Dark Souls came in the post yesterday-
Ohhhhh yeah!!! The time has come. Six months of salivating over screenshots leading up to this.

Wow, what a game. Once in a while I feel drawn against my will to pop open the laptop and review really impressive games that I've played. Well I'm probably half-way through this one as we speak, and I can say in no uncertain terms that Dark Souls is absolutely one of the *best* games I've ever played, on so many levels. Screw working on my own game- which is what I should've been doing this weekend. I think I must've clocked in about 7 hours on DS yesterday.

As a single-player game, I felt that DS is superior to Demon's Souls- it's 'spiritual' predecessor. You can feel why they didn't just call it a sequel, item name-swapping aside, it has a much more open universe feel; though they have some parallels you can sense they're different games. Mostly because even though you can feel it's more linear than say FallOut 3, the game is much more in the tradition of exploration than the previous one.
The difficulty level is borderline impossible in most cases and frankly, I love it. Bring on the challenge, bitches. You'll probably die within 20 minutes of leaving the FireLit Shrine and it doesn't get easier from there, so get used to it. You'll progress through this game at crawling speed, literally pooping yourself at every step because it's 'that' easy to get killed. It's like From took the first gamble with Demon's Souls, concluded that *YES* there are people who do not want to be babysat through games anymore and they just went 'F*ck it, let's give it to 'em with both barrels.'
This is the type of game that old school Neanderthal hunter gamers that worship a challenge have been praying for, a roaring BEAST that only belongs in the palms of the hardcore gamer to conquer, and that will send others running home crying for mumma. Yes, I'll bet there's a ton of casual gamers bithing about it's difficulty all over the web. Well screw you noobs! That's what I have to say. Get back to your comfy Ninja Gay-Den and leave the real games for the real men.
The game is a creative masterpiece. Seriously, bravo to the master artist/s who came up with all the character concepts and conducted the fantasy art visuals on this game; they deserve an award. The menu and item designs are ornate, finely detailed and gorgeous. Boss enemies look epic and mythical and they're also highly original in design, going way beyond just being great to look at, some real brainstorming has gone into how these. Then there's the weapons and armour, some of them are the same old but others are just bizarre and leave you clueless yet intrigued. All in all it captures a kind of creative originality you don't see in many games these days, someone has some good chops. A 3 Headed Pinwheel monster, a Skeleton BlackSmith? It's like, wtf man, but at the same time it's brilliant.
Just take a look at the breathtaking art that went into this game here. The graphics have some serious legs.

I didn't expect any less since Demon's Souls was also something to look at, but they've amped it up here to another level.

I love the game because it's almost as if From Software have taken the entire library of Fighting Fantasy books and turned it into a game. I was really impressed with one part called The Catacoombs, the lighting (or rather lack of it) is fantastic, I genuinely had to stop for a minute just to suck up the glory of some of the views (Gargoyle boss area) anyone. Mountain hiking is one of my hobbies and playing DS stimulated my feelings in the same way as when you reach a peak after a hard ascent. The serenity of ethereal quality of certain views enhances the game for me threefold. No storyline, total mystery, everything is intangible and left to the player to figure out. What a great universe; it's so D&D done right. I'm even impressed by the language, I think they must've hired some Oxford poetry prof. it uses rich language that is cohesive with the style of the game. I can't help but wonder how a Japanese team could manage to capture so beautifully something that is so integrally Western.

Gameplay is addictive as hell. Nearly all the enemies require a kind of strategy to beat, and you can never expect to win if you rush around aimlessly attacking; without prior contemplation you're a dead man. Either way the enemies are never too mechanical, they'll still do weird actions sometimes that'll make you scratch your head (after you die).
I mean, the fighting is realistic in a sense, that's what's great about it. Perfect-timing is called for with many of the larger enemies, as a single merciless blow can end your life, shield carrying or not.
And those attacks look good. Swords ping when then repel off the well, shields thud, the battles flow nicely. And enemies will follow you anywhere, kick you off ladders, set traps to stop you escaping. The AI guys did a good job. There's some sections of this game that are so hard I had no choice but to try to leg it through, and what a thrill when you get to the other side.
It lets you know that you cannot just stride through the whole game with your favourite weapon, thinking you'll breeze through it. You will have to observe and experiment, explore to find shortcuts, take risky jumps and pray before kissing your ass goodbye.
And there's no pause button if you think about getting a breather.

The sfx and music, I'm not going to say much about but perfect, perfect perfect. I especially liked the opening menu melody (kind of reminds me of Resident Evil 4), and the Moonlight Butterfly boss audio was a treat, so weird and wonderful.

You can tell that From Software are really opening the book on the way we play multiplayer. I've said it in interviews before and I'll say it again now, in the future we'll see some incredibly creative and rich ways to play online together. Not just PvsP fights or Co-Op but other methods of aligning ourselves with certain groups we like and having it affect the way we play the game. Now we have covenants in Dark Souls meaning you can choose what type of multiplayer experience you want to have. Be a good and gracious person who aids and heals, or like me if you just want to be a badass troll and invade as many innocent games as possible, you can do that and actually be rewarded for it. Genius! But then there's the
Blades of the Darkmoon who act as the 'sheriff's' of the game, who enact revenge on aggressive interlopers who keep invading worlds and whose names are compiled on an online list. Genius really.

These guys will win awards for their efforts, mark my words. Best game of 2011 IMO.

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