Here’s something to know about me – I’m poor as shit and I’m almost always late to a party. I had heard a ton about this game’s predecessors, and their reputation for unfathomable difficulty. They were marketed on the fact that you are going to die. A lot. The challenge was the thing that kept you coming back, because it made you want to overcome the challenge. And that was cathartic. This game is difficult in the fourth degree, but it plays a load differently than its forerunners. But, the thing to know about this game is – if you can’t stand a game that is difficult and doesn’t hold back, this isn’t for you. But, if you love a challenge and find beautiful locations and epic boss fights engaging, this game is going to give you a lot to sink your teeth into.
Another thing to know – this game is low on plot. But that isn’t a bad thing. The world of this game is shrouded in mystery. The story starts with you waking up in the room of a man in a wheelchair. You are a foreigner in a place that is teeming with monsters and people who have lost their fucking minds. The city is Yharnam, and it is the night of the “hunt.” The city, the madness that has infested it, and the Hunt are all shrouded in mystery. You are working to unravel it, and in the process find out just how messed up this world is. The story of this game is lacking, but that isn’t a bad thing.
This game trades on the elements of its world and how they look and feel. This game is more like Alice in Wonderland or Dante’s Inferno (the story, not the game). It’s a study in what you see as opposed to some cohesive plot. But this world is a place of darkness and evil. Which makes how utterly beautiful the game looks that much better. No joke, this is the best-looking game on the PS4, in my opinion. It doesn’t run at the super-high framerate that everyone seems to get really jonesed about. I don’t get that, but that’s just me. The framerate butthurt is strong with modern gamers. But this game does look absolutely immaculate. The gothic style is oozing from every part of this game. And there is an awesome attention to small details. It’s part of what makes the world look so interesting, and the fact that you have such limited understanding of it that much more frustrating. For example – there’s a place where you can see some kind of battle going on in the distance. Who is fighting? Why? Unknown. It’s just a huge, epic battle. But it’s stuff like that that keeps you wanting to learn more. I love that.
So, on to the element that is most important – the combat. From what I understand, the Dark Souls games were games that you had to play defensively. Charging in and swinging was punished rather brutally and quickly. This game is a little different. Here, charging in is absolutely rewarded. You can die fast, but this game has a very interesting mechanic that, when you get hit, you can hit the enemy back and regain some health. That incentivizes you to play offensively and take risks where it might seem counter-intuitive. It also doesn’t help that you have a very limited number of potions, so you learn to use them as you can. The learning curve to playing this game well is SO steep, but once you get the little tricks, you feel like a boss.
There is a currency in this game, one that affects EVERYTHING. It allows you to level up. It allows you to repair and upgrade your weapons. It is the key to everything, and that makes how often you die that much more frustrating. It’s called Blood Echoes. This currency is your best friend. Without it, you are going to fail, in every way. But here’s another neat thing – when an enemy kills you, you can get your blood echoes returned by killing them back. I like that. It also incentivizes you to play rough. Given how graphic and brutal the combat in this game is, that makes sense.
The last thing to talk about is the characters. Given that this game is about what you see, the characters are not particularly strong. None of them last very long. They are there and then gone. But there are pieces of puzzles that unravel that deeper into the game that you get. That’s part of what makes the overall experience fun. Each little part you uncover adds to a picture that, while never complete, is cool to see. But the real show-stopper is the boss fights. These things are epic! The only true pity with this game is that I am unable to play these over again. I would die a happy man if I was able to go back and do some of these again. Though, maybe it’s for the best. After all, it would never be the same way again.
All-in-all, this is an awesome game. For real, it’s fucking amazing. If you haven’t given this game a shot, I highly recommend it. But buyer beware. If games that will make you want to pull your hair out on frustrating areas, that each death will have you retreading, isn’t your thing, this game will drive you nuts. It does annoy just how much back-tracking there is. But that’s the key to playing this game well, I guess. Take that for what you will.
8 out of 10