Dark SoulsDark Souls is an open world action role-playing video game developed and published for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by From Software in Japan. It was published for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by Namco Bandai Games internationally. Previously referred to as Project Dark, it is the spiritual successor to Demon's Souls. It was released in Japan on September 22, 2011, on October 4 in North America, on October 6 in Australia and on October 7 in Europe of the same year. A PC version was released on August 24, 2012 which featured additional content and was labeled as the Prepare to Die edition. The additional content from the PC version was later released as downloadable content for both consoles in October 2012 labeled as the Artorias of the Abyss expansion.
The game takes place in the kingdom of Lordran, where the player character is an undead chosen to make pilgrimage. Dark Souls has a minimalistic plot and much of it is interpreted by the player on their journey. The difficulty level of the game cannot be adjusted and penalties upon death reinforce 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 each other's world with the objective of killing each other.
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.
Dark Souls PlotDark Souls has a minimalistic plot. 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. It is mostly left up to the player to put the pieces together.
In the founding of the universe, the Earth was unformed, covered in crags, and 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 entities—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—who harnessed the Souls of Lords to combat the dragons, eventually overthrowing them and launching humanity and its new lordly gods into a golden era known as the Age of Fire. Many years later, however, the flames supporting the Age of Fire are fading. Along with this, humans become afflicted by a mysterious mark known as the Darksign, which brands them as nigh-immortal but decrepit-looking beings known as "Undead." Some Undead become insanely violent and are referred to as "Hollow."
The player character is an Undead, who has yet to become Hollow. The protagonist escapes from the northern Undead Asylum with the help of another Undead and learns of the prophecy concerning a chosen Undead who leaves the Undead Asylum in pilgrimage and rings 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, 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 he or she is the Chosen Undead who must succeed Lord Gwyn and remove the affliction of the Darksign. 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 get 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 over his lack of immortality; 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 and the source of all demons which was the result of the failed experiments of the Witch of Izalith to recreate the primeval Flame; and Gravelord Nito, the first of the dead.
If the player refrains from placing the Lordvessel on the altar, he can instead meet Darkstalker 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," prolonged the Age of Fire, and in doing so branded Undead with the Darksign, which only caused suffering. In Linking the Fire, Gwyn sacrificed himself, becoming the Lord of Cinder. The Age of Dark will erase this curse. Kaathe implies that the prophecy of the Chosen Undead espoused by Frampt is a lie crafted by the gods to trick the player into sacrificing himself in order to prolong the tyranny of the old order of deities; indeed, Kaathe implies that the deity status of Gwyn et al. is only granted to them by the primordial Flame so long as it is kindled. 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.
After offering the four Lord Souls to the Lordvessel, with the help of either Frampt or Kaathe, 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 consists of dungeon crawling in almost relentlessly hostile environments. Dark Souls takes place in a large and contiguous open world environment, with the player able to travel to and from areas and explore various available paths seamlessly, though certain prerequisites may have to be completed to unlock some areas. Bonfires are scattered throughout the world; these function as resting hubs and checkpoints 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 be in either "hollow" (undead) form or human form, and death in human form reverts the player to hollow form. In hollow form, the player is 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, both of which act as forms of currency in the world, though they are each used for different purposes. The player will then spawn at the bonfire last rested at, and has one chance to recollect the souls and humanity by reaching the location of their death; failing this, they are permanently lost.
Souls are awarded upon killing any enemy, other online players included, with the amount rewarded being proportional to the toughness of the enemy. Humanity is much rarer. Some enemies have higher chances of dropping humanity. Humanity also has several subtle effects on gameplay, such as increasing 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 can facilitate a great 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 1v1 duels. Two elements of skill are generally involved in PvP: the dueling itself, which relies on reflexes and on-the-spot thinking, and the planning and development of the character build, which involves carefully engineering the character's stats to reap maximum benefits from a chosen configuration of armor and weapons.
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