Release Date: October 4, 2011
Systems: PS3. Xbox 360, PC
Developer: From Software
Metacrtic Score: 89
I had wanted to get this review up by the time “Bloodbourn” was released, but between getting the game and now I haven’t gotten very far. In fact, i’ve only managed to ring both bells of awakening twice with two character builds. This has given me a grasp on how the game play between classes differ, but some criticisms maybe the fault of my limited time with the game. I will try to point out where I think this may be an issue.
In the World of Lordran, the fires of life once buried bight, ushering in the Age of Fire. But now the fores are burning out, giving way to darkness and monsters. You play as an Undead who has been thrown in the “Undead Asylum” where you were put after your death in case you go “Hallowed” (undead who lose their mind). One you get out you learn that there is a prophecy that an undead will ring the two “bells of awakening” and you are swiftly taken to Lordran to fulfill it. Will you rekindle the fires, or simply stop them form going out just a bit longer?
The story here is very minimalist with little being told to you. Almost every character you meet is there to sell you something or upgrade your equipment, not to give you exposition. In fact, most of the exposition you get is brief and serves only to tell you head next.
The biggest issue I have with the games story is that there is actually a lot of lore to the world of Lordran, but I found none of it through the game itself. While the idea of shared knowledge is a huge part of the “Souls” series I don’t want to have to quit my game every time I want to learn some of the back story. While this doesn’t really take away from the game, I found this storytelling tactic to be not as effective as it was in “Half-life”, we’re you can learn most of the back story and gain a deeper understanding of the world by paying attention to the rest of the characters around you. In the end, the games story can have all the complexity of an early “Super Mario Bros.” game, but it’s up to you to decide if you want more out of the experience. The lore I found on line was interesting, but I don’t like not being able to learn it in game. I know that you can, but how to do that is left a mastery.
Like it’s predecessor, “Dark Souls” sells itself on difficulty. Until you can level up to the point of being overpowered for a give area each enemy encounter can be your last. Enemies are tough, deal massive damage and are often pretty smart, staying behind cover or throwing firebombs at you from a far while it’s team mates go in close for the kill. If you’re not paying attention you can go through all your Estus Flasks (the item used to regain health) and have to go back the a Bonfire to regain you health and Estus Flasks. But doing this also brings back all the enemies, save for bosses, forcing you to re-fight the enemies that forced you back to the bonfire. This forces you to think and take battles slowly. In the regards the action is more like a puzzle that what you’d find in your typical hack-and-slash game. But as you kill your foes, you gain souls, and souls have power. Souls are used to upgrade stats, upgrade weapons or repair broken ones or buying spells, miracles and pyromancy skills. But you can’t do all this at once.
As you upgrade skills and weapons the cost to upgrade them more increases, and in order to to gain spells and pyromancy you have to first find and save them, then make your way back to the first area to actually buy the stuff you want from them. And all the while, there are still plenty of enemies who want nothing more than to see you dead. The kicker? If you do die, you drop all the souls you were carrying forcing you to go back to the point where you died and retrieve them. But if you die before picking those souls back up, they’re gone for good. This has lead to a lot of frustrating moments when 10’s of thousands of souls were lost after one careless mistake.
The biggest difference between this game and it’s predecessor “Demons Souls” is the world itself. In the last game you were had to visit a shrine in the hub world in order to go to each of large but linear worlds the game had to offer. Here, once you ring the bells of awakening you are pretty much free to go where ever you want with out hesitation. What really makes this great is that there are plenty of short cuts that connect the world together. So may may spend about 10 hours getting somewhere only to find a short cut that leads back to and early starting area. However, some of these could have used a bit more planing. In my first play through I managed to skip the iconic “Gapping Dragon” boss fight that leads to Blight Town as I found a short cut there. Speaking of Blight Town, this is commonly agreed to be one of the hardest parts of the game (witch I agree with) and it’s the only time I ever saw the frame rate taking a dip. Every time I went, in both playthroughs, the frame rate began to slow down considerably. I don’t know about you, but when i’m knee deep in a poison swamp, with toxic spewing flies, fire breathing mutant mosquitoes and fat bolder throwing assholes swarming me, the last thing I want to fight is the frame rate.
Another change I…don’t really know how I feel about…was to the change to the magic system. The last game functioned like most fantasy RPG’s with a mana system that can be refilled using potions. Here, you by a spell, like Soul Arrow, then you can use that spell a set number of times before having to go to a bonfire to refill them. This is both good and bad. It’s good because the game is based on close quarters combat, and this does make that something you have to get good at. At the same time though this does make the magic based classes nearly obsolete, because you wont be putting many points into things like “Strength”, and thus when you are out of magic you’re pretty much screwed. And say what you will about how playing as a sorcerer is the games “easy mode” (it kind of is, to be honest) I like playing as a magic user, and this infuriated me on my second playthrought. All in all, if you can deal with the slower and more difficult combat and many, many deaths, give this a look. The game play would be perfect if not for a few technical issues. Beating a boss in this game is one of the most satisfying experiences i’ve had scenes….playing “Demons Souls”, and I think you’ll have the same experience.
Game Play: 4.5/5
Music and Sound:
The few voice actors do their jobs well enough, but most of them souls half asleep. This could have been a reflection of the people being tired, beaten down by the decay of the world around you, or were they just not being paid enough to bring their A game? We may never know. Every things else works pretty well. The moans of the Hallowed, the roars of the Dragons, the slashes of swords on skin, it all sounds great.
Music and Sound:
Overall Score: 3.6/5
Who is this game for:
If you want a challenge, a puzzle, a more thought full approach to combat, this is something you should pick up. Or if you wanted to get Bloodbourn but can;t get a PS4, then give this a play or replay.