Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Review

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I’m about to admit to something that, in many reader’s minds, will serve to discredit my reviews: I don’t finish the vast majority of games that I critique. Further, there are some few games where I don’t even make it to the half way point. The reasons for this are various and sundry but all boil down to one indisputable fact; almost every game can be judged with a high degree of accuracy in a matter of minutes if you have enough gaming experience. Call it the game reviewer’s “blink” ability. I didn’t finish Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition. I probably didn’t even get half way into it. I’ll explain why shortly, but rest assured, this game was easy to appraise, and not in a good way.

 

First let’s get the obvious out of the way. If you don’t own an Xbox 360 controller, don’t buy this game; move along, there’s nothing to see here. The mouse and keyboard controls are so ineptly implemented that I find it hard to believe that anyone at developer From Software even play-tested the damn thing. Needless to say, if you are porting a game from consoles and you can’t even be bothered to perfect mouse and keyboard controls, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the experience.

 

After digging out my 360 controller from the box of “useless old console crap I never wanted to revisit” and re-learning how to use such an archaic and clumsy control system, I finally settled in for this self-styled hard-as-hell RPG. Character creation was pretty much the standard set up, letting you choose your sex, starting class and general look. The facial generation system is subpar, creating almost universally unappealing mugs, but fortunately (unfortunately?) that didn’t matter much because, for some stupid reason, you play the game as a flesh-eaten zombie. Why? Well, that brings me to the next big complaint.

 

Dark Souls happens to be missing an important, if not central, component that all RPGs should have: context. This could include almost everything, from story, to dialogue, to continuity. Why am I a zombie instead of a human? Why am I tasked with ringing two distant bells? Who are these random people scattered around the environment? What the hell is going on and more important, why should I care? All of those questions, and many more, are either never answered, or answered cryptically with prophecy-talk nonsense. Context is what puts the “R” in Role Playing Game and in Dark Souls, you are most certainly not playing a role.

 

So then, what is this game? I thought long and hard on that question and I finally stumbled upon a decent, though not perfect, answer. Dark Souls is essentially a third-person, more complex version of Diablo (specifically the first game). What I mean by that is that it has almost no story, no meaningful dialogue and other than combat, leveling up and finding hidden loot, it has no real point. Once I realized this, the game became less conceptually frustrating, though no less boring. What remained infuriating was the combat and difficulty.

 

Depending on how you build your character, combat plays out in the usual melee/archery/magic trichotomy. I will give the game credit for one thing; the leveling system allows for a very elastic character building experience. You pick your class at the start, yes, but once you begin collecting souls (the game’s universal system for both experience and currency), you can easily give your warrior some magic or your rogue a giant shield; nothing is off limits or disadvantageous. However, outside of your character sheet, it’s entirely up to you to fight competently and, boy, does Dark Souls make that task hellish.

Most of the problem lies in the camera and targeting system. The camera is assigned to the right thumb stick (assuming you are using an Xbox controller) and since there is very little auto-tracking, you’ll spend much of the game with both thumbs on the sticks. First off, coming from a mouse and keyboard background, it has never been more obvious how cumbersome and imprecise console controllers are. If nothing else, Dark Souls has made me love the fact that I’m a PC gamer all over again. Secondly, to fight effectively, you have to make use of the A, B, X and Y keys, which means forgoing camera controls while you drink potions or sprint, leaving you completely situationaly unaware. And for a game this merciless, not being able to quickly track swarms of enemies is unacceptable.

 

Speaking of mercilessness, let’s discuss that in detail, shall we? This game’s claim to fame is in its unforgiving, old school difficulty. At first glance, it’s true, the game is really hard and doesn’t hold your hand, especially during boss fights. But it’s one big deception for a few reasons. If you took this exact game, made mouse and keyboard functional (thus making the combat fun, rather than frustrating), and *gasp* added a manual save function, this would be just another third person action RPG, with very little unique about it except for how half-assed the setting and story are.

 

The reason people think this game is hard is that when a boss cheap-kills them (because the boss’s bounding box blocks the player into a corner of the level or stun-locks the player with unblockable flurry attacks), they have to run all the way back from the previous spawn point (bonfire), killing all the same enemies they just killed over again. Given that some bosses are very cheap and very far away from a bonfire, this adds up to some of the most wasteful playtime I’ve ever experienced in a game, especially since you may or may not be able to keep the souls (experience) of those in-between enemies you’ve repeatedly killed a thousand times. This game isn’t hard at all, it’s just ineptly designed. So while I may only be a third of the way in, my playtime is well past thirty hours.

 

Visually, the game is also pretty damn unimpressive. Everything is colored in dark, muted tones of gray, brown and black. The armor and weapons are adequately gleaming but the character models, both your own and those of the enemies, are bland and lifeless. Given that almost everything you fight is a zombie of one kind or another, maybe that’s appropriate, but it sure isn’t exciting to look at.

 

Finally, the multiplayer portion is a complete waste of time. At a bonfire, you can choose to spend a humanity point (a somewhat rare resource) to “reverse hollowing” (become human) and this opens the multiplayer portion of the game to you. The intention is that it’s a double-edged sword, in that you get a higher loot drop rate and you can call on other players (and even some AI NPCs) to join your world to help you fight, while at the same time, other players can enter your world and hunt you down player-vs-player style.

 

Even just from that description, it’s obvious that this is not true multiplayer. Instead, it’s just a small taste of both co-op and pvp mulitplayer modes, given to you in a random, chaotic fashion. There’s no microphone support and no keyboard chat box. You can either perform vague gestures (like cheering or pointing) or you can fight, that’s it. So while the co-op, “help me kill a boss” option is pretty straightforward, the pvp is atrocious. When someone invades your world to fight you, all the doors fog over (meaning you are locked in a small area of the map) and you have to stop all forward progress and wait while some random dude loads into your game (it’s not an instantaneous process). You then fight, for no reason, until one of you dies. Oh, and just to add insult to injury, the game doesn’t care about level or gear, they just throw random battles together. So most times, the people who enjoy pvp gameplay (you know, immature douche bags that are super-leveled and decked out in the best gear) will sit in newbie areas and load in just to insta-kill you with one hit and then perform the laugh gesture. Yeah, good times.

 

When I see the sheer amount of positive reviews this game got from the console crowd, it just reinforces my elitist PC attitude. This Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is not only the worst console port I’ve ever played (and I play most of them), it’s also one of the worst designed. I mean literally, this game is one step above my character having “lives” and when I run out of those, I’m told to jam quarters into my PC to continue playing. If this is what constitutes a “good console RPG”, then I’ll sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that I’m not missing a damn thing by not owning a PlayStation 3. I guess I’m alone in understanding this, but supposed difficulty is not a substitute for intelligent design. Dark Souls proves that.

 

40%

 

Reviewed By: Brian Mardiney
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Rating: 40%

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This review is based on a digital copy of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition for the PC provided by Namco Bandai.

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Rating: 2.0/5 (31 votes cast)
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Review, 2.0 out of 5 based on 31 ratings

20 Comments on “Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition Review

  1. You, sir, did not only write a perfect review here. You saved my soul. I was alone, thinking I was the only person on the planet that did not enjoy this game. And I don’t have to add anything, except: Thank you. It was fun to read.

  2. What about games as a vision, and not a checklist of mandatory features? Why shouldn’t the gamer adapt to a strict set of rules, instead of having the developper cater to the lowest common denominator? You see games as products, I see them as a medium.

  3. That is just it. The game is a challenge to beat. You don’t see that any more with the current regenerating health and $60 for a 8 hour campaign.

    Yes, the controls flat out suck. There are however a couple of patches put out to help with the graphics and mouse, to make the game look much better and handle better.

    For the game itself, you have dozens of armors and outfits, probably a dozen classes of weapons, all with different moves, tons of things to find, many multiples of different types of monsters. This has to be one of the most creative games I have ever played.

    The game is like life. It does not forgive. There are consequences related to the risks you take. Stupid actions are brutally punished. There are no save and reloads where you can “look” for a best choice. Aggro a NPC and they will forever attack you until you pay to be forgiven. Kill them and their story line is gone. Overall with the way the game is in order to survive you become an expert at the different sections. I also am reminded of the quarters I used to pump into machines, to learn game patterns. That is what this game is.

    When you beat this game you have accomplished something. True, that it is a meaningless accomplishment, but it is no more or less meaningless than playing or beating any other game.

  4. sounds to me like the reviewer did not notice there was a lock-on button for combat lol

    also the thing is, yes the combat is hard, but it takes practice, once you learn how each enemy attacks, its not so hard to walk through the map just parrying and countering everything humanoid for a one hit kill.

    I’m a an elitist pc gamer too, but after applying the DSfix mod to set my resolution and get the framerate to 60fps I’m thoroughly enjoying this with 2 other friends in co-op.

    Yeah its a horrible port, probably the worst I’ve ever seen – but DSfix mod fixes that and the game and its combat is very deep. I wouldn’t consider it an RPG, but rather a fantasy survival horror game – it actually reminds me of resident evil 4 – but a fantasy version.

  5. Port is awful. Game is unplayable on PC without being modded.

    Use the DSfix and mouse fix available online and your experience will improve dramatically.

    Out of the box, I’d rate Dark Souls a 2. Modded, it comes closer to 8. Still has some problems – treading over the same ground multiple times to get repeatedly hammered by a Boss repeatedly artificially adds game time. Navigating menus without game pausing the game in unsafe locations is not advisable – bad luck if you’re inventory hiking. Exiting the game to navigate through main menu screens is just damned frustrating if you want to quit early. Plus there will be a good dozen other reasons why the game doesn’t deserve higher scores.

    On the other hand, context – as it concerns you – is not necessary. The best game in the world, Chess, has no narrative. Most good games don’t. Video games by their definition should shine as games first – not modes for storytelling. If the game works without narrative, then does it need a story?

    I guess for RPG’s it’s a different argument; but on this occasion I’m enjoying the light plot without too many burdonsome details, a universe with little explanation. Most people’s lives are like that anyway. It’s refreshing after the deep and involving narrative of something like The Witcher 2 – which did tend towards tedium and distracting from the game – that’s what you get from a game based on conteporary literature, I guess.

    There’s room for both – and everything in between, as far as I am concerned, if the gameplay works. Here, though. It’s definitely conditional. Mod the game. PC Master Race is still Master for good reason.

  6. I was tempted to quit many times during my first 20 hours. What makes this game playable and actually a great experience on the PC, is manual save games. Yep, I “cheated” and would alt-tab to my save folder and create a copy after I made it through an area or before a boss. I didn’t totally abuse this system, but I did use it to avoid the incredibly irksome cheap-death situations.

    With the DSfix to run in 1080p, the graphics are actually amazing. The art design and world design is best in class. No joke. I do feel you were in error to not praise the wondrous creative of the bosses and environments.

    So yeah, the game, as is, is annoying and frustrating, but with manual saves and the DSfix, the game is an extremely memorable and enjoyable experience. But the reviewer is right that the difficulty is really superficial. Once you learn the “tricks” and how to overcome the camera, you can steamroll the entire game on New Game Plus. Truly difficult games can never be mastered. Dark Souls is mastered after one playthrough (and with manual saving, eh eh eh).

    • not sure why you would need to do that – most areas of the game you are able to summon another two players or even NPCs to help you out with bosses are tough parts – and the game is very easy with 3 players.

      • Quite ironic that we either have to “cheat” by manual back-up or “cheat” by summoning more players, which totally ruins the strategic nature of boss battles. Here is another example of how unbalanced the game is. It goes from crazy hard solo to crazy easy coop. Ah well.

        • Using a game mechanic is not cheating (although the file swap is). There are risks (invasion) and rewards to that.

  7. this site , is one of the worst reviewers ever , a masterpice like dark souls , is given a 40 ? u probably cant the game , or just die , die and die, ahahha u should shut this site down , ur reviews are awful !

  8. Fail. One problem lies here: “Most of the problem lies in the camera and targeting system. The camera is assigned to the right thumb stick (assuming you are using an Xbox controller) and since there is very little auto-tracking, you’ll spend much of the game with both thumbs on the sticks. ”

    Hmmm… Did you know that you could click in the right thumb stick to lock on to enemies, like it said in the tutorial?

    here:
    “Dark Souls happens to be missing an important, if not central, component that all RPGs should have”

    Just because a game doesn’t have every single aspect of your favorite game, does not mean it is a bad game.

    here:
    “Given that almost everything you fight is a zombie of one kind or another”

    So, I guess you never got past Undead Parish, (THE SECOND AREA OF THE GAME) because that is the point in the game where the enemies aren’t zombies anymore.

    and the last one:

    “No meaningful dialogue”

    which directly contradicts an earlier statement:

    “indisputable fact; almost every game can be judged with a high degree of accuracy in a matter of minutes if you have enough gaming experience”

    Yes, some of the things you’ve stated ARE opinions, but you have no facts supporting them. Opinions with supporting facts is the WHOLE POINT of reviews.

    This has been my meaningful review of your review.

    %0

    • Well said. This guy will stop reviewing games. Only true gamers understand that this game is a masterpiece. True gamers also don’t half-ass their way through games and don’t complete them.

    • I was literally about to burst of anger while reading this review and your reply covered my thoughts completely!
      I have to agree that:
      - the port is the worst on PC
      - PC experience in general is better than consoles

      But all the crap being mentioned about non sense repetition of enemies it made me so angry! This guy has either never played games in the past (he must be 14 years old or something) or he started playing games recently!

      Dark Souls is a great game and such a crappy review won’t ruin the game’s flair! Hence the rating of this review!

  9. I have to step in here. And give you a fury hell has not seen yet.

    1. You complain that it’s a horrible port.
    Answer: Namco Bandai literally pushed them with the fans to make a port, that they themselves said they weren’t adept in making, thus, making a bad port.

    2.You complain that you aren’t told anything, no context at all.
    Answer: Maybe if you’d watched the intro, read the tutorials, spoken to people one or few times, You would’ve noticed this game has as much (if not more) content than your average old-styled Final Fantasy, with it’s lore gaining fame because of the fact that nobody is spoon feeding you the history of what, how and why.

    Maybe you, you know, should’ve delved into it, read the item descriptions, listened to people and used some brains of your own to read through them and connect the pieces?

    3.You complain that the battle mechanics and camera is inadequate.
    Answer: I didn’t know you can see behind your back in real life, even as much as this one? The Dark Souls gaming style goes for realism on the physics. You can’t really focus on a dozen of enemies in real life, and you never actually get swarmed in the game if you actually play it smart and patient like it’s meant to. I can understand you “elitist PC gamers” who still feud over such matters as the console wars being snobby and thinking you can just run it through no sweat. Most of the PC gamers still use Cheat Engines and hacks to finish this. (I myself am also a PC gamer, not using hacks, also played on the Ps3 before it came out on the PC.)

    4.You complain that armor and equipment is accessible to all levels
    Answer: Sure, it may seem unfair at first. But those people still need stats for certain items and have to level up just like you to use them. They were simply better than you, got better equipment by fighting to get them, and spent time upgrading them.

    5. You think the PvP is awful and unrewarding/pointless?
    Answer: In case you didn’t know. People invade you to gain humanity. The PvP isn’t all deathmatch/arena (even though that’s in the game now as well). Because it’s made to be dynamic along with the enviroment. I think it has one of the best PVP systems that has ever been made, actually blending it with the game of it’s own.

    6.You think the visuals are not impressing?
    Answer: It’s a “post-apocalyptic” envireoment if you will. The name is DARK Souls. It tells of a world where fire and light is fading away. You expect for it to shit sunshines and rainbows on you? It has colorful areas in it. But since you weren’t obviously exactly “paying attention” rather than trying to run it through, you probably missed the beautiful scenery they present to you (if you ever got that far)

    Overall, I could keep on writing you to the size of a small book. You have absolutely no respect for the game, only due to your own simple lack of interest or effort in it. The game isn’t really “difficult”. If you were patient, gave it a try, tried out your own playstyle you might’ve actually gotten accustomed to it. It’s not Skyrim. Skyrim forc-efed you it’s lore like a bad cuisine, and I lost interest in it before hitting 60 hours on the game because I couldn’t even freely level up my character.

    I enjoy a lot of video games, and I’d review a lot of them myself. I have over 600 hours on Dark Souls, 400 on TF2, and 300 on Binding of Isaac. My list varies a lot. But you should really at least TRY to focus when playing this game. It’s not supposed to force-feed you. The tutorials and the story is there, go, play it again, and actually focus on it this time.

  10. Brian, you went in to this game with a negative attitude, and your attitude colored and poisoned your time with the game.

    You had many preconceptions, and did not keep your mind open to an experience unfamiliar to you. I disagree with effectively the entirety of the subjective elements of your review, aside for how the game runs on PC of which I have no experience. I personally feel that Dark Souls is a masterpiece, and stands at the zenith of the medium.

    I also feel that to dismiss me, and others such as myself, would be lazy. You have become complacent and overly comfortable with your views in games, you’ve stopped intellectually questioning your own long held beliefs.

    Why do consoles exist? What appeal does the console controller possess? Can I truly understand the whole of a game, the alpha to omega, without watching even the end credits?

    I would be happy to go into greater detail as to why I hold Dark Souls in such high esteem, and I would be very pleased if you gave the game a second chance.

  11. LOLOLOLOL

    I’m not even sure how this can be considered an “official” review. It is akin to Joe schmo posting a piss poor review on his personal blog. Hopefully no one actually reads these pieces of garbage you call reviews. You haven’t even freaking finished the game! I can name 20 people that would write better reviews solely based on the fact they actually play through the entire thing and have at least an ounce of discernment.

    This was probably the most idiotic review I have ever read. The amount of incorrect statements is nearly unfathomable.

    “If you took this exact game, made mouse and keyboard functional (thus making the combat fun, rather than frustrating), and *gasp* added a manual save function, this would be just another third person action RPG, with very little unique about it except for how half-assed the setting and story are.’

    Just face palm. Please go back to playing mario kart on your wii.

    “The reason people think this game is hard is that when a boss cheap-kills them (because the boss’s bounding box blocks the player into a corner of the level or stun-locks the player with unblockable flurry attacks), they have to run all the way back from the previous spawn point (bonfire), killing all the same enemies they just killed over again. Given that some bosses are very cheap and very far away from a bonfire, this adds up to some of the most wasteful playtime I’ve ever experienced in a game, especially since you may or may not be able to keep the souls (experience) of those in-between enemies you’ve repeatedly killed a thousand times. This game isn’t hard at all, it’s just ineptly designed. So while I may only be a third of the way in, my playtime is well past thirty hours.”

    I can’t even…

  12. I could go through your entire review and contradict nearly everything you claimed, but instead, I’ll keep it simple. You are a dumbass

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