Any game can deliver a few cheap scares. It takes a special one to terrify you. Dark Souls is such a game. It’s a thoughtful, atmospheric, and mysterious role-playing adventure that challenges your mind and your mettle. It takes the concepts of deadly environments and unflinching difficulty introduced by 2009’s infamously tough Demon’s Souls and cranks up the challenge, the fear, the frustration, and the eventual triumph. Dark Souls’ enormous world is vast and dangerous, filled with terrifying fire demons and homicidal lizardmen, all with a single goal: to annihilate you. And so you die, over and over again, as you make your way through this strikingly fearsome land. But in Dark Souls, death and resurrection is a core mechanic, not a roadblock, and because the combat is so precise, you ultimately feel in control of your destiny. Dark Souls plays by its own rules, and in doing so, provides an unforgettable adventure that seeps into your being and invades your thoughts. It’s a landmark game, destined to be loved and talked about by anyone who has the pleasure of unraveling its mysteries.
Like Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls is a third-person dungeon crawler with precise and responsive combat. You create a character, select a class, and enter a bleak kingdom populated by undead horrors, shrieking gargoyles, and iron-clad knights. The tutorial introduces you to the impending terrors in fine fashion. You fight a gargantuan ogre, get rolled over by a giant ball, and encounter a sad fellow who issues you a warning in his final moments. After this sinister and enthralling introduction, a giant raven flies you to the shrine that serves as your initial hub. And so begins your exploration of Lordran, where non-player characters offer a few vague notions of where you are and what you must do, but little else. NPCs muse on their undead conditions and emit disturbing giggles, but Dark Souls doesn’t focus on plot, character development, or questing in the traditional sense. Rather, it provides you with a captivating world spiced with narrative details, and encourages you to craft your own tale. You might expect that such thin storytelling might lead to aimlessness, but Dark Souls is anything but aimless, in part due to the structure and design of its large, seamless world.