Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition should be renamed Dark Souls: Hope You Have Rage Insurance on Your Computer.
If asked, “What games made you cry?” what would you say? One of the popular answers might be Aeris’ unexpected death in Final Fantasy VII. Others might mention how the artsy Shadow of the Colossus gave them a case of the misty eyes.
Those are both great answers, but the kind of crying I’m talking about, in this instance, is the unhealthier kind. The white-knuckled, I’m so-f@#king-furious-I’m-going-to-smash-some-s@#t-right-now, rage kind of crying. The type of situation where you dump every ounce of your being into one objective, only to have it quickly and viciously ripped away from you, as if you were a house fly challenging an elephant to a duel. The condescending, “Thank you, Mario, but our princess is in another castle,” but only times a million.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is appropriately named. It’s a bully of a game, and it will beat you up, and knock you down, time and time again.
Dark Souls is arguably one of the most difficult video games. But it has a huge following and a loyal fan base. Gaming journalists and enthusiasts alike loved the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, versions which came out last year, but it was never released on PC. After enough begging and pleading, Namco Bandai agreed it was time for a PC release.
The dark gift has finally been born. PC gamers can now experience the rage-inducing action, like the rest of us.
Dark Souls is the modern version of an old-school game. It’s not that it’s difficult (actually, yes it is), but it’s not the kind of game that you can simply jump into and expect to survive. Every enemy, no matter how massive or unassuming, can kill you if you’re not careful. But they all have a pattern or a weakness, you just need to find it, and exploit it in order to win.
The game is Japanese-developed, but you wouldn’t know it from its Western look and feel. It’s an action-centric title, but it also has role-playing genre elements. You can choose your character class and customize your look. Each character class has different abilities and different weapons. I reviewed Dark Souls playing two different classes, the standard Warrior and the flame-wielding Pyromancer. Both experiences were slightly different in the beginning, and as my characters leveled up, the differences between the two classes became more and more noticeable.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is different than the console releases from last year. This new edition offers the player brand new content: a new chapter to play through, new bosses and enemies, a PvP (Player vs. Player) Arena with an online matchmaking service, new areas, weapons and armor, and NPCs.
As a PC port, I felt the game was a little incomplete. If you don’t have an Xbox-style PC controller, I’d suggest skipping the PC version and going straight for a console release. The mouse and keyboard combination just didn’t cut it for me. I chose to go with a keyboard-only control scheme where you move the character with the WASD keys and control camera movements with the IJKM keys. Actions are all performed by pressing keys. This might work for overcoming a troublesome Excel Worksheet, but I didn’t find it ideal all all for a tough-as-nails action game.
My biggest issue controlling the game with the keyboard, was that it was a grueling challenge to learn which action each key did. Dark Souls’ on-screen tips use the controller short cuts. For example, in order to use an item or interact with an object you have to push the A button. You’ll even see an icon for an Xbox controller A button, but the key you’ll actually be pressing is the Q key. Other PC games dynamically update the on-screen tips to properly map the keys and buttons you’re actually using, but Dark Souls does not. Until you learn exactly which key is mapped to the LB or RB triggers, you’ll be pounding away systematically at the keyboard until you figure it out. It made learning the game that much harder, and performing combo actions wasn’t always easy to do.
I didn’t try the online PvP Arena, a feature exclusive to this version, because I didn’t feel that my skills against the computer-controlled enemies were strong enough, and that I certainly wouldn’t stand a chance against the Dark Souls PC enthusiasts. In other online functionality, Dark Souls has Xbox Live integration, requiring you to install the Games for Windows client giving PC gamers delicious Xbox Live Achievements!
I liked Dark Souls, but I didn’t really enjoy playing it on the PC. While part of it was a matter of preference, the other was all about comfort. Controlling a very action-heavy game wasn’t easy using a keyboard. I highly recommend having a handy PC controller at the ready if you’re going to pick up this PC port.
Namco recently announced that a console version of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition would be coming to consoles this October.
One of my favorite games of 2010 was Super Meat Boy. It was a very simple-looking, action game that harkened back to the days of difficult-to-master old school games. Some people loved it for the challenge, others hated it because it was too tough. Dark Souls is Super Meat Boy.
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition isn’t for everybody. It’s a tough game, and prides itself on its high-end difficulty. You will die, and you’ll probably do so over and over again. Sometimes dying it your fault, at others your death comes swiftly and unfairly.
Dark Souls will punish you for taking shortcuts or for being careless, and you’ll cry like a baby.. Appropriately, you’ll feel the greatest sense of accomplishment when you beat the crap out of a boss.
I didn’t feel the PC port was as solid as it could have been. The visuals and sound seemed acceptable, but controlling the game was grueling using a keyboard. The on-screen control tips show only the appropriate controller-mapped button (like A, B, or RB) and unless you have the mapped keyboard shortcuts printed out, you’ll be jumping into the menu options to figure out the correct keys. I think the remapping could have been done much better than it was. I spent way too much time understating which keys to use (and remembering them under pressure), than I did properly mastering them.
Unless you’re a die-hard fan or you have a nice controller to use on your computer, I’d suggest skipping this, or waiting for the console release of the Prepare to Die Edition in October. If you do own a nice controller, you’ll love it. The Prepare to Die Edition includes a lot of extras, too. If you are a glutton for punishment, you’ll be in Heaven… or Hell.
For another take on Dark Souls, check out Brutal Gamer’s review of the original Dark Souls (on PS3) click here.