Ah, here we are, two years after Demon’s Souls we’re treated with Dark Souls.  How does one describe Dark Souls?  Well, in a word, brilliant.  Even though I’m only three and a half hours in (well, more like 7.5 hours, but I’ll get to that soon enough) this game has a ton of promise.  For starters, the environments are great to look at, and offer more diversity than Demon’s Souls (which often focused too heavily on a dark and dreary color palate).  Really, I’ve only seen castles and the beginnings of a forest, but it’s still somewhat more engaging visually than it’s predecessor.  The graphics also look rather stunning at times, but this is to be expected since they weren’t too shabby last time around.  Now to the game itself, the part that truly matters.

The controls are tight, which is a necessity for a game that can lead you to death in just a few hits (if that many).  I still don’t like how you can’t manually aim a crossbow, but that’s just one small gripe.  Well, OK, make it two things, as the locking mechanic isn’t as good as last time.  It’s often difficult to switch between enemies, but this can probably be fixed easily enough with a patch if enough people are vocal about it.  Even if it isn’t fixed it won’t be huge deal since the rest of the game is pretty slick.  Though, the open world can be a bit overwhelming at times.

If you find yourself in a serene situation such as this, chances are your game has broken or you're about to die an untimely death

There are parts in which you don’t want to go one way because you’re not leveled up enough, but at the same time don’t want to risk skipping it and forgetting to go back.  It’s not a problem with the game, as it makes every decision feel that much more important.  The bonfire checkpoint system does a rather nice job of keeping a steady flow after you die, and trust me, this happens quite a bit (shudders at the thought of a certain mage and his minions in a church).  Luckily, bonfires aren’t your only source of help, as there are also shortcuts!  Who doesn’t love a good shortcut?  After bosses or mini-bosses (which there are already plenty of) there is often a door or ladder that connects to an earlier part of the game, making transportation infinitely easier and victory over these foes more rewarding than ever.

As of right now I’m really liking the game, but there’s one problem that halted my progress, for about three hours.  I was playing the game and I died.  So I go into the loading screen and the game decides to freeze.  Well, not much I can do about that other than turn off the system.  I turn it back on, click on the game icon, and find out my save data has been corrupted.  You may be thinking that’s something that can happen to any game during a load screen.  Yes, it probably can occur for many games, but I found out something.  Apparently Dark Souls has a turning off process, or so I’ve read.  Here’s my advice, go into the main menu, click on the quit game option, then exit out of the game to the XMB (or Xbox 360 equivalent), and finally turn off the console.  There seems to be an autosave system in the game that is almost constantly at work, and this is the safest way to go about protecting your hard earned gaming hours.

That aside, this game is really hard but really addictive.  They really don’t lie when they say it’s a learning process each time.  Finding out how to conserve your health potions can be tricky, and it requires mastering the game mechanics. It’s a test of your patience, and it will frustrate you.  Just stick with it, take some breaks in between then go back, or pop in something like GTA: San Andreas to eliminate the stress.

Now please excuse me, I have to go get slain by a dragon, impaled by a sword, and shot by a magic arrow.