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Dark Souls Second Opinion

Brad Gallaway's picture

Demon's over Dark

Dark Souls Screenshot

HIGH Being reunited with my old comrade, the Halberd.

LOW Anor Londo catwalks, Curse status, being lost, and THE ENDING.

WTF The frequent attack lag really passed QA?

While Sinan did an admirable job of explaining why Dark Souls is such an interesting experience (and I agree with much of what he said) I can't help but be disappointed with it. As someone who thought Demon's Souls was pure brilliance, there are simply too many issues in Dark Souls that keep it from surpassing, or even equaling it. Putting it bluntly, Dark Souls doesn't do anything that the original didn't—only now there are problems that weren't there before.

To begin with, the decision to take Dark Souls into open-world territory was an admirable one, yet what it offers is not appreciably better than the former system. I can understand the rationale behind it, but the developers have lost the incredible intensity and perfect scripting that the smaller environments in Demon's Souls had. Although the original was built around a central hub-world, it still felt as though there were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, I rarely felt hemmed in or constrained in artificial ways, and the focus of each section kept the player moving forward. In my view, it wasn't broken and didn't need fixing.

Although I can't say for certain, I would estimate that Dark Souls is at least three times larger than Demon's Souls. In crafting a world that's so much bigger than what the developers turned out last time, it feels as though they've badly overreached.

Playing the game without any FAQs, I often found myself wondering where I should go. After I'd pick a zone to explore, I would then constantly question whether my time was being well-spent. The game does give vague clues as to the next objective, but it's still quite easy to get off track and spend hours in the wrong part of the world. It can be argued that "being lost" often leads to finding items or adding to the player's knowledge, but that doesn't negate the fact that it can be quite frustrating to kill a boss or find a nifty item and feel as though no progress was achieved.

It's also frustrating to see that some areas feel padded-out, or poorly-designed. The early hours of the game are solid, but the further I went, the less appealing the environments became. There were also instances when the world felt large just for the sake of being large, and times when I realized some sections were created just to hold a boss and a key, without adding much to the overall atmosphere of the world. Some of the late-game areas are particularly awful (Lost Izalith is an atrocity) and don't have even a shred of the complexity or nuances that I'd expect. Neither Demon's Souls nor Dark Souls tell traditional narratives, but I had a stronger sense of environmental purpose in the former. Each area had urgency, balance and drive from start to finish. Dark Souls can't say the same.

Dark Souls Screenshot

Design decisions aside, there is no doubt that Dark Souls is rougher in terms of production than it should be. For a game that lives and dies by its level of immersion, hitting several areas with stuttering slowdown was bitterly disappointing. The game does run at a smooth clip for the bulk of play, but when the framerate gets bad, it's bad. The Blighttown zone is the worst offender, but there were several other places when things chugged and wheezed painfully.

While the choppy framerate should have been ironed out, what's worse is the rage-inducing delay between pushing an attack button and when the strike actually starts. I've heard this problem is more prevalent on the PS3 version (which I played) but after getting deep into the adventure, I could frequently count one to three seconds between when I meant to attack and when I actually did. In a game with lethal enemies and a combat system that relies on precision, having a recurring attack delay is simply unacceptable. Thanks to this constant hiccup, I suffered several undeserved deaths and more mis-timed attacks leaving me open than I could count. (And before you send me an email, no, it wasn't a malfunctioning controller.)

Taking a more meta view, Bandai-Namco's server situation has severely cut into the quality of the online multiplayer features. For some reason, crucial hint messages shared by other players seem to come and go at random. More importantly, it's sometimes impossible to "summon" assistance with bosses. I sometimes had a healthy handful of players available to jump to my aid, but more often than not, there wasn't a single person to be found despite being in the required human form. Besides that, I seemed to have about a 50% success rate when I finally found someone to summon. Errors in getting players to join occurred just as often as they didn't.

Speaking of summons, it's also irritating that it's next to impossible to arrange a session with a friend. While I'm quite aware that the developers intended the system to discourage players from connecting, it wasn't too hard to do in Demon's Souls—and in my opinion, taking down a big monster with someone I knew didn't hurt the experience one bit. Now, with the option to call in a stranger being so unpredictable (and often impossible) the ability to ask for help directly from a pal is needed more than ever. Keeping friend connections forbidden may have some artistic value, but that gain is far overshadowed by what's lost.

After the litany of issues I've just listed, I can in no way say that Dark Souls is a better experience than its predecessor. It's certainly different and larger, but the developers bit off more than they could chew. The consistency and overall quality of the first game just aren't there. It doesn't feel quite done. It doesn't feel as lovingly constructed.

Dark Souls might be worth playing for those who've beaten Demon's Souls multiple times and can't get enough, but a blink-and-you're-dead game of this sort needs to have every aspect airtight in order to maintain player buy-in, and that's just not the case. Dark Souls simply can't match the bar set by FromSoft's previous work. With every additional hour spent, the rough edges and annoyances kept adding up, and I eventually reached a point at which the sizable investment of time and effort wasn't delivering enough of a return.

Oh, and the ending? Talk about adding insult to injury... Rating: 6.0 out of 10.

Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 82 hours of play were spent, and the game was completed. There are no dedicated multiplayer-only modes.

Category Tags
Platform(s): Xbox 360   PS3  
Developer(s): FromSoft  
Publisher: Namco Bandai  
Genre(s): Role-Playing  
ESRB Rating: Mature (17+)  
Articles: Game Reviews  

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good points, but Demon Souls had some issues too

Good review and valid points. I did not notice the input lag, but I think that sometimes my R1 press does not register at all, often for backstab somehow. I am myself at about half way through the game, so I have not seen the last levels which are "awful" and the ending, but I enjoy the game so far. To me, the big problem with the predecessor, Demon Souls, was harder difficulty of pure melee fighting and that you could spam various ranged weapons/spells and win the fights in an easy but tedious way, especially boss fights. *Mild Spoilers Alert*. Like the Armor Spider (the cheapest boss ever with his web shot immediately followed by killer fireballs) with 200 arrows or the Tower Knight or Ajudicator with few Soul Arrows or even Old King Allant with Thief Ring and poison or otherwise. Considering the penalties for dieing, this really discouraged me playing melee most of the time, which is what I would normally prefer. However, in Dark Souls, I am still a pure melee class at half-point and does not feel the need to get ranged spells or ammo (maybe it will change later on :).

I also think that one would enjoy this game more with an *occasional* look into walkthroughs or guides, especially when it is not clear where to go next, like you correctly pointed out, happens quite often. This really won't spoil the fun of the exploration.

Gonna have to disagree with

Gonna have to disagree with you on the game not being better than Demon's Souls in any way.

1 - Better stat system. Specifically, removing the necessity to put stat points into luck (luck is now gained in other ways), consolidating spell slots into a single stat (previously split up between the lame Intelligence stat & Faith), and giving a good chunk of overall defense for each level gained.

2 - No item burden. This was very annoying in Demon's Souls, especially since the items that you tended to get a lot of like upgrade materials weigh a lot.

3 - The upgrade system was much less overwhelming. In Demon's Souls, there were 16 types of upgrade materials and almost all of these types had multiple levels of power. It was often very confusing to keep everything straight and figure out which material could be used on which weapon and why. In Dark Souls, there are only 8 types of upgrade materials (14 total if you count all of the levels) which made things much easier to figure out.

4 - Much better magic system. There are almost twice as many spells and though some of these are duplicate spells of varying power, there's still more variety. Miracles no longer feel like a one trick pony and there's the new pyromancy spells for people who want to have some magic without going full fledged mage. Hardly any spells require multiple slots whereas in Demon's Souls nearly half of the spells did which when combined with the new slot system means you can have a lot more variety in your equipped spells at one time in Dark Souls. And the removal of MP means that players have to actually think about when to use their spells instead of just spamming them with MP restoral items or equipment.

5 - Less load times. Thanks to the new bonfire system and streaming world, Dark Souls has much better load times than Demon's Souls.

Then there are more subjective things like level design. I think both games have exceptional level design and I'd be hard pressed to pick one over the other. I will agree that Dark Souls has more dud areas than Demon's Souls, but it also has drastically more areas period.

In any case, I've spent over a hundred hours on Dark Souls. I've only spent maybe 20-30 hours on Demon's Souls. When I finish Dark Souls (I've been having too much fun trying different builds to actually finish it), I'm going to be tempted to start over rather than go back and finish Demon's Souls.

Strange.

I still don't see where this input lag is. I never experienced it, and neither have any of my friends playing. In fact, many of the problems you listed I didn't have, except the framerate. And that existed in Demons Souls anyway.

Overall, I thought the game was much better than Demons Souls, and I have put over 200 hours into Dark Souls already. Also, I don't understand the complaints about not always knowing where to go. There are more than enough hints that tell you where to go. Occasionally NPCs will just straight up tell you. Then after you find the Lord Vessel, you are pretty much free to go anywhere. Hell, the first NPC you see tells you where both the bells are.

Anyway, sounds like you might not have explored enough and did not talk to everyone you could have. Oh well, your loss.

Hey Robert! I don't

Hey Robert!

I don't necessarily disagree with any of the points you bring up except for the level design, since I do feel as though Dark Souls has some severe deficiencies, especially in the mid-to-late game.

However, although the things you mentioned are better, I don't see them as being so significant that they make up for all of the problems that Dark Souls has. I mean, they are certainly nice-to-haves, but when weighing the two experiences overall, there's just no comparison for me.

Demon’s Souls may get some small stuff wrong, but looking at the big picture, it does everything better. For me, anyway. ; )

Was it really that bad?

Hey Brad,

Thanks for the review.

I'd like to preface this by saying that I am only about 33 hours into the Dark Souls adventure, but so far I am loving it just as much, if not more so, than Demon's Souls. I must admit I have having a hard time buying into some things you say in your review.

For instance, this paragraph:

"Playing the game without any FAQs, I often found myself wondering where I should go. After I'd pick a zone to explore, I would then constantly question whether my time was being well-spent. The game does give vague clues as to the next objective, but it's still quite easy to get off track and spend hours in the wrong part of the world. It can be argued that "being lost" often leads to finding items or adding to the player's knowledge, but that doesn't negate the fact that it can be quite frustrating to kill a boss or find a nifty item and feel as though no progress was achieved."

To me this type of criticism applies equally to Demon's as well. Both games have the same design that forces the player to figure out where to go for himself. I will say that the "open world" nature of Dark is a more pure form of this type of game structure based on exploration -- a game skeleton that has been around since the original Legend of Zelda and before -- but if you have a problem with that type of game, I just don't see how that criticism doesn't apply equally to Demon's.

You also state, "some sections were created just to hold a boss and a key, without adding much to the overall atmosphere of the world." This sounds like you are criticizing Dark for having arbitrary checkpoints, yet Demon's had checkpoints that were just as arbitrary. The foggy barrier that appears after you defeat Tower Knight comes to mind.

As far as the world being poorly designed, I don't agree with that at all, yet. Again, I am probably only about halfway through the game, but I have been thoroughly impressed with the level design so far. The levels feel very intricate to me. Undead Burg/Parish feels like Bolateria on steroids. One of the most exciting parts of the game has been exploring the Depths. I don't want to spoil the game for anyone, so I'll just say that I fell down a certain part and was completely lost. The accompanying "Oh ****" feeling was thrilling. It was intensely fun plodding along carefully, trying to survive, and work my way around to learn the layout of that claustrophobic area. In all honesty, the "open world" nature of Dark is a little bit of a ruse, and both Dark and Demon's have similar pacing to me, although Demon's may be a little more linear and focused. Perhaps I should reserve final judgement once I 've seen the later areas that you mentioned, like Lost Izalith.

I haven't had any of the technical issues in the review (on PS3). Admittedly I haven't gone to Blighttown yet, so I'll see if the stutter issues crop up there. I think the attack delay issue may be caused by two things: 1) Trying to attack while blocking/parrying. This results in the animation and physics of the enemy attack and your block playing itself out, a process that could take a couple of seconds, and then you attack immediately afterwards. 2) Using the R2 button to do a heavy swing. I have noticed that if I don't press the R2 button firmly enough, it doesn't attack. Aren't the R2/L2 buttons pressure sensitive? Seems like this could cause funny attack behavior.

You have mentioned that the ending to the game is atrocious a couple of times now, so I have to ask… what do you mean? Please don't spoil anything but, is it the final boss that is bad, or is it the ending to the story? Demon's ending wasn't so great either. The final boss in Demon's was a joke, a far far cry from the epic battles that most of the lesser bosses were. And the story ending in Demon's was not very elaborate either.

Dark obviously isn't without it's faults. My three main issues so far are: 1) Target switching isn't nearly as precise as in Demon's. 2) The status screen doesn' t show the required souls for the next level. 3) Some enemies don't drop souls at all, which discourages exploration in particular areas. However I hear they are going to fix all of this in the next software update, so that is exciting.

Dark does improve on some aspects of play over Demon's. The lack of the 1/2 HP penalty for death, for example. Instead of penalizing death like Demon's does, Dark gives incentive to stay alive and in human form.

Your review seems very negative and your statement that the "investment of time and effort wasn't delivering enough of a return" make it sound like Dark isn't worth playing. Dark and Demon's have such a similar gameplay structure in level design, pacing, battle system, etc… that it's really hard for me to see why anyone could rate Dark so lowly, and Demon's so highly. I can understand that you like Demon's better, and that's perfectly fair. However, it seems like you are being slightly too harsh on Dark merely because it wasn't as good as it's predecessor in your opinion. Shouldn't the game be judged on it's own merits? I know we don't want to get caught up in numbers, but if Demon's is 9.5, why isn't Dark more of a 7.5 or 8 instead of a 6?

Anyways, I enjoy reading your reviews (even if I don't agree) and others on GC.com. Keep up the good work.

Hey Squid. >>>I'd like to

Hey Squid.

>>>I'd like to preface this by saying that I am only about 33 hours into the Dark Souls adventure, but so far I am loving it just as much, if not more so, than Demon's Souls. I must admit I have having a hard time buying into some things you say in your review.

No problem, but if you haven't been to Blighttown yet, I'd estimate that you are less than halfway through the game, so you've got quite a bit left to see.

Also, it's worth noting that From has now released a second round of patches for the game that have fixed some of the issues I noted in my review. That's the problem with playing games early... now that it's so easy for developers to fix things after the fact, it's becoming more common that a reviewer's experience is sometimes significantly different than those players who come later.

>>>"Playing the game without any FAQs, I often found myself wondering where I should go. After I'd pick a zone to explore, I would then constantly question whether my time was being well-spent. The game does give vague clues as to the next objective, but it's still quite easy to get off track and spend hours in the wrong part of the world. It can be argued that "being lost" often leads to finding items or adding to the player's knowledge, but that doesn't negate the fact that it can be quite frustrating to kill a boss or find a nifty item and feel as though no progress was achieved."

>>>To me this type of criticism applies equally to Demon's as well. Both games have the same design that forces the player to figure out where to go for himself. I will say that the "open world" nature of Dark is a more pure form of this type of game structure based on exploration -- a game skeleton that has been around since the original Legend of Zelda and before -- but if you have a problem with that type of game, I just don't see how that criticism doesn't apply equally to Demon's.

I don't have a problem with that type of game, but you have to admit that Dark Souls offers less guidance or hints than just about any other open world game out there. Additionally, while it was possible to get a bit off-track in Demon’s, the structure of the level design itself made it fairly impossible to be truly lost for very long. The levels were designed to funnel the player towards the end point, so as long as the player kept at it, they were guaranteed to make progress after a certain time. That doesn't quite hold true in Dark.

>>>You also state, "some sections were created just to hold a boss and a key, without adding much to the overall atmosphere of the world." This sounds like you are criticizing Dark for having arbitrary checkpoints, yet Demon's had checkpoints that were just as arbitrary. The foggy barrier that appears after you defeat Tower Knight comes to mind.

That has nothing at all to do with checkpoints. It has to do with the fact that (like I said) some areas don't add significantly to the world or the environment, they seem to exist for the sake of existing and don't fit in or enhance the world in general. The world doesn't feel as tailored or as holistic as it did in Demon’s.

>>>As far as the world being poorly designed, I don't agree with that at all, yet. Again, I am probably only about halfway through the game, but I have been thoroughly impressed with the level design so far. The levels feel very intricate to me. Undead Burg/Parish feels like Bolateria on steroids. One of the most exciting parts of the game has been exploring the Depths. I don't want to spoil the game for anyone, so I'll just say that I fell down a certain part and was completely lost. The accompanying "Oh ****" feeling was thrilling. It was intensely fun plodding along carefully, trying to survive, and work my way around to learn the layout of that claustrophobic area. In all honesty, the "open world" nature of Dark is a little bit of a ruse, and both Dark and Demon's have similar pacing to me, although Demon's may be a little more linear and focused. Perhaps I should reserve final judgement once I 've seen the later areas that you mentioned, like Lost Izalith.

Like I said, it seems as though you are less than halfway through the game and you're still in the "good parts" that I enjoyed. When you get to some of the late-game stages, you'll see simplistic busy-work designs start to pop up that are little more than hallways with monsters thrown into them. Dark Souls’ best-designed areas are right at the start.

>>>I haven't had any of the technical issues in the review (on PS3). Admittedly I haven't gone to Blighttown yet, so I'll see if the stutter issues crop up there. I think the attack delay issue may be caused by two things: 1) Trying to attack while blocking/parrying. This results in the animation and physics of the enemy attack and your block playing itself out, a process that could take a couple of seconds, and then you attack immediately afterwards. 2) Using the R2 button to do a heavy swing. I have noticed that if I don't press the R2 button firmly enough, it doesn't attack. Aren't the R2/L2 buttons pressure sensitive? Seems like this could cause funny attack behavior.

The delay had nothing to do with input error, pressure-sensitive buttons or physics of the attacks, it was literally a delay in processing commands. Apparently this problem has been fixed with the most recent patch, so it's probably not going to be an issue in the future.

>>You have mentioned that the ending to the game is atrocious a couple of times now, so I have to ask… what do you mean? Please don't spoil anything but, is it the final boss that is bad, or is it the ending to the story? Demon's ending wasn't so great either. The final boss in Demon's was a joke, a far far cry from the epic battles that most of the lesser bosses were. And the story ending in Demon's was not very elaborate either.

I literally mean that *the ending* is terrible, as in, the sequence that occurs after you defeat the final boss is completely insulting. If you didn't think much of the story/final boss/ending in Demon’s Souls (which was an order of magnitude better than what is accomplished in Dark) then I can only imagine that you will be as disappointed as I was here.

>>Dark does improve on some aspects of play over Demon's. The lack of the 1/2 HP penalty for death, for example. Instead of penalizing death like Demon's does, Dark gives incentive to stay alive and in human form.

There's actually no incentive at all to stay alive in Dark Souls unless you're interested in the multiplayer aspects. Halving your lifebar made being human in Demon’s a very special status, and one that needed to be valued. With no life penalty and a wealth of upgradable flasks in Dark, players can very easily get through the entire game without ever being human once. The dead/undead status wasn’t a penalty in Demon’s, it taught players the value of being human.

>>>Your review seems very negative and your statement that the "investment of time and effort wasn't delivering enough of a return" make it sound like Dark isn't worth playing. Dark and Demon's have such a similar gameplay structure in level design, pacing, battle system, etc… that it's really hard for me to see why anyone could rate Dark so lowly, and Demon's so highly. I can understand that you like Demon's better, and that's perfectly fair. However, it seems like you are being slightly too harsh on Dark merely because it wasn't as good as it's predecessor in your opinion. Shouldn't the game be judged on it's own merits? I know we don't want to get caught up in numbers, but if Demon's is 9.5, why isn't Dark more of a 7.5 or 8 instead of a 6?

I've laid out the reasons why I think the game isn't nearly as good as its predecessor, and it's basically impossible for anyone who's played the last game not to compare the two. Even if I was to attempt to completely ignore the fact that Demon’s existed, there were so many technical problems and design issues (pre-patch) in Dark that it still would have been rated strictly. Is it a good game? Sure, but like I said already, it doesn't do anything significantly better than Demon’s Souls and gets a lot of other things worse.

Thanks for your comments, and thanks for reading.

Brad, Thanks for your

Brad,
Thanks for your response. I think it clears it up for me a little bit. It sounds like it really boils down to two things:

1) The technical issues really bogged you down, whereas I have been fortunate enough to not have any issues so far.

2) The later levels sound like they hold all of the design problems, and I have yet to play those yet. It really sounds like I have to reserve judgement until I've finished the game. I have found the areas that I've played so far very well designed, so I hope you can understand my surprise that the later levels are so bad. They must REALLY be bad if they bring the overall "score" of the game down so much.

This probably isn't the case, but I am still hoping that maybe there are some side paths or something that you didn't see in those later levels, so maybe they just seemed like long hallways or something. That happened to me in Demon's Souls. I finished the game without ever finding the "bugbear" pathway to Flamelurker, haha, so you can imagine what I thought of that level.

FYI I didn't mean any offense when talking about your attack delay problems or imply that it wasn't a real problem. I was just brainstorming logical reasons why you would have had those problems.

If the sequence *after* the last boss is bad, I will probably be ok with that, because I'm not playing the game for the "story". The "story" to me is the experience I have playing the role in the game and interacting with the world. I like what you guys said in the podcast, that this is the "purest form of role-playing" or something like that. I just want an epic and challenging final boss battle.

I would have to disagree about the 1/2 HP bar status in Demon's. It was almost an archaic design choice, in my opinion. I appreciate that it ultimately made you value being alive and not in soul form, but ultimately possessing your body and a full HP bar was always a short lived experience due to the cycle of the levels. Start new level > die over and over (and lose your body form) > get to boss and die on boss a few times (and lose your body form if you haven't already) > beat boss and get body form back, only to lose it again when you try the next level. How much of the game do you spend in body form anyways, 5% or less?

I appreciate Dark Souls' method much more. I haven't read any FAQs either, but from what I have noticed anecdotally, being "alive" in Dark seems to make you better in combat, and increases the drop rate of items dramatically. It also allows you to perform a variety of other functions such as Kindling at the bonfires and participating in online functions (as you stated). Of course all these bonuses for not being "Hollow" are carefully balanced with the fact that you can be invaded by another player, which has happened to me quite a few times.

One last thing: I do agree that it's almost impossible to not compare Dark to Demon's, and you're not wrong to do so. It just seemed to me that your review was extra critical of Dark, and I got the impression that some of that condemnation was only because the game wasn't as good/better than it's predecessor, and not truly because the game was THAT bad in and of itself. But if you stand by your word, I accept it. From what I've played of Dark so far, the rest of the game would have to be pretty poor to make me not recommend it to someone else. Maybe I'll check back in a month when I finally finish, and we'll see!

Best,
WS

Have to say, closing in on

Have to say, closing in on the end of the game I disagree with pretty much every point above.
The lag in Blighttown was an annoyance, but not much of a hindrance overall.
I got the game the day before official release and have been pacing myself by joyfully wandering around the world, and have experienced none of this mythic input malfunction (PS3).
Personally I'm much happier with the way the online works this time around, though there's certainly less bloodstains so the focus is firmly on leaving anonymous messages. People do fail to summon from time to time, but maybe they don't want in and are deliberately dropping out to continue their own quests? I've done it once or twice, much as I love to help. The message system and the lack of a hub are far more immersive because you have to learn the whole world rather than being able to just skip to certain parts at will (until later in the game, obviously).
I love both games, and I can see why you're griping, but this has genuinely fixed many of my issues with Demon's Souls. Sure, it's not utterly perfect, but it's a damn sight better than seeing the same game being remade over and over again (FPS titles, I'm looking at you).

Thank you, Brad! Finally, the truth comes out :)

The performance in this game is AWFUL! Gamebreakingly awful.

I never played Demon's Souls and this game (on the XBox 360) was my first experience with the series. After about 30 minutes, I was blown away at how choppy and laggy the game was. AND I WAS PLAYING THE GAME OFFLINE! Dark Souls handles like an old computer trying to play WoW with a dial-up Internet connection. Why is nobody mentioning this? In this day and age, no console game should handle this poorly. Especially a game that is based upon action finesse. It's not like this is a turn-based RPG. If this game did not have the protection of being the sequel to Demon's Souls, reviewers and gamers would be tearing it apart and you know it! But this is one of those "agreed-upon" games where it is decided in advance that it will be praised to the heavens once it comes out, regardless of the actual quality of the game (COD and GTA, I am looking at you!)

Brad Gallaway, you score an A+ for integrity. Keep on rocking!

I would say I agree with

I would say I agree with your point that Dark Souls is not the Complete experience that Demon's Souls was, but I also do not find it as flawed as you do either.

Certainly it felt rushed, or incomplete to say the least. The first indicator being the now classic "You Defeated". At first I sat there thinking, and..., but no, just "You Defeated". It's almost as if they just left that part open and then forgot to complete it before going gold. And for anyone who's completed it (or in my case, completed four times with both endings) the ending(s)leave everything to be desired, as there essentially isn't one.

Demon's Souls wasn't known for it's impeccable story or conclusion, but at least it had one. I wasn't expecting the world, but when you battle tooth and nail through something like that, a little wrap up, and some kind of cut scene is deserved. Dark Souls basically gave you none of that (a little with the Dark ending, but still entirely incomplete).

The one area I completely agree with you on is summoning. Why on earth they thought switching from open dedicated to p2p style engagement will baffle me forever. That's what made Demon's Souls so incredible. The ability to communicate with friends, and meet up for boss fights, or just tougher levels was awesome. Not to mention the beauty of PVP. Now PVP was certainly the result of the dupe glitch, and a collective agreement of rules and area (which were often broken), but man was it the best. I still can think of no 1v1 competitive gameplay that I liked more, or that was more unique. I really wish they would just flat out make a PVP arena where you could take your builds and compete, but clearly that's not how they see the game anywhere.

In regards to the solo experience itself, it was amazing. I know Lost Izalith was certainly the snoozer of the bunch, but to call any part of that game 'awful' seems wildly out of line to me. I too loved the way Demon's was staged, and it felt like a tighter experience to be sure. But I also didn't want the exact same set up again. It may not be perfect, but I love the open world set up. I like that it started to fit together through shortcuts, and the ability to warp as the game progressed. I liked having open silent lengths of territory. It all added to the mystery and desperation of the game.

Much Like Demon's, it's at it's heart a game you make your own. I love that like it's predecessor it's utterly weird and unexplained. I love that no game makes me want to try so hard, and fight so much just to hear a few lines of dialogue or get a set of armor. And how about that armor, those weapons, those spells? Beautiful. Many games have deep weapon and armor stashes, but no two games have the quality of animations, and variety of weapon movement these two games have, and in that regard I think Dark took it even farther than Demon's. My only regret is that it's such a bitch to use these weapons against a few thousand black phantoms.

Is it as good as Demon's, No, I don't think so either. Is it damn close, yes. It's just something different, actually different. For a game that didn't change it's HUD or mechanics one bit, it's a whole different experience, and that's what should be remembered more than how it isn't enough like Demon's Souls. To be fair I also never experienced any kind of game crippling lag, or frame rate issues either. It's always hard to pin those things down. I've been reading for years across many boards about how one half of the same game and system owners will have a particular issue, while others don't have it in the slightest, it's an anomaly (except for PS3 Skyrim apparently, which I just lost $15 on reselling on Ebay so I can get it on 360 instead, I'll be watching you Bethesda).

You made many valid points, and I agree with on several of those. But it's not a broken or awful game in any way I don't believe. If you had those troubles, I'm sorry, that sucks. But unless it's a universally accepted flaw (as in Skyrim) then to use your unfortunate luck as a basis to denigrate the game as part of your review, well that just seems unjust.

I'm about 40 hours into my

I'm about 40 hours into my main character, about 55 hours total, into Dark Souls. I'm playing on 360 and I can say that not only is this my GOTY, but one of my favorite games of all time.

FYI, I've never played Demon's Souls.

Brad, to the extent that input lag was ever a problem, I think the patch has taken care of it. I've had zero problems. Soul count per kill has also been increased, and ghosts and skeletons now give souls when killed (among many other changes).

There are definitely some legitimate criticisms in this review. I strongly disagree that any of them ruin the game. I'm in Blighttown right now and honestly, I haven't had much of a problem with it. I made it to the boss area and were it not for an unfortunate incident with a water-wheel, I would have fought the boss. If you're careful and take it slow, the area isn't that tough. The biggest danger is from falling.

Along the way, I got cursed exactly one time. And that's because I was being reckless. Being cursed really isn't as horrific as it's made out to be. Everyone talks about that one guy who supposedly got himself cursed 4-5 times, but I can't even comprehend how someone could have done that. Unless you play extremely recklessly, I just don't see how any reasonable player could find himself cursed that may times. (And hey, as of the most recent patch, Curse no longer stacks, so even that is no longer a problem.)

Brad, one reason you might have had problems summoning players is that you were overleveled. From what I understand, summoning typically requires a player within 4-10 levels of your current level (+/-). And I've seen tons of player messages on 360, many of them extremely helpful. I was level 18 or so when I hit the gargoyles with my secondary character and I managed to summon someone almost instantly.

I also disagree that there is no penalty for dying. Humanity increases your drop rate significantly, so there's plenty of reason to hold it. Of course, being human allows you to summon as well.

And at this point, I don't care about the ending. It could be a simple "CONGRATURATION!" and it wouldn't change my feelings about the game.

I'm curious how Dark compares to Demon's, but I suspect I wouldn't feel any differently about the game if I had played Demon's first.

Hey Sleeve, always good to

Hey Sleeve, always good to get a note from you. = )

>>>I'm about 40 hours into my main character, about 55 hours total, into Dark Souls. I'm playing on 360 and I can say that not only is this my GOTY, but one of my favorite games of all time. FYI, I've never played Demon's Souls.

You should track it down. If you like Dark that much, I can only imagine that you would like Demon’s just as much, if not more so.

>>>Brad, to the extent that input lag was ever a problem, I think the patch has taken care of it. I've had zero problems. Soul count per kill has also been increased, and ghosts and skeletons now give souls when killed (among many other changes).

Yeah, I've heard that the patch fixed a lot of things, including the lag. Very good to hear.

>>>There are definitely some legitimate criticisms in this review. I strongly disagree that any of them ruin the game. I'm in Blighttown right now and honestly, I haven't had much of a problem with it. I made it to the boss area and were it not for an unfortunate incident with a water-wheel, I would have fought the boss. If you're careful and take it slow, the area isn't that tough. The biggest danger is from falling.

I had major slowdown problems in that part. I haven't gone back to see what it looks like now after the patch, but it was rough and ironically enough, falling was one of the biggest problems due to the slowdown. Just so you know, the Blighttown area is basically a carbon-copy of an area from Demon’s, except that I felt like it was done better the first time.

>>>Along the way, I got cursed exactly one time. And that's because I was being reckless. Being cursed really isn't as horrific as it's made out to be. Everyone talks about that one guy who supposedly got himself cursed 4-5 times, but I can't even comprehend how someone could have done that. Unless you play extremely recklessly, I just don't see how any reasonable player could find himself cursed that may times. (And hey, as of the most recent patch, Curse no longer stacks, so even that is no longer a problem.)

I definitely agree that getting cursed wasn't the “OMFG HAD TO RESTART MY ENTIRE GAME” situation that some people made it out to be. Still, it was pretty brutal before the patch… it used to stack, and the places where you bought the curse removal are now much closer to reach than they used to be.

>>>Brad, one reason you might have had problems summoning players is that you were overleveled. From what I understand, summoning typically requires a player within 4-10 levels of your current level (+/-). And I've seen tons of player messages on 360, many of them extremely helpful. I was level 18 or so when I hit the gargoyles with my secondary character and I managed to summon someone almost instantly.

Again, this sounds like something that is better after the patch. I talked with Tim (he's still playing it as we speak) and he said he noticed an immediate difference in the summoning. I was definitely aware of the way the levels function when summoning other players, but that wasn't the issue... for example, I was in New Londo and trying to summon an assist. The first time, there would be absolutely no people to summon. I would then turn off the PS3, restart, and when I went back (and I'm talking just a minute or two to reboot the hardware here) there would be a whole handful of people to summon, if not more.

Besides that, there were several times when messages would appear and disappear within the span of a few minutes when I was doing these reboots, and some of those messages were great ones. I can't really imagine that the authors were going back and erasing those messages at the exact moment when I was noticing the absences.

>>>I also disagree that there is no penalty for dying. Humanity increases your drop rate significantly, so there's plenty of reason to hold it. Of course, being human allows you to summon as well.

An increased drop rate is true, but there are at least two items that I know of that offset that bonus while undead, so IMO the only real reason to ever be human is to summon. If you are a player who doesn't mind going it alone or you don't want to hassle with PVP, there's really no substantial benefit to being human and the penalties for being undead are miniscule, the way I see it, anyway.

>>>And at this point, I don't care about the ending. It could be a simple "CONGRATURATION!" and it wouldn't change my feelings about the game.

That's very good to hear, because you're not far off. ; D

>>>I'm curious how Dark compares to Demon's, but I suspect I wouldn't feel any differently about the game if I had played Demon's first.

I would love to talk to you after you get a chance to play it. The story elements in Demon’s were much better, and the game overall feels more focused and tighter without losing any of the epic quality. I can understand where you're coming from and it's not like I think Dark is terrible, but going from one of the best games I've ever played in my life to something that is a lesser, repeat performance was pretty disappointing.

Ah well.

Brad Gallaway

Brad Gallaway wrote:

Besides that, there were several times when messages would appear and disappear within the span of a few minutes when I was doing these reboots, and some of those messages were great ones. I can't really imagine that the authors were going back and erasing those messages at the exact moment when I was noticing the absences.

This may be the way the game was designed and is not a bug. I have seen messages disappear and reappear and and I think it's just to keep the ethereal nature of the players in the other words. It would be pretty boring if you saw the same exact messages every time you went to some area. The game has to have some messages disappear and have new ones reappear every once in a while. There's got to be a bajillion messages across the world by now, and they can't show every message ever written.

Wiggly Squid wrote: This

Wiggly Squid wrote:

This may be the way the game was designed and is not a bug. I have seen messages disappear and reappear and and I think it's just to keep the ethereal nature of the players in the other words. It would be pretty boring if you saw the same exact messages every time you went to some area. The game has to have some messages disappear and have new ones reappear every once in a while. There's got to be a bajillion messages across the world by now, and they can't show every message ever written.

Mr. Squid is correct. The game is designed this way. You can "rate" messages by pushing the Select button and selecting "+" or "-". I presume that well-rated messages get some kind of priority over others. There is a miracle called "Seek Guidance" that increases the amount of messages that are displayed.

Regarding input lag: I was fighting Sif last night, and experienced my first bout of input lag. I also noticed that my XBL connection was bad. So it appears that input lag is tied to the strength of your connection. I suppose that if someone was having a really bad time with lag due to their connection, then switching to offline mode would fix this problem.

Good review, but I disagreed

Good review, but I disagreed with a lot of what you said.

First off, I will testify that the input delay DOES exist, even on 360. I experienced it myself. To any out there still doubting, please don't. It doesn't happen with every swing, but often enough to feel unfair.

As to your other points, having an open world without a strict, impregnable hub area is definitely a legitimate design choice, and does provide a sense of immersion and besiegement that doesn't occur in a game like Demon's. At least, not to the same extent. The interlocking geography of the world is also something a lot of people will appreciate, even if you didn't.

As has been pointed out, there is a lot of chaff in the game, but it is also a bigger and longer game than Demon's. Lost Izalith is annoying and poorly designed, true, but you're misleading people by saying the latter half of the game isn't very captivating; Anor Londo's marble city was simply breathtaking with it's pink dawn lighting, and Sen's Fortress was very atmospheric and well designed.

Your accusations of padding and areas that "don't serve a purpose" don't ring true compared to Demon's Souls. In Demon's, the padding was achieved by making you slog through the entire level again if you died, as opposed to your nearest bonfire.

Your comment on the boss rooms just doesn't make sense. Almost every boss in Demon's was housed in some improbably massive room with no perceptible use. What purpose did the vast courtyard with the Tower Knight clearly have, or the big cave with the pestilence demon in Demon's, compared to, say, the Hydra's waterfall or the Gaping Dragon's underwater lake? All of these areas are obvious checkpoints... they're not meant to be believable parts of the surrounding topography.

Also, it should be pointed out that there definitely are benefits to being Human in Dark: you have increased item drop rates, higher curse defence, and I believe slightly higher defence generally. You also LOOK human, which the developer's clearly meant to be a reward compared to your horrific hollowed visage. You also dismiss the multiplayer aspect of being human, but it's an integral part of the game, as you yourself point out, so it's not really valid to ignore. Being hollow the whole game is certainly viable, but it's harder and it's an unnecessary slog. Same as being a spirit in Demon's.

In Demons Souls, I have

In Demons Souls, I have experienced the R1 input lag and jittery framerates like blightown. That is all.

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