E3 2011: Dark Souls hands-on preview – bleak, brutal, melancholy, and a must-play

This game (still) hates you

Sadly for us, the alleyway option doesn’t prove to be much better than the dragon. Turns out, the road opens up into a small courtyard that’s guarded by three more undead swordsmen and a gigantic armored boar. Likewise, the courtyard is overlooked by a stone walkway that’s crawling with arbalests. Oh, and when we say that the boar is armored, we don’t mean that it’s wearing armor. This frigging thing is made of armor. We dash at the small group of swordsmen, hoping to kill them quickly. Our genius tactic is rewarded with the metal boar goring us from behind, instantly depleting half of our life bar.

Getting back to our feet, we take a volley of crossbow bolts from the arbalests above, which knocks our life bar down even further. We quickly spy a descending flight of stone stairs where the boar was previously standing. Barely dodging the beast’s second charge with a well-timed dive, we book it down the stairs and through a metal gate that’s too small for the creature to fit through.


Safe for the moment, we take a second to collect ourselves and begin to examine our equipment. Pulling out a talisman in our left hand, we cast a heal miracle. It’s here that we finally notice that there is no mana bar next to our health and stamina. Instead, there is a counter placed above the heal miracle icon in our equipment inventory indicating the number of times we can cast it. According to the exhibitor, the developers for Dark Souls haven’t quite decided whether they’re going to include mana in the game or not.

Totally rejuvenated, we travel further into this new dungeon location and run smack-dab into a large swarm of undead slaves all wielding rusty daggers and various other weapons. The grunts go down easy, but we still take a few hits from the surprise ambush. A series of ladders take us higher and higher through the dungeon until we finally come full circle back to the boar’s courtyard; only this time, we find ourselves high above with the pesky crossbow-users. Running each of them through, we cross the stone walkway, head through a ruined iron portcullis and enter the parish proper. It’s here that we find an unlit campfire. Approaching the ashen wood, we light the fire and are rewarded with fully rejuvenated health and a checkpoint. As Dark Souls is an open-world game, there is no central hub for the player to return to. Instead, the game marks its landscape with a series of campfires which mark your position. We asked the exhibitor if a fast-travel system would be set in place to move about these campfires, but he replied that no such plans were currently in effect.

Climbing to the roof of the parish, we were treated with a truly spectacular vista. As we marveled at the sheer size of the abandoned city we were braving, the exhibitor explained that, since Dark Souls is open-world, players would be able to travel to every location shown in the vista. With that in mind, we continued across the rooftop towards a tower, hoping to get an even better view of the surroundings. It was at this point that two gargoyles the size of dump trucks slammed onto the rooftop on either side of us. Heroically, we panicked between the two monstrosities for about five seconds before we were ripped to pieces. And, thus, we died as we had lived – frightened and confused, and eager to do it again.

And with that, our hands-on with Dark Souls ended. The exhibitor continued to detail a couple of items we weren’t able to check out in the demo. For instance, four players can now fight cooperatively in the world of Dark Souls. Likewise, players can also invade your world with the intention of murdering you and are marked by a sanguine silhouette.

We really can’t put into words how excited we are for Dark Souls. Just like its predecessor, the game is unforgivably challenging but also incredibly rewarding and fair. The combat is tight and, from what we’ve seen, the isolated atmosphere has remained fully intact. Look for our full review upon the game’s release this October 4th.

Jun 10, 2011

We really can’t put into words how excited we are for Dark Souls. Just like its predecessor, the game is unforgivably challenging but also incredibly rewarding and fair. The combat is tight and, from what we’ve seen, the isolated atmosphere has remained fully intact. Look for our full review upon the game’s release this October 4th.

Jun 10, 2011

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