Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dark Souls Preview

Dark Souls is out in Japan now so we have our first humorous early stories including these: one two. Having godly Black Phantoms punish those pre release violators is a fabulous PR move for From Software. First notions of the game being 60 hours long (with the first game being ~45 hours long on the first playthrough, albeit much shorter once you were good at the game) seem to have been cut off and it is now at least 100 hours long if not longer, which is fabulous for my month of death and destruction coming soon.

For some reason now that Dark Souls is an open world game people seek to compare it to Skyrim. Obviously Skyrim is going to outsell Dark Souls but it will undoubtedly be worse in every regard aside from storyline. IGN wrote a pretty fanboyish article about this which I think is comical and somewhat accurate. Still, I really don’t think these games are comparable, Skyrim is a very easy, probably slightly more expansive game in which you do random quests for strangers, Dark Souls is a directed hunt. Soul Addiction is your drive if you’ve played the first game a few times, and killing monstrous demons so you can become a prettier one yourself is undoubtedly the highest of interests. Trying to compare a game in which you die once or twice to a game where you die hundreds of times just doesn’t work out. Dark Souls is not Zelda nor is it Oblivion. It is a game and genre unto itself without being too much of a homage to ancient games in any regard but difficulty.

Dark Souls has a legitimate shot at being the hardest RPG ever made, and possibly the hardest non Battletoads game. Battletoads is a badly designed game with the old “Arcade Mode” murder the player as much as possible mentality, but it does take thousands of failures to clear it sans save states. Dark Souls is obviously much more contemplative so if you were to compare the two I think it’d require some multiplying factors for genre. A death in most RPGs is a major setback, however death in modern FPS’s and action games simply brings you a few minutes back to the last checkpoint. For instance, I recently beat Killzone 2 on the hardest difficulty (possibly the hardest FPS in the modern era without copious infinite spawns) and died 400 times so doing. However clearing Demon’s Souls only took about ~125 actual deaths (Not counting tendency suicides) but nary a fool would suggest Demon’s Souls is easier than Killzone 2 or any other FPS/3PS.

To overcome Vagrant Story all Dark Souls has to do is add in about 50-60 more deaths than DS, and based on early stories it could well be hundreds more than that. I’d imagine VS’s learning curve will still be harder but we’ll see. I don’t think I’ll have a fair perspective having played the initial game but if it takes most 360 owners more than 15 hours to figure out how to play then it will exceed VS even in that regard. The largest potential issue with Dark Souls is that death’s may feel unfair and cheap a la Maneater or random pitfalls in bad lighting, as opposed to feeling awesome and therapeutic a la Penetrator, Flamelurker, and the dragons. More Boletarian Palace, less Valley of Defilement, more dragons, less bad lighting. As predicted it seems there will be more of both so either the bosses in this game will have to completely blow me away or it will have most of the same problems the first game did.

If you do happen to be a 360 owner and a bit hesitant to purchase this I would of course reprimand you for your weakness, as dying 500 times is one of the most satisfying things imagineable. Realistically though this game will sell very well on PS3 being a sequel but as an initial IP and far and away the hardest game ever seen on any Microsoft console will undoubtedly cause it to sell only around 50,000 copies there. That being so you could probably get it for $30 in about 3 months. While this will be the first console game I’ve bought on release date in about 5 years and justifiably so I wouldn’t think less of you, dear friend, if you saved those 30 bucks and began the murder in January.

Edit: Length is shorter if you play online evidently, as certain bosses are murderously hard solo. Still, this is likely to motivate me and others to try it completely solo anyway. Blood will have blood.

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