Dark Souls Review

When people talk about Dark Souls, the conversation always seems to be about how hard it is. The enemies are challenging, the bosses are brutal, and you can expect to die hundreds of times throughout your journey. While its difficulty is a fantastic feature of the game, there is so much more to the world of Dark Souls.

Dark Souls is a third-person action-RPG with open world elements and a very minimalist story. At the beginning of your adventure, you’re given a key by a knight and escape from a prison cell. Eventually you’ll find your way to Firelink Shrine, where you’re told to ring two Bells of Awakening. That’s basically all the direction you’re given. No minimaps or waypoints to direct you. For the 50-60 hours of your playthrough, you’re on your own. And this is where the beauty of Dark Souls truly begins to show.

The game itself is very linear. You have to ring the bells, obtain the Lord Souls, and defeat the bosses to acquire keys and progress through the game. Only you’re not told specifically where things are or how to get them. So at the start of your adventure from Firelink Shrine, you set off to explore. Maybe you’re like me and decided to take a trip down to New Londo Ruins first, only to get killed by enemies you can’t attack. You’ll soon realize this isn’t the way to go, so you make your way up to Undead Burg and fight through it. It’s this sort of trial-and-error gameplay that makes Dark Souls such an incredible game. Even though its progression is linear, the player has complete freedom in how they explore and learn about the world. You can choose where to go, and you can choose how you approach every encounter. But only experience will teach you the right way to progress through the game.

Challenging is a very fair way to describe Dark Souls. Every time you rest at a Bonfire, enemies will respawn. Bosses are very punishing, and it will take you many deaths before you learn their attack patterns and figure out how to properly defeat them. Most enemies have predictable attack patterns, but you won’t know that until you’ve been hit by them several times. The bonfires are the first time in a video game where I felt that a checkpoint was truly a safe zone. They aren’t just “halfway points” of levels like in other games. I felt that I had to fight long and had to reach each Bonfire, and that I had earned the safety granted by them.

There are a variety of ways that you can approach combat in the game. You can use mechanics such as Backstabs, Ripostes and Parries. You can use a classic shield-and-sword approach, or equip a two-handed weapon. Or you could even use magic. There are a ton of Pyromancies and Miracles, although I personally never really used them. The many ways that the game offers you to defeat your enemies is one of its greatest strengths. Every battle is a battle full of player choice. Customization is fantastic to match this. You can choose how your character looks, what gear your character wears, what build you want to level up as, and how you should upgrade your weapons. You are in complete control of your adventure.

The setting in Dark Souls is incredible. Anor Londo is a city in the clouds, full of massive church buildings and large bridges. When you first reach this area, the view is honestly breathtaking. The game is full of moments like these. Ash Lake in particular is a huge pool of water underneath a gigantic tree that seems to hold up the entire world. Every location in Dark Souls looks like something from an epic fantasy novel. The level design is top notch as well. As soon as you defeat the Gargoyle on the bridge, you’ll be wondering where to go next. When you eventually figure out where to go…you’ll realize just how good it is.

I feel that I could honestly write about Dark Souls for a long time. There are so many things that the game gets right that I see a lot of games struggle with in 2017. I can’t wait to continue this series later this year.

Score: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

+ Challenging and Enjoyable Gameplay

+ Player Freedom and Choice

+ Fantastic Setting and Level Design

– Occasional Technical Issues (PS3 version)

 

Andrew S.

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Weekly Review – March 26, 2017

Sorry for the lack of update last week.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been playing Dark Souls almost nonstop. It’s been sitting on my shelf for years…and today I’ve finally beat it.

I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite games of all time. I will review this game within a few days, because there is so many things this game gets right that I want to talk about. I decided to put off Zelda: Breath of the Wild until I finished this…and it was worth it.

Now it’s time to move onto getting the platinum trophy. I’ll most likely be playing BotW this week as well.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew S.

Tales of Berseria Review

It feels like ages since I’ve played a JRPG game this good.

Tales of Berseria is a game that will be remembered most for its wonderful story. It features the tale of a woman bent on revenge, whose emotional journey leads her down a path of heartbreak and condemnation. Velvet is an anti-heroine, and very unlike other Tales protagonists.

Berseria’s cast is the strongest in the series of the games I have played. There’s the aforementioned Velvet, who seemingly lacks any warmth and is hellbent on vengeance. Her other companions each have engaging stories and strong motivation in joining her fight. Eizen is a pirate searching for his captain. Rokurou is a demon with a strong sense of duty. Eleanor is an exorcist who wants to know the truth of her world. Laphicet is a malakhim who wants to support Velvet. And Magilou is a seemingly detached witch who is simply along for the journey. Every character in Berseria has a different story, and they all share a common goal.

What separates Berseria from other JRPGs is just how emotional it can be. The game has no shortage of funny moments. Magilou is the main comedic relief, with her jokes being a highlight of the game and providing for many of its laughs. Eizen in particular has a skit where he really, really wants to construct an underground tunnel, and his conviction is so ridiculous you can’t help but smile. It’s moments like these that make you fall in love with the game’s characters, and they make it so much more painful when the story takes its tragic turns.

Berseria has no shortage of conflict and tragedy. The game had me feeling empathetic for Velvet within its first hour, a feat that not many games seem able to accomplish. It consistently maintains this method of emotional storytelling throughout. The cast conflicts, clashes, and bonds with each other. At its core, Berseria is defined by its memorable characters and story that will stay with you well after you complete it.

The game’s combat system is similar to past titles. New mechanics include the Soul Gauge, which allows you to activate special moves called Break Souls. The core gameplay loop essentially consists of using artes, amassing souls, and activating Break Souls in order to use stronger artes and do large amounts of damage. I found this combat very fun and far more engaging compared to Zestiria’s. The only real mechanic I found lacking were the Switch Blasts, which I rarely ever used as they seemed to be a waste of a Blast Gauge (which I could just use to perform a Mystic Arte).

In terms of presentation, Berseria does an excellent job. The menus are very intuitive and easy to navigate. Player records, stats, and equipment are cleanly displayed. The ability to swap out artes during battles and map them to specific PS4 hotkeys is very user-friendly.

I played through this game with Japanese voices, and Berseria’s cast was exceptional. Rina Sato, who voices Velvet, has done a phenomenal job. Her happiness sounds sincere, while her anger can truly terrify you. Sato truly stands out in a game with great voice work.

To me, the music is a little underwhelming. I loved Zestiria’s soundtrack, and I have to say Berseria’s isn’t quite as good. There are some great tunes such as Velvet’s theme and a few of the overworld tracks, but it doesn’t quite seem to have the range or evoke the feeling of “grandness” that Zestiria’s music does. This isn’t to say that Berseria’s music is bad. It just doesn’t particularly strike me as memorable outside of a few select songs.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention is in the game’s overworlds. I personally prefer Berseria’s level-based designed to the empty and barren landscapes of Final Fantasy XV’s open world. I enjoyed navigating through snowy and grassy fields, marshes, caves and volcanoes. There isn’t as much detail in these areas, and I don’t particularly mind that, but I can understand how some people would want more from a game released in 2017.  I do feel as though future Tales titles should attempt to have more visually impressive and unique environments.

Whatever shortcomings the game may have in its environments and music, it more than makes up for in its gameplay and story. Tales of Berseria doesn’t abandon what made past Tales games successful. It takes inspiration from them, while confidently setting itself apart through its wonderful story. Berseria is easily the best Tales game I have ever played, and its tale will be one that will stick with me for a long time.

 

Final Score: 8.9 / 10

+ Fun, engaging combat

+ Emotional and captivating story

+ Fantastic cast

– Low-detailed environments

– Outdated graphics

– Andrew S.

Weekly Review – March 12, 2017

This week has been pretty aimless for me.

After I finished Tales of Berseria last week, I’ve been having a ton of trouble deciding what game to start up next. As a result, I resorted to playing a lot of League of Legends and Hearthstone. I attempted to start up Metal Gear Solid 4 but just couldn’t get into it. I also gave up on completing Horizon: Zero Dawn because I realized I’ve pretty much lost interest in open world games. Then I got sick, which has left me with zero energy to play anything. Rough times indeed.

Today however, I’ve felt a lot better. Fever’s gone down. Nasal congestion isn’t as bad. My eyes are still watery and itchy at times, but it’s a lot more manageable compared to yesterday. With my health slowly getting better, I was finally able to sit down for a few hours and start up a new game: Dark Souls.

This game has been sitting on my shelf for years. I swear I must have tried playing it at least 4 or 5 times now. All I can remember is getting to Undead Burg, wandering around aimlessly, getting railed, and then giving up on the game for another year.

Well not this time. I fully intend to finish this game before Mass Effect: Andromeda comes out next week. It’s going to be painful, but I think I’m finally ready for it.

-Andrew S.