Dark Souls 3

DS3 looks and plays fantastically, and for better or worse, most of its changes to the formula have been pretty safe ones: for example, the arcane rules of covenant-switching and equipment upgrading have been streamlined. Good things about Dark Souls 1, like the lack of an Agility stat, three distinct equip load brackets, and Soul Level-based matchmaking, have returned. Dark Souls 2’s better mechanical innovations are here too, like the engine itself, aspects of PvP, and more situational freedom with four equippable rings.

There are bigger changes, too, like the new weapon arts, and a mana system for spellcasting (the flask allotment is a great touch). These are especially good for PvP; this way a weapon can have standard, reliable attacks, and also be as gimmicky and weird as one could ever desire, and the attunement stat gains a little value even in strictly melee builds. And nobody can just count out how many casts of Crystal Soul Spear you have left.

For these and other reasons I had more fun in actual PvP combat than ever before, though I found it an incredible hassle to actually rank up in most covenants, whether I was trying to fight honorably or just grief my way to 30 wins. Mound Makers was hilarious, but in Rosaria’s Fingers I was likely to get beaten up by a gang of allied phantoms or the host would just hide somewhere, and this after waiting a long time to successfully invade without a connection error, etc. Some, like Farron, just had to be grinded out from monster drops. It also seemed terribly pointless that Sentinels and Darkmoons shared a purpose; the way I would have done Darkmoon would be to have a revenge covenant with no indictments, but to put a counter on any player that used a red eye orb, which would open them to a retaliatory Darkmoon invasion. Wouldn’t that have been cool?

Even with this being the third installment, the same terrible seams in the netcode/online experience do appear. I’ve found myself stuck, unable to quit the game or use a bonfire for several minutes as the game tried to connect me to some imaginary invader. And the new thing I’ve found to dislike about the matchmaking is the separate weapon-level limit. For one thing, this fragments the pool of available players, making things seem more dead than they really are. They could’ve fixed this by just temporarily downscaling one player’s weapon level to that of the other. The other thing is, I felt pressured to never change my weapon until very late in the game. If I had a +10 weapon and I switched to a +6, I’d still be matched up with an invader with a +10. Disincentivizing experimentation like this is pretty bad. You could solve this problem too: if the matchmaking only checked for weapons in your inventory and ignored the bonfire box, you could lower your weapon scaling at any time, and not unfairly.

I didn’t enjoy managing the sidequests, and without deeper changes to the gameplay formula, I don’t think the Souls games are suited to elaborate ones with narrow windows to interact with characters. Dark Souls to me is supposed to be very friendly to a blind run of the game–you die a lot, but you make progress and you aren’t disincentivized from continuing without help–but I think NPC questlines where someone dies because you didn’t talk to them before killing a boss or whatever is kind of bullshit. DS1 had Solaire and Siegmeyer but that was about it; in DS3, it’s everybody, and they’re often interconnected.

One of the more unfortunate things about DS2 was the arrangement of the environments; to put it another way, the lack of any arrangement. You quick-travelled around and never had a sense of how deep you were the way you did in DS1. It had its creative ideas too, mind you, and I miss the way you’d colonize a space in that game by spreading fire to its sconces. But for all the places DS3 backpedalled to DS1, I’m kind of shocked that they kept the weird warpy design of DS2. It feels at times lazy, even if some of the level designs are very good, like the way the Cathedral of the Deep forks around and continually leads back to the Cleansing Chapel bonfire in inventive ways. I don’t think it’s masochistic to take away bonfire warping: DS1’s shortcuts worked great, and if there was any problem there, it was with running around to four distinct blacksmiths to get your weapons upgraded, and that certainly wouldn’t be a problem now that everyone just obediently hangs out in one hub. I’m also curious about other possibilities: what if you could warp to an isolated hub region and back, but other than that, had to get around completely on your own, and the game world had been designed to accommodate that?

Some new innovations in Dark Souls design felt gimmicky rather than really taking the formula to the next level. There were areas where enemies would fight each other, and you were given opportunities to sneak around a patrol, but this could sometimes feel out-of-place. I remember a big demon in the catacombs who must have one-shot me a half-dozen times, and mind you, one of the things I love about the original game (which probably made my SL1 run possible) is that you’re almost never in a situation where you will die in one hit; it goes against the game’s design principles. I later found out that the enemies in this area would attack this demon for you; you could lead it around and even let a mimic kill it. It was designed as such, but it seemed so against the brave face-to-face encounters I felt Dark Souls was all about that it didn’t even cross my mind; I just got annoyed that the skeletons were getting in my way and kept stubbornly throwing myself at the demon until it died the old-fashioned way.

And at times I felt like maybe these ideals of challenge and personal achievement were all in my head, because the game didn’t really seem structured to support them. Was it really True Dark Souls to do every boss without ever summoning another player for aid? Or just another self-imposed bragging rights challenge, no different from the ones people come up with in any other game? I’m not sure anymore.

But the bosses were, for the most part, a nice step up from DS2. Wolnir would be an example of a boss I really don’t like: the goal is always “Easy to learn, hard to master,” right? Wolnir is hard to comprehend, but easy to master: I kept dying at the start from some aura attack I couldn’t even see, and I had no idea what the hell was going on, but once I figured out where to stand, the fight was a joke. On the other hand, some of the best bosses include Soul of Cinder, Gael, and Midir, but here I start to notice something: these, while being polished and impressive in their own right, are somewhat derivative rehashes of Gwyn, Artorias, and Kalameet respectively. The game is, in a word, derivative, and this derivative gaze is focused in one place: DS1. From that, I can see why a new property like Bloodborne could make people more enthusiastic.

I honestly see DS3’s constant looking-backwards, both mechanically and thematically, as a deliberate statement, an Art Game if you will, but actually having more to say than most Extremely Art Games ever do, and through the perspective of AAA development no less. I think there’s no mistaking that it’s one of the bigger flaws of the game, but it’s also, possibly, the whole point. Hidetaka Miyazaki is a very idealistic and committed game designer and here I feel like he’s inserted his feelings about being told to Come Back to a game he already made by turning the whole thing hollow and sad, which is, when you think about it, very Dark Souls. This is what becomes of a world when you linger and stagnate instead of moving forward–something like that. I can’t be sure.

But is it fun? In some ways, yeah, absolutely. I literally laughed out loud the first time fighting Soul of Cinder when he started using sorcery, pyromancy, and miracles interchangeably in addition to all his weapons. And even traditional enemies like Silver Knights (whether they should be making a return or not) have been subtly refined in ways I appreciate. Even so, I’m certainly not planning to do another SL1 playthrough. I don’t have half the enthusiasm for it, even if someone were to tell me that the full game is as fair at low levels as DS1 had been.

I also think I may inevitably come down harder on DS3 because whether or not I want to admit it, the magic of a person’s first Souls game will probably never come back. This doesn’t wipe away the flaws I’ve already named, but it’s very possible that people who never played DS1 would feel like they discovered what video games were all about by playing this, because the pace of its combat is an elaborate dance, because it doesn’t baby you with tutorials, because the lore is sad and beautiful… whatever the reason. But me, I’ve seen that already.

This game was thoroughly enjoyed by the reviewer. It is an excellent game that may be too simple or not ambitious enough to be a 5, or there are design flaws meaningful enough to prevent it from enduring as something truly beloved. Highly recommended.

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin

A lot has been said about what made Dark Souls work so much as a game. I said some of it myself. And Dark Souls 2 is great, because most of that is still there. Some things are different.

I enjoy feeling like I’m “colonizing” a world, which is why lit sconces which last forever are a nice idea, and so is bringing most of the NPCs together at one convenient hub. In the case of Souls games, I feel that the world should resist me to some extent, and occupy a sort of fixed geographic reality in my head, but I’ve always liked kicking down ladders and opening up shortcuts the most, and quick-travel in particular invalidates the purpose of a lot of that. I don’t like that you can freely warp all around in DS2. On the other hand, I’d like to see more purely physical forms of making my mark, like a stonecutter NPC who cuts a tunnel through a mountain or carves staircases out of the rock in exchange for some favor. It’s not all for the sake of my convenience, but the feeling of accomplishment and ownership. It could even be accompanied by a very Souls-esque unwelcome twist, like bringing stronger monsters into the opening areas of the game.

Despawning enemies once you’ve killed them a dozen times is another new and somewhat interesting idea, but I think what it mostly does is incentivize a grinding period, especially in that first run where you’re not intensifying any bonfires and you really benefit from clearing out a high-traffic passageway. Why not a difficult-to-pull-off Dark Hand-esque effect which taints a specific spawn of an enemy, so it would never reappear there until you reapplied the effect to another? That could be really fun, especially with the ability to gain a few charges or slots of the technique, to repress the two or three most troublesome foes along the way to a boss.

Many of the multiplayer changes are great, specifically the ease of matching up with other people, and the many new spells, with friendly AoEs and sharing passive buffs and so on. Players are encouraged to help each other, which is probably great for advanced challenges like No Death runs, but acts against the traditional experience of really learning to understand the subtleties of a boss before being able to defeat it. I might suggest staying away from help during the first playthrough, but with some of the covenants being more appropriately cleared at low Soul memory, and with specially-awarded NPC gear being tied to summoning them to help with bosses at every opportunity, it’s easy to feel penalized for trying to go it alone. I also think that the ability to freely restore humanity and flask charges on the spot just by helping another player in their own world for a little while feels almost like an exploit.

Many of the bosses also feel too easy. Some show a lot of variety in their moves and combos, like The Pursuer, or Fume Knight, but there are always a bunch more like Old Iron King, which are kind of a joke. Other times, the difficulty comes from just doubling up on the dangers. I felt pretty tense fighting Darklurker, but I checked a wiki after my fifth death and found out that with AoE pyromancy, double the targets just meant double the damage inflicted, and once I knew that, I was done that fight in seconds.

There’s still room to die a million times while exploring, but I came away feeling like some of those deaths weren’t my fault. It could happen all of a sudden. You lose all your health in one shot, or you get grabbed. You open a mimic chest and die immediately. On the other side of things, if your adaptability stat is raised high, you’ll have so many invincibility frames that you’ll roll through something that your instinct tells you should’ve smashed you into pieces, and the only thing you can really say about it is “lol, okay”. The stat was a bad idea. The thought of doing a low-level playthrough and having fewer iframes than other players is frankly a bummer. There was nothing like that in the original game. There was one roll and it was all you had.

I could talk forever about every little tweak and system here, but I’m trying to keep this short. A few others need some mention, though. Durability was actually something I really liked the changes to. In DS2, gear repair isn’t something you have to concern yourself with the tedious aspects of. All gear is freely and instantly repaired when you sit down at a fire, unless it was fully broken, in which case it costs a meaningful amount of souls to fix. It becomes an aspect of gameplay, rather than just a tacked-on feature that is largely ignorable, as it was in DS1. It ties into other systems. Enemies that degrade your items are a real concern. There’s a secret weapon you get by “breaking” another weapon with a large boulder on the end of it, uncovering the true weapon underneath. Rings of sacrifice will break and remain in your inventory instead of acting like consumable items and simply disappearing, which I think is good: after all, I never once used a ring of sacrifice in the original Dark Souls. I’m neurotic about wasting things when supplies are forever limited. It’s not to say that the system couldn’t possibly benefit from further experimentation: the costs are static; it’s set up so the cost of repairing a ring of sacrifice will become relatively less compared to the amount of souls you’re protecting over time. Maybe instead you might require titanite to repair a ring. Maybe if you used the ring to protect or recover a bloodstain with hundreds of thousands of souls, you might need to repair that ring with a titanite slab instead of a smaller chunk or shard. Food for thought.

A few quick systems I’m less impressed by: Dyna and Tillo, who are more RNG-based than anything in DS1. Lengthy grind-based challenges, like collecting Loyce Souls. And the changes to illusory walls, so you have to tap the interact button to open them. It felt esoteric in a way that wasn’t really conducive to discovering things for yourself. I don’t know–maybe it was always like that. But I did like Pharros’ contraptions.

I have to admit I gave up on parrying, despite doing a bit of training and pulling it off a couple times. The variable wind-ups just bugged me and ruined what I enjoyed as a purely reactive technique in the original Dark Souls. I’m glad to hear that the change is being reverted for DS3, which makes me even less willing to grow accustomed to it as it stands now.

Soul Memory was another unfortunate idea. In the long term, meaning the point where I’d expect to have 4 million souls or more and move into NG+, either I decide to max out all my stats, or I wear the Agape Ring 99% of the time to prevent gathering any souls at all. Would it have been possible to prevent tweakers at very low Soul Level from hunting newer players without making the grim totality of all souls ever gathered weigh on everyone like an arrow of time, like entropy? I think so. Maybe the matchmaking could only measure the number of souls dumped into a character’s level plus the cost of upgrades into their equipment, or a system which applies a score to pieces of gear, with high-scoring pieces found only later in the game, all for the sake of using that as another matchmaking variable–the player who farmed for the ghost blade maybe has more going on than the guy with just the basic hand axe. Or maybe Soul Memory should be simply considered as a secondary variable between matchups of players of the same Soul Level first, so tweakers play with other tweakers first. But ultimately, tweaking is too small of a concern to the health of the game to have messed with everything else.

Places feel disconnected, and not just because of the quick-travelling and warping into the shrines and the memories of old trees. The environment artists really knocked it out of the park, and I love the gorgeous vistas of ancient ruins, but in the original game it was all far more cohesive. You didn’t see anything quite like the view from the wyvern’s room of Aldia’s Keep in DS1, but you saw the Undead Parish, so meaningfully far away from Anor Londo. Coming up a long elevator ride from the Earthen Peak tower overlooking a poison swamp, and seeing lava all around you, just doesn’t make sense–it hasn’t tried to make sense. The endless rows of tall trunks of numinous trees deep below the earth in The Great Hollow weren’t so detailed in appearance, but it meant something, having just bravely ventured down only one such tree. It made you understand the nature of the world, and it made you feel small.

Dark Souls 2 is in many ways an enhancement, an iterative improvement from the original. Exploration is still a delight, and the game is huge. I still want to keep playing, to find things I missed. The PC version of DS1 was a shoddy port in a handful of respects, which is clearer than ever when the better-looking DS2 performs just as well on the same hardware. But you can also plainly see where the heart isn’t quite there.

This game was thoroughly enjoyed by the reviewer. It is an excellent game that may be too simple or not ambitious enough to be a 5, or there are design flaws meaningful enough to prevent it from enduring as something truly beloved. Highly recommended.

Dark Souls

ds1

Dark Souls is famed for its difficulty, but it’s not so bad, really: the developers knew that death wouldn’t be a problem if the player could learn from it and adapt, and the game never demands physical feats like rapid QTE button tapping. Even parrying is more about prediction than reflexes: some talent wouldn’t hurt, but combat experience is more important. Compared to other more annoying systems of trial-and-error, here death can be avoided the first time around if you’re paying close attention: I died many hundreds of times, often stupidly, but no skeleton hiding behind a corner ever kicked me into a bottomless pit. People revere and mythologize difficulty, but anyone can make a hard game: just double the HP of all the enemies, and if that doesn’t work, double it again. In Dark Souls, no enemy takes more than a few hits. It’s hard and fun. You don’t need to bring a specific spell or piece of equipment as an esoteric hard counter to a specific enemy attack. You don’t need to tediously raise your numbers up to survive, although if you like collecting all the weapons and gear, there certainly can be a grind.

Even the toughest bosses took no more than maybe ten tries (maybe fifteen to solo Ornstein after Smough in NG+). And these fights were usually just a hop, skip, and jump away from the nearest respawn point–usually. While I occasionally looked up elemental weaknesses on the wiki, the many paragraphs about a creature’s attack patterns were just noise–I had to learn such things for myself or not at all. While for many bosses in my first playthrough, I only learned to avoid one or two particularly rough moves and otherwise won by quaffing flasks at the right moments and hurting them faster than they could hurt me, every once in a while there’d be a fight I stood no chance in hell of tanking, so I’d learn from my mistakes, and it would soon become something far more elaborate and interesting. Kalameet, for example–I’d dodge his moves for minutes in my lightest armor, just looking for the time to strike at his tail. It was intense.

There were definitely some hard parts that I wasn’t eager to revisit. The Painted World of Ariamis was one of those mind-blowing “Just how big is this game?” moments, but being trapped in there with its toxic enemies might’ve made me take another “extended break” from the game if I hadn’t been on an encouraging Skype-chat at the time with two friends who were playing their own saves in parallel and stuck in the same predicament. The traps of Sen’s Fortress weren’t nearly as discouraging as the thought of leaving Anor Londo without beating Ornstein and Smough, and thus having to do Sen’s Fortress again from the beginning, though it turned out I’d missed an elevator shortcut in my first playthrough, which would’ve alleviated that horror. Blighttown seemed to stretch on forever, because I could fall to my death at any moment and lose tens of thousands of souls, and sure enough, that happened once or twice. I might’ve done a couple things differently, but the challenge made victory all the more rewarding, and if I ever truly got frustrated with one area, I usually had a half-dozen other places to explore instead. Some of those unexplored passages met up with each other or didn’t go anywhere important, and in NG+ I didn’t have more than a couple things to do at any one time, but when playing blind with a map you’ve drawn on paper, there’s no difference between one unexplored path and any other. You don’t know that the bridge at the Valley of Drakes is simply a shortcut to the bottom of New Londo once the water’s been drained. You just know that a bunch of fucking drakes that will kill you are hanging out on a bridge and that you’ve got other places to be, so it becomes the eighth question mark on your map. I once heard somebody criticize Dark Souls as being rather linear–choose which of two bells to ring first, get the lordvessel, get the lord souls–but from my perspective that seems like someone played the game deeply wrong.

ds2

Dark Souls: PTDE is the best game of 2012, but it’s worth saying that I knew in advance that I was going to like it. Are there some decent games out there that I would’ve liked a lot more if I showed them half the patience I showed Dark Souls? Almost certainly. I started Dark Souls over a year before ultimately finishing it, played for a few days and then shelved it. I thought I’d understood then that it was a good game, but I really had no idea. I only started again because A) the sequel just came out, B) I usually had a friend around to play in parallel with, which was really motivating, and C) I was worried about what the promised GFWL shutdown would do, although that turned out to be a non-issue. Having intimately hand-drawn maps and handwritten notes will improve the experience of any game, as will discussing things with people you know instead of looking at the wiki whenever anything confuses you for more than one second (an urge I didn’t always resist). The last game I played like this, with detailed notes and everything, was Fez, and I knew I was going to like that game too, because I was told that I would. (It probably deserves mention that Etrian Odyssey IV incorporated the hand-drawn map experience directly, with some success, although with building maps in fixed units like that, I didn’t think of it as tapping into that sense of intimacy at the time.)

Dark Souls isn’t flawless. Bad ragdolls get caught on the player’s feet and fall through the floor, or ghosts die in the air, in rare cases causing loot to become inaccessible. Mechanics and interface buttons are awkwardly described and labeled, and the interface is messy. Players can’t filter or easily sort their items, and may have to scroll for several minutes to find what they’re looking for. There were also a number of netcode or online connectivity issues.

When it worked as intended, PvP was amazing. The most tense moments in an already high-stakes game were always the invasions. Getting killed by some Darkmoon covenanter while trying to make it to the Anor Londo boss door without losing my humanity was rough, but then there was that immensely satisfying experience of getting the same jerk griefer three times in a row in Oolacile Township, trying to cheese me by kiting me into a pack of Bloatheads–I beat the snot out of both him and the enemies all three times. On the third and final time, I stood over his corpse and sarcastically threw down an item that shouted “I’M SORRY.” I’ll never forget that. But I also shouldn’t forget how the game would occasionally attempt to connect to an invading player, lock the area gates down, and prevent me from kindling a bonfire I’d just reached for a few agonizing minutes… before ultimately giving up, wasting my time for no reason. GFWL was horrible and forced always-online play sucks, even if it’s far more justifiable in brutal Dark Souls player invasions than it is in Sim City sharing features or whatever else the concept is infamous for. I wasn’t able to play one morning because GFWL was down. That was a problem, especially when I’m fickle and it doesn’t take a strong incentive to make me quit a stressful activity.

I’m sure it helps that I usually took a patient approach to the game and didn’t over-examine the wiki, but even besides that, the list of things the game does amazingly well is long. Its dynamic weapon animations and properties are the best way to do combat. Different styles of weapons are valued for more than just flavor, and DPS is practically irrelevant when looking for the best weapon. Players need to consider the trade-offs of heavy armor and maneuverability, range versus stability, and so on: what can this scythe do if the opponent closes the gap between us? Do I like this halberd’s two-handed double horizontal swing? By the end I would think so much in combat about how to close a gap or preserve one, when to rush in and when not to overextend myself, and it’s this need for thinking that keeps gameplay from getting tedious. It’s a beautiful thing how the game shapes you. I would have dreams about falling into ravines, and for months afterward I’d subconsciously see parry windows while watching characters fight in action movies. Rather than just memorizing strategies to win, which wouldn’t carry over to other games or anything else, I feel like you really learn to improve yourself and dauntlessly take on new challenges. There must have been some general learning experiences like this in games I played when I was a little tyke, but then I got the hang of things and games became simple time-killers. Maybe Dark Souls is like going back to school to learn math, after having gotten by for years with just the four basic operations. That’s clumsy though, if I’m being honest. It’s hard to articulate just what is at the heart of Dark Souls, apart from a rare architect who seems to understand that humans are things that are easily influenced and manipulated by the mechanics of the world they inhabit. (RNG, then, is at best a missed opportunity, and at worst a way to manipulate a player into going completely insane.)

ds3

Its minimalist storytelling and lore are fascinating and engaging, and bring fond memories of the Berserk manga. The care that went into everything is always evident. The environments are incredible, and it’s hard to think about how much less AAA studios have done with a far larger budget. Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto and Just Cause and so on are probably a thousand times larger in terms of kilometers or whatever, but there are very few reasons to explore those places. In Dark Souls, you earn every square meter, one step at a time. For days, every time I thought I had the scope of things pretty much locked down or anticipated on my pencil-and-paper map, I’d discover a new chain of locations, each more immense than the last, and my jaw would drop at the magnitude of it all. There’s only maybe two dozen areas, but they’re built with love, unlike Skyrim’s hundreds of dungeons, and I know them like they’re a part of me now. I grin when I think about how I might have missed the entirety of The Great Hollow and Ash Lake if I hadn’t been on a Skype call with a friend when he found it, or if there hadn’t been a soapstone message behind the treasure chest at the false end to the passage. And with the exception of the Asylum and the Kiln of the First Flame, it’s all spatially connected and coherent. It’s hard to overstate what that does for the experience of traversing and knowing that world.

This is what Zelda has been missing in its last decade-plus of unadventurous adventures, where you find the square pegs for the square holes, going through the motions and ticking off the boxes on the automap. I would like to see From Software make a Zelda game as much as I’d like to see them make a Berserk one (sometimes I feel like Dark Souls is Berserk: The Game). A Zelda game in this style could disassociate from the punishing difficulty of Dark Souls in a number of ways if need be, like being able to reload saves, but even so, could still establish a messier world where missing inventory items aren’t constant barriers to exploration, and you don’t know whether there are four dungeons or fifteen, and you’re not out to get all the triforce shards or heart container pieces or whatever so most of the locations are pretty optional. According to the wiki, 14 of Dark Souls’ 26 bosses can be skipped entirely, and that’s not counting any unintended exploits. Maybe in doing them you find a new weapon or spell that’s cool to use, or you level up once or twice in the process, or maybe the exploration uncovers a bit of lore or a beautiful view, and that’s the only real reward.

I’d love to see a Zelda with consequences, where everything hasn’t been designed to be seen and collected in one playthrough no matter what the player does. This is the biggest benefit to NG+ in Dark Souls: considering that almost all items can be farmed and maxed out on the first playthrough, the player will pretty much get as strong as they’re ever going to in their first run. Though it’s probably mainly used to fill out the small gaps in an item collection, Dark Souls NG+ exists more to increase the challenge rather than to casualize it as a reward. It’s also useful to see the side-stories of any NPCs you had inadvertently killed. While I wouldn’t expect Zelda’s NPCs to die or even kill each other while Link isn’t around, they still shouldn’t wait around forever for you to make time for their quests. (I’m reminded of a certain woodcutter’s quest in The Witcher, where everybody dies if you decide to play like you’re in Skyrim, waiting months before getting around to some “urgent” item on your quest log.) Sometimes NPCs should try to solve their own problems. Maybe Link isn’t really the best outlet for exploring the hazardous consequences of a white savior complex, rushing in and trying to blitzkrieg a centuries-long Goron conflict or whatever–maybe that’s more Mass Effect’s problem–but it still doesn’t have to be so accommodating.

I don’t hate Zelda; those are beautiful games. But comparing the two series has been instrumental in seeing just why I’m unwilling to commit to a new Zelda game and why I’m so fascinated with Dark Souls. It isn’t just about doing the dungeons in any order, as the latest 3DS Zelda at the time of this writing promises. A paint-by-numbers book doesn’t force you to color the number 1 before the number 2, either. What use is this nonlinearity for the sake of nonlinearity?

ds4

In short, Dark Souls is beauty. Dark Souls is ἀρετή defined. If Phaedrus had found Dark Souls, his journey would have been over.

This game is amazing, and whatever flaws it has, it is a mandatory experience for anyone whose tastes are similar to the reviewer’s. Things like frequent crashes or graphical issues do not even begin to make a dent on this score, because the soul of this game contains something eternal. It approaches perfection.