Monday, 24 September 2012

Ah! Dark Souls: Prepare To Die. A Rare Gem.

I've finally gotten around to writing about Dark Souls: Prepare To Die and my impressions of it.  I had to re-install my OS and a few other real life things so I haven't had time.

Before I start let me say I know this isn't a game for everyone's tastes.  This is a hard game, but the difficulty can also be what you make it.  It's not a button masher so heading straight into a fight expecting to win will get you killed 99% of the time even against the lowliest enemy.  Combat is a matter of planning and strategy, watching the enemy and how they move, and then reacting accordingly. 

Dark Souls requires patience and preferably low frustration levels....easy to say, not easy to do though. I've had my fair share of raging moments.  Falling off cliffs to my doom would come high on that list, especially when it's my fault for not always being aware of my surroundings.

The game has a huge learning curve.  There is no map, no hand holding, no quest log, one difficulty level, realistic and tactical combat, a HUGE interconnected world that opens up via exploration, and death, lots of death.  There is also no pausing the game during combat so make sure you have the correct gear equipped if possible for whichever area you are in.  For example, poison resistance in Blight Town, keep your weapons and armour repaired and never ever run into a new area without knowing what to expect . Well, you can actually open the inventory in an unsafe area if you wish, but that will get you killed post haste if you aggro enemies you haven't noticed or in the middle of combat. 

You also cannot manually save but the game autosaves often, and this game has consequences.  So if you attack and/or kill an NPC or make some other mistake you live with it.  Attacking an NPC will make them permanently hostile, however, you can get absolution from a particular NPC after a certain point but it won't bring back NPC's from the dead and is expensive depending on your level. The lesson is don't attack NPC's as they may be your vendors early or later in the game, or be helpers or have quests of their own.  In some cases you may as well start over if you go on a killing spree because it will adversely and permanently affect your game.

There are checkpoints throughout the game in the form of bonfires where you level up, repair and modify gear (if you buy the kits) kindle the fires which gives more healing items and to become human.  The currency for all things is souls.  You can't sell things until later in the game, but you can purchase a "Bottomless Box" to store excess items which is also done at the bonfire.  You can also trade for items with a certain NPC, but that is limited. Players in human form can drop items they don't need for others in co-op to pick up which is nice.

Dark Souls has it's own Lore which is discovered by talking to NPC's, reading item descriptions and generally exploring the world.  For more info on Lore there are some excellent videos by EpicNameBro on Youtube.

I more or less found out about this game by accident when I read about the petition to have it brought to the PC, but was too late to sign up.  Ever since, after doing some research and watching videos I pre-ordered it immediately and have been very happy with the game.

Considering there was a petition by PC users and FROM Software decided to port the game, there is still the usual and expected whining and complaining from certain sectors of the PC community.  FROM always said it would be a straight port as they had little experience with PC games and that's what we got, a direct port.  That means console graphics, tutorial tips using the Xbox controls, a 30 fps lock and a few other things that personally don't bother me.  Maybe they could have done more but the thing is they didn't even have to port it at all so those complaints are just that, more whining from the usual suspects.   I wouldn't blame the developers if they said screw the PC with their next game and didn't give us a PC version at all.

There is keyboard support and many players seem to get along well with it, but since I already have a 360 controller I prefer use it.

I've been gaming for over 20 years and I've seen and played worse.  This game runs smoothly, doesn't crash every five minutes, (or at all in my case), and has no loading between areas.  I'm looking at you Skyrim, and while I know these are very different games, it's a huge pleasure to not have to have a loading screen every time I enter a small one room building which irritates me even more when it's such a CTD prone game.  So much so that even though I installed it again after my OS I haven't bothered to play it and probably won't, but that's another story.  After Dark Souls it's just boring.

There's also the fact that the PC version of DS has had improvements like stat adjustments to weapons and armour, a few bug fixes, and more importantly a complete DLC of new content which the console players will have to pay for later in the year.  The game can be registered on Steam if desired, even with the retail version which I have, but I haven't seen any point in doing that as it still requires GFWL to run.

There are now mods for improved graphics and other things which can now be found at the Nexus, Reddit and I imagine other sites I don't personally know about.

I've never been a fan of online games except for when I played Age of Conan obsessively last year, but I like the online features in Dark Souls. You can summon other real players to help with bosses, play co-op or even invade other people's games in PVP.  You have to be in human form to do that though as you start the game as an undead or "hollow." You can stay that way to avoid invasions or play offline if you wish. 

I've read that some people have trouble summoning but I've done it successfully to defeat a boss which was much appreciated, and been invaded which didn't go well.

Unfortunately, there are trainers and hacks for the game which some people use in online play.  If people want to cheat in single player only that's their business, but to spoil it for others online is just sad.  I really don't know what satisfaction they get out of ruining the game for others.  They are just scumbags with low self esteem trying to be superior, which is putting it nicely. 

I haven't played for a week or so because I've had other things on my mind, but for people who know the locations I have reached Anor Londo after many tries getting through Sen's Fortress which was made harder by Gravelords dropping their signs.  Unfortunately both times I reverted to human in Sens Fortress and Anor Londo I was invaded and immediately backstabbed by Red Phantoms before I could even get out of the way which pissed me off.  One instance was when I was about to enter the boss door to fight the Iron Golem and the phantom appeared right behind me and backstabbed me, and the other was when I was in combat with the gargoyle at Arno Londo which led to me backing up and falling off the ledge.  At least that one didn't actually get to kill me.  Both of them were assholes and I didn't have any Indictments on me.   Besides, I'm not really fully up on the system of invading and Indicting, but I do know next time I go human I'll try to watch my back a little better.  I'm still new at the game in a lot of respects really.

I forgot to mention Covenants, and I'm in the Forest Hunter Covenant so maybe one day I can get my revenge.  I relish a fair fight even if I lose which will probably be the case, but if you're going to invade me at least be fair about it and let me see you coming.   Don't back stab me before I can even see you.  Becoming human and being invaded is a risk and I don't mind that, but there are rules of etiquette that most players follow.   Maybe I expect too much, after all the point of invading is to defeat the host.  
Anyway, there's so much more to this game than I can write here and it's getting to be quite long, but if this game interests you I would advise getting hold of it.  Just be aware it will more than likely  take over your

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