Dark Souls[b] is an action role-playing game developed by FromSoftware and published by Namco Bandai Games. A spiritual successor to FromSoftware's Demon's Souls, the game is the second installment in the Souls series. It was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in Japan by FromSoftware in September 2011 and worldwide by Namco Bandai Games in the following month. Dark Souls takes place in the fictional kingdom of Lordran, where players assume the role of a cursed undead character who begins a pilgrimage to discover the fate of their kind.
Cover art used in Western regions
|Publisher(s)||Namco Bandai Games|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch|
Dark Souls received critical acclaim upon its release and is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made, with critics praising the depth of its combat, intricate level design, and world lore. However, the game's difficulty received mixed reviews. While some praised the challenge it provides, others criticized it for being unnecessarily unforgiving. The original Windows version of the game was less well received, with criticism directed at numerous technical issues.
In August 2012, a version of Dark Souls for Microsoft Windows, Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, was released. It featured additional content not seen in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. In October 2012, the additional content was released as downloadable content for consoles under the subtitle Artorias of the Abyss. By April 2013, the game had sold over two million copies worldwide. A sequel to the game, Dark Souls II, was released in 2014. A remastered version of the game, Dark Souls: Remastered, was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Nintendo Switch in 2018.
Dark Souls is a third-person action role-playing game. The core mechanic of the game is exploration. Players are encouraged by the game to proceed with caution, learn from past mistakes, or find alternative areas to explore. Dark Souls takes place in a large and continuous open world environment, connected through a central hub area (Firelink Shrine). Players are able to travel to and from areas and explore various paths at will, although certain prerequisites have to be met in order to unlock certain areas.
The central element to Dark Souls are Bonfires. Bonfires are scattered throughout the world and serve as checkpoints for each level. When rested at, the player is healed to full, healing charges are restored, but all of the enemies (except for bosses, mini-bosses, and specific characters) respawn. While resting, players can level up and perform other key functions.
Another aspect of Dark Souls is the "humanity" system. There are two "forms" the player character can be in during the game, human form and hollow form. Whenever the player dies in human form, they are returned to hollow form and can only have their humanity restored by consuming an item (also called a "humanity"). In order to gain the assistance of other players, the player must be in human form. While in human form, the player is subjected to invasions by other players and non-player characters (NPC) who seek to kill the player and restore their own humanity. Humanity can be acquired in many ways, and if no humanity is available, players are still able to progress in hollow form. Death in either form results in the loss of all carried souls and humanity, but players revive as hollows at their most recent bonfire with one chance at returning to where they died to recover all lost souls and humanity. If the player dies before reaching their "bloodstain", the souls and humanity they previously accrued are permanently lost.
Communication between players is deliberately restricted. Outside of character gestures, the only other communication players have with one another comes by way of orange soapstones, which allow players to write limited messages that can be read by others in the same area. In addition, players can enter cooperative or player versus player combat with each other. Throughout the game, there are multiple NPCs that the player may encounter on their journey. These characters add to the plot of the game but are not mandatory to engage with. If the player does choose to engage with them, the characters are able to assist the player by being able to be summoned for certain boss fights.
Dark Souls has a minimalist plot. Historical events in this world and their significance are often implicit and left to player interpretation rather than fully shown or explained. Most of the story is given to the player through dialogue from characters within the game, flavor text from items, and world design. The opening cutscene establishes the premise of the game. The world was once ruled by dragons. In this time period, a man known as Gwyn happens upon an object known as the "First Flame" and finds the "Lord Souls". He and his allies use their power to defeat the dragons, which starts the Age of Fire. Over time, the flames begin to fade with the rise of humans, and Gwyn sacrifices himself to prolong the Age of Fire. With the flame artificially rekindled, the undead curse begins to plague humanity, causing certain humans to continually resurrect upon death.
The game's protagonist is known as the chosen undead. After going through Sen's Fortress, the chosen undead defeats the Iron Golem, and soon enters taken into Anor Londo. The Chosen Undead defeats Dragonslayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough and then enters a throne room of Gwynevere, who gives the chosen undead an object known as the "Lordvessel". Optionally, the player may encounter Darkstalker Kaathe who encourages the player not to link the fire but to let it die out and usher in the Age of Dark instead. Once the player acquires the Lord Souls, they travel to the Kiln of the First Flame to battle Gwyn. Once Gwyn has been defeated, the player is given the choice of linking the flame to preserve the Age of Fire, or letting it die out to instigate the Age of Dark.
Artorias of the Abyss
At some point in the past, a being known as Manus awoke and began to spread the Abyss. Knight Artorias was sent to stop the spread of the Abyss, but he failed and became corrupted. Meanwhile, Manus searches desperately for his long-lost pendant across space and time. Once the player obtains the pendant, Manus pulls them into the past. There, the player destroys the corrupted Artorias and defeats Manus, halting the spread of the Abyss.
Development and release
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Dark Souls was developed by FromSoftware, with series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki directing and producing. Following the game's release for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, many gamers expressed their hope for a PC version. International publisher Namco Bandai Games administrator Tony Shoupinou responded on their page that a PC version was possible. In early 2012, fans started a petition to bring Dark Souls to PC, with over 93,000 people signing it. A PC version of the game was confirmed in April 2012 via German magazine PC Action. It had been reported during the development process that FromSoftware had been having difficulty with the port due to inexperience with PC as a platform and were focusing on new content rather than optimization. Re-branded as the Prepare To Die Edition, it came out in August 2012 and featured new content, including bosses, enemies, equipment, and NPCs. The new content, titled "Artorias of the Abyss", was released for consoles in October 2012 in the form of DLC. Soon after, it was announced that Dark Souls for PC would use Games for Windows – Live for online play and DRM, spurring fan backlash.
The PC version was released on August 23, 2012. A user-created mod to circumvent the resolution cap, named DSFix, appeared shortly after release. DSFix was later extended to become an unofficial fan-made patch which additionally allowed graphical improvements, raising the framerate cap to 60, and allowing the installation of custom texture mods.
On December 15, 2014, Games for Windows – Live was removed from the Steam version and replaced by Steamworks. The ability to transfer both achievements and save data was provided. In April 2016, Dark Souls became available on Xbox One via backward compatibility.
Dark Souls received positive reviews from critics upon its release. One of the reviewers for Dark Souls described it as "a very hardcore dark-fantasy [role-playing game]" that is "role-playing right down to the roots", and stated that the "massive field map and powerful enemies serve to rev up both your sense of adventure and your sense of dread". Another reviewer stated that "the sheer happiness you get after the trial-and-error pays off and you overcome the challenge is absolutely impossible to replicate."
GameSpot scored Dark Souls a 9.5/10. Much praise was given to the online system, as well as the sense of jubilation felt when conquering boss fights after numerous failed attempts. They also suggested that casual gamers may struggle to progress, whereas role-playing game enthusiasts will thrive on the difficulty. IGN gave Dark Souls a 9.0/10, praising the well-thought-out level design, variety, strong emphasis on online features, excessively dark tone and atmosphere, and deep gameplay. While praising the extremely high difficulty, they stated that "there's a difference between punishing, and downright unfair."
Eurogamer gave Dark Souls 9/10, praising the level design and atmosphere while noting that the game's difficulty might not appeal to casual gamers. Japanese publication Famitsu gave it a 37 out of 40 score.
Jason Killingsworth wrote a response to Thomsen's review for Edge, arguing that the game's "vertigo-inducing breadth makes it the gaming equivalent of a marathon". Killingsworth praised the game's length and addictive nature. Edge later retroactively awarded the game 10 out of 10 in their October 2013 20th anniversary issue, stating that over time the breadth and quality of the game's design had overruled complaints about its difficulty.
In a review of the game, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw praised Dark Souls in his Zero Punctuation video for its deep gameplay and immersive atmosphere, but was "disappointed" with the late-game bosses and criticized the difficulty of getting into the game, stating that the difficulty would be a key factor in turning less new players off.
Post-release, the game's director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, contemplated adding an easier difficulty level, stating that he was saddened by the fact that the difficulty deterred new players from playing the game. Namco Bandai claimed Miyazaki's statement was mistranslated and should have read "This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about how to make everyone complete the game while maintaining the current difficulty and carefully send all gamers the messages behind it."
Namco Bandai's yearly financial report stated that the game sold 1.19 million units in the United States and Europe by March 2012. FromSoftware announced in April 2013 that the game had sold 2.37 million units worldwide.
In GameSpy's review, the port was referred to as "shabby", citing the game's limit of 30 frames per second, poor mouse and keyboard controls, and nonadjustable resolution, but the expanded content was praised, giving the game an overall favorable review. Eurogamer also commented on the quality of the port, stating: "Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition does not come with the technical options you would expect from a well-engineered PC game, because it's a port of a console game, and that's all FromSoftware ever promised to deliver. Anyone who passes up Dark Souls for this reason is cutting off their nose to spite their neckbeard of a face." One of the producers of Dark Souls II, Takeshi Miyazoe, responded to the criticism of the PC version by saying:
This is going to sound bad but our main priority was to get the game onto the PC as fast as possible, because people wanted it on the PC. The PC market in Japan is so minimal that originally there were no plans to make it on the PC, but with the strong petition from the North American and European fans, even with the lack of experience of working on a PC platform we still did our best to try to get it out as fast as possible. [The problems] were expected to a certain extent.
We did know there were PC-specific features like key-mapping and use of the mouse and keyboard, high resolution and higher frame rate, stuff like that, but... It's not that we ignored it, but it would have taken too much time for us to implement it, test it and get it up to the level people expected. It was more of a publisher (Namco Bandai) decision to say, ‘Guys, don’t worry about this – let’s just get it out and see how this works on PC.'
Game Revolution gave Dark Souls the Community Choice Game of the Year award. IncGamers also gave it the "Game of the Year" award. Q-Games' Dylan Cuthbert and Double Fine Productions' Brad Muir chose Dark Souls as Game of the Year. Electronic Gaming Monthly's Eric L. Patterson chose it as Game of the Year. GameTrailers gave it the "Best Role-Playing Game" award, while also nominating it for the "Best Multiplayer Game", "Best Trailer" and "Game of the Year" awards. GameZone gave the game the "Best Action/Adventure" award and chose it as the runner-up for the "Best RPG" award.
The Daily Telegraph gave the game the "Best Integration of Online Features" award, and nominated it for the awards of "Best Director" (Hidetaka Miyazaki), "Best Level Design", "Best Sound Design", "Best Original Score" (Motoi Sakuraba), "Best Developer" (FromSoftware), and "Game of the Year". TeamXbox gave it an honorable mention as the runner-up for the "Best RPG" award. 1UP.com gave it the "Most Rewarding Game" award. Game Informer gave it the award for "Best Boss Fight" (Sif). It also received the "Best Boss Fights" awards from GameSpot, including both the Editors' Choice and Readers' Choice awards. Famitsu gave it an Award of Excellence in its 2012 awards ceremony.
In 2013, Digital Spy named Dark Souls the best game of the seventh console generation. In 2014, Edge magazine named Dark Souls the best game of the seventh generation of game consoles, noting that while some may initially tire of it, "We've yet to meet a single player for whom persistence has not been enough to transform apathy into all-consuming love."  In September 2015, Dark Souls topped the magazine's special issue The 100 Greatest Videogames.
In 2015, the game placed first on GamesRadar's "The 100 best games ever" list. The game also placed first on USgamer's The 15 Best Games Since 2000 list. The game was titled the "Best RPG on PC" by Rock, Paper, Shotgun. In 2016, Dark Souls placed fifth on PC Gamer's "Best RPGs of all time" list.
Dark Souls is often considered to be among the best games ever made. It is also considered one of the most influential video games of its generation. Games cited to have been influenced by Dark Souls include Destiny, Alienation, Lords of the Fallen, Salt and Sanctuary, Shovel Knight, Titan Souls, Enter the Gungeon, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Nioh, God of War, Journey, and ZombiU. Dark Souls was also cited as an inspiration for the television show Stranger Things.
A sequel, Dark Souls II, was announced at the Spike Video Game Awards on December 7, 2012, for release on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. Amid rumors of a possible decrease in the difficulty of the series due to comments made by the new director to Edge, Brian Hong, global brand manager of Namco Bandai Games America, stated that Dark Souls II would be "viciously hard". Dark Souls II was released in early 2014. An updated version of it, subtitled "Scholar of the First Sin", was released in 2015 for the same platforms as well as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The third installment of the series, Dark Souls III, was released in early 2016. Two downloadable content packs were released for this game: Ashes of Ariandel, on October 25, 2016, followed by The Ringed City on March 28, 2017.
Dark Souls: Remastered
A remastered version of the game, titled Dark Souls: Remastered, was released worldwide for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows in May 2018, and for the Nintendo Switch on October 19, 2018. The remaster was ported by the Polish studio QLOC, whereas the Switch version was ported by Virtuos. The game runs at a native 60 frames per second on all platforms except the Nintendo Switch, and supports 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X, and Windows. A number of changes were made to the online multiplayer, including the addition of dedicated servers, the maximum number of players online increased from four to six, and the addition of password matchmaking, first introduced in Dark Souls III.
Dark Souls: Remastered received "generally favorable" reviews from critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic. Critics praised the improved visuals and performance, while criticism was directed towards the lack of an effective anti-cheat system and the PC version's price despite few significant changes. It sold 71,739 copies in Japan during the week of its release, making it the best-selling game in the country at the time.
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