scales, the Witch of Izalith and her Daughters of Chaos weaved great, powerful firestorms, Nito, the First of the Dead unleashed a miasma of death and disease, and Seath the Scaleless, the albino Dragon, betrayed his own kind.
The player character is a human that carries the Darksign, the curse of the Undead. The protagonist escapes from the Undead Asylum with the help of another undead human and learns of the prophecy concerning a chosen undead who leaves the Undead Asylum in pilgrimage to ring the two Bells of Awakening in Lordran, the land of the ancient lords.
Once the character has rung the Bells of Awakening, one in the heights of the Undead Parish and the other far below in the poisonous swamp at the base of Blighttown, the gate leading to Sen's Fortress and Anor Londo is opened, and the Primordial Serpent, Kingseeker Frampt, is awoken. He tells the player that they are the Chosen Undead who must succeed Lord Gwyn by linking the fire and undoing the undead curse. It is implied that Frampt is very old and has awaited the protagonist's arrival for a very long time. To achieve this given task, the character must retrieve the Lordvessel from the land of Anor Londo, a forsaken city bathed in sunlight. When the task is done, the character must obtain the four powerful Lord Souls: one from Seath the Scaleless, the proud dragon who betrayed his own out of deep anger; one from the Four Kings, ancient rulers of New Londo who fell to Dark and were banished to the Abyss; one from the Bed of Chaos; a mass of life which was the result of the failed experiments of the Witch of Izalith to recreate the primeval Flame; and one from Gravelord Nito, the first of the undead, who leads the Gravelord Covenant.
If the player refrains from placing the Lordvessel on the altar, he can instead meet Kaathe in the Abyss, a different Primordial Serpent who opposes Frampt. After informing the player that he is a direct descendent of the pygmy, who obtained The Dark Soul, Kaathe will present the protagonist with a different path: to end the Age of Fire and "usher in the Age of Dark." Kaathe stated that Gwyn had wished to "avoid the course of nature," and prolonged the Age of Fire, which only caused suffering. In Linking the Fire, Gwyn sacrificed himself, becoming the Lord of Cinder. Kaathe implies that the prophecy of the Chosen Undead is a lie. After careful examination of the facts, it becomes apparent that both Frampt and Kaathe have been feeding the player half-truths in order to advance their own agendas. The player must come to his own conclusion regarding which path will save the world, and which will continue to condemn it.
The character must go on to defeat Gwyn. Once he has been slain, the player is given a vague choice which affects the ending. The player may choose to either sacrifice himself in order to re-kindle the Flame and prolong the rule of the existing order of deities or to let the Flame wither and die, ushering in the Age of Dark (or of Humanity as Kaathe would suggest), where the player character will become the "Lord of Dark."
Dark Souls GameplayGameplay is based on a survival RPG style and uses deaths to teach players how to react in relentlessly hostile environments. Dark Souls takes place in a large and contiguous open world environment. The player is able to travel to and from areas and explore various available paths, although certain prerequisites have to be met to unlock some areas. Bonfires are scattered throughout the world which function as resting hubs and savepoints for the player. Resting at a bonfire causes all normal enemies to respawn, but also fully restores the player's health and healing flasks, along with any equipped spells. The player can progress in one of two unique forms: either "hollow" form or human form. Upon death, the player respawns in "hollow" form, and must use a rare item called "humanity" to restore their human form. If no humanity is available, the player is still able to progress in hollow form, but will be unable to kindle bonfires or summon help from other players; at the same time, players in hollow form cannot be invaded by other players. Death in either form results in the loss of all carried souls and humanity. The player will then spawn at the bonfire last rested at and has one chance to recollect the lost items by reaching the location of their death. If the player dies again before this is accomplished, the items are permanently lost.
The player character battles Artorias, one of the bosses added to the game through downloadable content.
"Souls" function as both experience points and currency, and are awarded upon killing any enemy, including other online players, with the amount rewarded being proportional to the toughness of the enemy. Under certain circumstances, humanity is also awarded for defeating enemies. "Humanity" is primarily used as a rare currency, but it also has several subtle effects on gameplay, such as increasing the item discovery rate and buffing some of the player's resistances. Certain weapons also scale in damage considerably with the possession of humanity.
Dark Souls features an online mode which is active whenever the game is connected to the internet. The online mode adds numerous dynamic interactions between the individual players, including limited co-op and player versus player, within certain conditions. Communication between players is deliberately limited. If the player is in "party chat" on the 360, the game will be set to offline mode; on the other hand, private chat between two players at a time is allowed.
The online interactions allow for a large amount of PvP activity. Under certain conditions, one player can invade another player's world with the goal of killing the other player; if they succeed, they are sent home with a certain amount of souls and one point of humanity. Some areas of the game have been designated unofficial PvP hotspots by the community; in these areas, it is common to find hundreds of players either invading or waiting to be invaded in order to engage in one-on-one duels.
ReceptionDark Souls received critical acclaim. Famitsu gave the game a highly positive review, scoring it 37 out of 40, based on four scores of 9, 9, 9, and 10. One of the reviewers for Dark Souls described it as "a very hardcore dark-fantasy RPG" that is "role-playing right down to the roots," and stated that the "massive field map and powerful enemies serve to rev up both your sense of adventure and your sense of dread." Another reviewer stated that "the sheer happiness you get after the trial-and-error pays off and you overcome the challenge is absolutely impossible to replicate."
GameSpot scored Dark Souls a 9.5/10, complimenting almost every aspect. Much praise was given to the online system, as well as the sense of jubilation felt when conquering boss fights after numerous failed attempts. They also suggested that casual gamers may struggle to progress, whereas RPG enthusiasts will thrive on the difficulty.
IGN gave Dark Souls a 9.0/10, praising the well-thought out level design, variety, strong emphasis on online features, excessively dark tone and atmosphere and deep gameplay. They also noted that it is not a game that one can simply jump into and play for plain enjoyment. They went as far to say that it is not a game for the timid and that the game requires both skill and strategy almost all the time. While praising the extremely high difficulty, they stated that "there's a difference between punishing, and downright unfair."
Eurogamer gave Dark Souls 9/10, saying "If adventure is to surprise and mystify you and invite you to uncover the secrets of a forgotten world, then Dark Souls is a great adventure game. If entertainment is fun without failure and progress without pain, you'll have to find it somewhere else. But you'll be missing out on one of the best games of the year."
Writing for Slate, Michael Thomsen asked if a 100-hour video game was ever worthwhile, stating:
There is real beauty in Dark Souls. It reveals that life is more suffering than pleasure, more failure than success, and that even the momentary relief of achievement is wiped away by new levels of difficulty. It is also a testament to our persistence in the face of that suffering, and it offers the comfort of a community of other players all stuck in the same hellish quagmire. Those are good qualities. That is art. And you can get all of that from the first five hours of Dark Souls. The remaining 90 or so offer nothing but an increasingly nonsensical variation on that experience.
Jason Killingsworth wrote a response to Thomsen's review for Edge:
Thomsen mentions that we could use that 100 hours to train for a marathon. Dark Soulsí vertigo-inducing breadth makes it the gaming equivalent of a marathon...Reading War And Peace? Dark Souls immerses us in war, and lots of it. But it also lets us taste the most incredible peaceósublime moments of quiet interspersed between the violence like rests in a musical score...Taking a roadtrip from New York to Los Angeles and back again? Dark Souls invites us on a journey that makes the sights of middle America pale in comparison...invites us to criss-cross a world. To adore games is to be an insatiable wanderer.
When I finished my long trek through Dark Souls, do you know what I did? I clicked on the New Game+ option and began all over again. And I didnít look sheepishly at the clock on the wall to beg its permission.
Edge later retroactively awarded the game 10 out of 10 in their October 2013 20th anniversary issue, stating that over time the breadth and quality of the game's design had overruled complaints about the game's difficulty
Post-release, the game's director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, contemplated adding an easier difficulty level, saying: "Dark Souls is rather difficult and a number of people may hesitate to play. This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about whether I should prepare another difficulty that everyone can complete or carefully send all gamers the messages behind our difficult games." Namco Bandai claimed Miyazaki's statement was mistranslated, and should have read "This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about how to make everyone complete the game while maintaining the current difficulty and carefully send all gamers the messages behind it."
Namco Bandaiís yearly financial report stated that the game sold 1.19 million units in the United States and Europe by March 2012. From Software announced in April 2013 that the game had sold 2.37 million units worldwide.
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