Dark Souls

[E3 2011] The Soul Still Burns

Wrong game? Wait until you give Dark Souls a little hands-on time and see if you aren't severely inflamed.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 16, 2011
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Let this be a lesson to anyone thinking Dark Souls will just be Demon's Souls gone bigger: it is significantly harder -- particularly if you're a total moron and decide that rolling into your first hands-on time with the game using the most feeble magic-based pre-selected class is a good idea. It isn't. We're proof of that. But hooboy are we completely, utterly, undeniably hooked.

Created specifically for the big E3 madhouse, this sliver of the Dark Souls experience was something to behold, though one would be awfully hard-pressed to distinguish it from its predecessor in terms of visuals. There's perhaps just a bit more in the way of overall visual polish when first starting out in a slightly overgrown keep... until one spins the camera around behind that starting point and drinks in a massive world that, we don't hesitate to remind you, is freely explorable. If you can see it, chances are you can go there... but there'll be plenty in the way.

As if to help highlight this, the most obvious path through an archway of the keep was a relatively smattering of general baddies and a rather large dragon of the fire-breathing variety. We ran out to face it. We decided against that. We ran the other way. We burned. We died. And all in sight of the game's central new feature: a bonfire.

Bonfires are interesting stuff. Serving as equal parts checkpoint for respawns (more on those in a bit) and restorative aid, one can actually strengthen the bonfires to add another dose of health refilling potions and gift that to anyone else that happens to be playing in your always-connected world. Since the number of restoratives is apparently fixed this time around (capped normally at just five), at least visiting a bonfire -- if not strengthening it which can only be done if you're in Dark Souls' version of "Body Form" for those that played Demon's Souls.

If you didn't, that's fine (no, it's not, shame on you). Unlike the first game, your character only ever has one real state, though they won't be completely whole unless they've recaptured the sparkling swirl that marks wherever they died last. On the plus side, there's no longer a health penalty for dying, though obviously you can't help the bonfires to burn brighter without being complete, so there's still incentive to stay alive.

This is something that is exceedingly difficult, it should be added.

Dark Souls is indeed a tougher game than Demon's Souls, but only because it seems to up the number of simultaneous encounters, and enemies are far more eager to follow you, so just running around encounters and making a break for a far-off area won't work anymore. Be prepared to have a train of foes following you if you don't deal with them quickly. That is, of course, half the challenge, especially when a giant armored boar has its tusks lowered in search of your fleshy, unprotected innards.

This boar actually represented one of the game's cruel but interesting diversions: it can't be killed normally, but by searching his domicile (or at least around it; remember, everything in Dark Souls is one giant interconnected mess), one can find a lure that can be tossed on a fire, at which point the boar will make a run for the lure, light himself on fire and presto, boar BBQ.
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