Average User Score: 8.6Oct 11, 2011This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. After extensively playing Demon's Souls (100+ hours) and extensively playing Dark Souls (50+ hours, and counting) I would rate Dark Souls somewhere between a 9 and a 10.
The game itself is quite challenging, obviously. But not challenging as in requiring insane reflexes or with unfair enemy tactics, of which I have to say are few and far between. For the average boss fight, all that is required for the most part is knowledge. Knowledge of the boss' tactics, knowledge of the best ways to avoid them, and the best ways to deal damage, safely, utilizing the aforementioned knowledge. Taking the words from another reviewer, death in Dark Souls is a learning tool, not a punishment. If you died, there was most likely something you did wrong that, if you had reacted differently, wouldn't have lead to your death. If you had pulled that enemy away from the ledge you wouldn't have been knocked off. If you had split the enemies up you wouldn't have been overwhelmed. If you had blocked instead of attacked, you wouldn't have been chain-hit by three enemies. If you had run from the dragon rearing back instead of swinging, you wouldn't have been burned to a crisp. None of these instances require twitch reflexes, just a knowledge of what to do and not panicking enough to execute it properly. The only fight I can think of requiring actual, sincere luck, is a boss named Capra Demon. This fight is a demon twice your height wielding two large swords, and by himself, he is a pushover. However, thrown into this fight is also two small mobs. Two dogs. If you don't eliminate them quickly, you will be overwhelmed by the boss' two large swords and the two dogs repeatedly wailing on you. But once the dogs are down, the fight becomes simple. The luck doesn't even play a part for every type of character, just my own, a squishy little dagger-wielding rogue. A solid brick-wall of a shield would eliminate the group as a threat, something my rogue can't wield without serious concessions in mobility, if at all.
Compared to Dark Souls, this game has a few major changes:
It's open world. Exploration has become much more key, not just in finding items, but in finding shortcuts to cut down on travel time, and finding bonfires to cut down on time spent running back to your corpse, slaying the very things that slayed you. There is no Nexus, the only "safe hubs" in the game are bonfires, or any place you feel you have safely cleared out.
No more grass. The main method of healing is a Flask that defaults to 5 drinks per visit to the bonfire. You can "kindle" the bonfire, requiring a rare currency called Humanity, to allow you to leave a specific bonfire with 10 drinks. Essentially you have 5-10 heals to get to the next bonfire, or you'll quickly be either backtracking, or dieing.
Pyromancy, a magic that doesn't require any amount of stat investment, making it a magic that any character may fall back upon. Much more weapons, therefor much more options. Daggers are viable. Scythes are viable. Faith and Magic based characters have bows to fall back upon. Crossbows don't suck anymore. Parrying is made a bit easier, resulting in more characters relying on counter-attacks. (Most) all armor can be upgraded. If you like the way a set looks, upgrade it. Assuming its stats weren't complete crap, it should be viable. This applies to weapons as well.
After a certain level, your defenses (Blunt/Slashing/Piercing) stop going up with every point investment. There is a new stat governing JUST defenses, called Resistances. HP and Defenses are no longer rolled into a single stat.
Covenants. I look at them as ways to obtain phat loots, be it weapons or armor, or even spells. They are also an excuse to make other players' lives a living hell, or to get revenge on other players for doing so. As a member of the Forest Covenant, by wearing a ring I submit myself to being summoned whenever another player, in their own game, wishes to attack the forest's denizens. By defending the forest and slaying them, I increase my favor with the Forest Covenant, and in turn receive loot.
You do have a path to which you must follow to inevitably conclude the game, but the methods to which you follow that path are, for the most part, up to you. I have a character right now that could challenge three separate bosses, normally falling into a specific order, but I skipped two bosses on the "Linear Path" to beat the area of the third boss, so that I could obtain some phat lewts. A katana and a ninja-esque looking set, specifically. Overall, I rate the game as a VERY enjoyable experience with tons of hours of playtime. I'm 50 in and haven't beaten the game. Your mileage may vary :) I'm just taking my time.… Expand