Platform: PC

Released originally back in October 7th 2011 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, Dark Souls was the spiritual successor to Japanese developer From Software’s 2010 critically acclaimed, Demon’s Souls.

Following successful sales for the console versions of the game, and the ever increasing demand for a PC release, From Software took it upon themselves to create a direct port of Dark Souls for the PC community, with added DLC and a more refined game engine.

The most crucial thing you have to realize before you play or even think about Dark Souls is this: this is an incredibly depressing game. The word “DIE” or “DEATH” comes up a lot in this game, because it’s what you're going to be doing 90% of the time.

So why is this game so difficult?

In essence, Dark Souls is an action RPG very similar to the Monster Hunter series, however with the added element of a sandbox type environment. Like most RPGs, your character is graded with stats such as Strength, Vitality, Endurance, Dexterity, Faith (Magic) and so on… To “level up”, the player must defeat monsters and acquire souls that are counted as a form of currency in the game world. You invest these souls at bonfires (Save Points) that are sparsely littered around the game world.

Sounds easy, right?

PhotobucketWell, imagine this: You just collected 20,000 hard earned souls. You fall off a bridge. You die. Your soul count goes back to 0. Don’t worry, you can run back to where you died and there will be a glowing spot that, when activated, gives you back your souls. However, if you accidently fall off the bridge again without activating the place were you last died, you will permanently losing ALL your souls. Combine this with the fact that enemies are numerous, strategically placed and have the strength of titans, and can literally destroy you in a single hit, and you'll start to feel like you're the paper in a sadistic game of rock, paper scissors.

Despite its rock-hard difficulty, Dark Souls achieves something that no other game does (Aside Monster Hunter), which is the extreme feeling of elation and reward as a result of hard work and the sheer amount of skill invested into overcoming challenges. This type game will vastly dismay a newer player, but for the hardcore initiated, this game is far from impossible, and one of the most rewarding experiences you will find in modern day video gaming.

The decision to port this to the PC was a fantastic idea. The PC community is known for its diversity of gamers throughout the years and particularly for embracing extremely difficult video games.

Dark Souls is ported directly from the Xbox 360 version of the game, with the main control scheme mirroring the Xbox 360 controller layout. Having played the PS3 version last year, I can safely say that overall this port was a major improvement, cutting down loading times and with particle effects for broken props in the game environment no longer causing a slow down in frame rate – essentially this is a “perfect version” of Dark Souls both visually and in its stability.

PhotobucketThe only major issue i've found with the initial release of Dark Souls on the PC had the resolution locked in at 1024 x 768 – This caused parts of this beautiful game to become visually abhorrent. Another niggling factor is that the mouse and keyboard layout scheme is truly awful, probably one of the worst I’ve come across. The fact the mouse cursor stays on the screen at all times is a bit of a distraction. The resolution problem was remedied within minutes of the digital release of the game on STEAM. A player created a fan-made patch that remedied all problems visually with the game thus curing any visual blight that may have occurred during gameplay.

However, in defence of From Software, the team did admit they had no knowledge or experience of making video games for PC, let alone porting a game over. So for a first attempt, I have to give them a lot of kudos, as overall they did a fantastic job.

Control-wise, I used a original PS3 controller with a free program that emulated the Xbox 360 layout – I didn’t need to tweak further and I was playing the game as intended within minutes – I would like to add that it was a strange experience seeing myself sitting a few feet away from my PC, with a PS3 controller in hand, mapped to emulate an Xbox 360 controller. Who would have thought gaming would go this way in the future, eh?

The basics of the game are set around the balance of your character’s equipment and stats. In most cases your equipment will be the deciding factor, as sinking many points into stats does not guarantee your character becoming powerful at all. Weapons range from swords, axes, bows, magic, pyromancy and much more. Due to the nature of your character development, you often can wield any weapon you want with a combination of magic or shields to protect yourself (Which I must admit is a prerequisite if you don’t want to die). Weapons and equipment can be upgraded to more powerful versions or new weapons altogether – there is no shortage of arsenal in Dark Souls.

PhotobucketDark Souls isn't a game that holds your hand, be it gameplay or story. There's a reason why I haven't mentioned the game's story, as it is particularly (and intentionally) cryptically minimalistic. It generally revolves around the land being once fertile with life due to the cohesion of magic coming from the flames of the world that four powerful demi-god like entities learnt to harness. These entities raged a war upon the dragons that ruled the world, eradicating them to extinction, causing a time of prosperity for humans to emerge and claim the land as their own. In time, the flames of the world became weaker and the undead became branded with “Dark Signs” which cursed their souls to live forever as undead. Your character is one of these undead, and it is your task to rekindle the flames of the world as the new ruler of the eternal flames that once gave the world its life.

If that didn’t make any sense to you, don’t worry; Dark Souls is like this on purpose. As you talk to NPCs in the game you will notice their stories are intentionally cryptic, albeit poetically lovely to hear. They're somewhat like a real-life conversation with someone who just happens to mention something in passing, but never delves into detail of it. You realise the beauty in this form of story telling when you notice that after you have fought a boss, an NPC could open a new dialogue that mentions a name or event that relates to the boss you just fought, giving you added depth to the story.

Dark Souls has a magically organic way of telling you a story, as well as teaching you how to play the game. It's like being born again into a new world and finding your own way yourself. It captures a mysterious magic that is not just incredibly difficult to emulate in other entertainment mediums, but also more memorable than most other video games or even films, leaving the power of interpretation in the mind of the player.

Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition has added some extra DLC in the form of a new level. The original level layout can take the player up to about 20~30 hours+ of game time depending on your skill. The new DLC adds roughly 3~5 more hours of content.

PhotobucketWithout spoiling the DLC’s backstory, I will comment that it is visually stunning and adds a new flavor to the game's universe. Visuals and level architecture are an art-form in this game, it's almost like being part of a extremely more twisted version of a Zdzisław Beksiński painting.

The DLC doesn't feel particularly long, nor do the new enemy designs bring any excitement or real challenge. There are two bosses, the first boss I sunk 20~30 attempts into and I can say I did probably double the amount on the final boss. I will say that the final boss had some pretty unfair programming, mainly because some of his spells seem to be unavoidable, and his recovery animation is way too fast for a player of even seasoned ability, stats and equipment to handle – there's a fine line between a challenge and an unfair challenge.

The new DLC also includes a PVP area for two-on-two or four vs. four free-for-all PVP matches. As Dark Souls incorporates online elements, such as player interaction (which mostly involves scumbags and their trolling efforts to kill your player in a difficult area of the game), From Software have added this handy new multiplayer feature to sate the appetite of those strictly interested in testing their battle hardened skills against other players. Due to the nature of the equipment, open character development and playing style, the PVP arena is by far one of the most welcom and fun elements added to Dark Souls since its original release. If that isn’t enough, for the truly hardcore completing the game automatically starts a New Game+ that increases the difficulty of all monsters (they do more damage and have higher defense), thus adding a further ridiculous challenge to the game.

In conclusion, I would say this game is a 10/10. The only reason I have to shave a point off this game is because it suffers from a slight case of consolitus (bad console game port jobs), but also a the initial oversight with the resolution problems. But, as I said before, I will defend the fact that this game was made by a development team with little to no experience of PC gaming.

This is game that really stands the test of time. Even though graphics improve and gameplay standards evolve in time, the story, atmosphere, environment and challenge of Dark Souls is something that will never die, and its soul shall live on in the hearts of all the gamers who braved this game and survived to tell the tale.