…And In The Darkness Bind Them
Is Dark Souls the One Game to rule them all?
Published: October 22, 2011
No matter which direction you decide to start your journey in, you'll soon come to realize that through various explorations and unlocking of shortcuts just how well interconnected this world is. It's by no means linear, and the almost dizzying array of various biomes and both interior and exterior areas you explore is simply breathtaking. This is a fully realized world, so elegantly crafted that you'll never find yourself more than a few minutes' walk from one area to the next early on, and as more terrain opens up to you, you'll be given ways to zoom around that keep you from frustrating backtracking. When you die, you'll still lose your souls (the currency of the game) and any stored humanity (more on that in a bit) but if you can make it back to your corpse before dying again you'll recover all of it. You'll respawn at the most recent bonfire you rested, all set to go try and try and try again.
Bonfires are the new center of everything, essentially a mobile hub with locations existing at least once in every area. This is where you'll see other travelers' ghosts resting, and you'll be able to spend souls to level up, repair and upgrade weapons and armor (after purchasing those abilities), and most importantly, refill your Estus flask. The Estus flask is your primary source of health regeneration this time around, replacing the various herbs from the previous game, and the system is both a blessing and curse. It's great that you can always refill your 5 (or later 10, 15 or even 20) flasks, but doing so respawns most enemies, so you'll have to redo all the fights that just caused you to drain your flasks if you didn't make it to a new bonfire or unlock any shortcuts. It can also be a bit limiting to not be able to store more health before a big boss battle, but you'll learn to really conserve them and keep yourself protected pretty quickly. I found that the majority of my deaths came from not having time to actually use the flask as opposed to running out of uses.
By now you are probably asking "so there is fighting in this game, right?" Well of course there is! Combat is still very similar to DeS, but much like everything else, it's been refined. You won't find a more immersive melee system in any game out there right now. There's a wide variety of weapon and shield classes, ranging from daggers to a multitude of sword types to axes to halberds and even whips. Then there are ranged weapons like bows and crossbows, and even shields (or dual wielded shields!) can make decent weapons. Every category of weapon has its own set of moves that are executed by using a light attack or strong attack, then a second set of moves if you choose to two-hand the weapon. Many weapons also have unique moves that replace one of the four basic ones. Combine that with parries and ripostes and you've got a recipe for being able to really learn specific weapon strength and weaknesses. Discover the world of dual-wielding weapons and now even MORE moves are open to you. Personally I found the defensive value of a shield too great to ever abandon one completely, but a skilled player can block pretty well with an off-hand weapon after some practice.
All these weapons can be upgraded up to +15 to make them far more potent, and also branch off to do various types of elemental or magic damage -- assuming you can find the correct blacksmith who can work on it, and enough of the shards, chunks and slabs of the appropriate ore. By late in the game, you'll likely be toting around quite the armory of overpowered instruments of death, but rest assured that your foes will have equally powerful methods of hurting you back. It's almost impossible to become overpowered in Dark Souls without deliberately farming for souls or titanite (the ore) for long periods of time, and while your endgame character will be able to dispatch those starting undead without much trouble, the demons you'll see in the later dungeons will shake off your toughest attacks with ease. Here's the good news though… if you simply can't handle a certain section or boss in an area (and I'm not talking about bosses much to prevent spoilers, but there are some INCREDIBLE boss fights in this game) you can always summon a helping hand to be by your side.