Dark Souls is a 2011 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. 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. A port for Microsoft Windows was released in August 2012, which featured additional content not seen in the original PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions. In October 2012, the new content was made downloadable for consoles under the subtitle Artorias of the Abyss.
Dark Souls has been cited as one of the best video games of all time. Critics praised the depth of its combat, intricate level design, and use of flavor text. However, the game’s difficulty received more mixed reviews, with some criticizing it for being too unforgiving. The original Windows version of the game was less well-received, with criticism directed at several technical issues. By April 2013, the game had sold over two million copies worldwide. Two sequels were released in the mid-2010s, while a remastered version was released in 2018.
Dark Souls is a third-person action role-playing game. A 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. The player character can travel between areas and explore various paths at will, although prerequisites have to be met to unlock certain areas.
A central element to the gameplay of Dark Souls is the bonfire. Bonfires are scattered throughout the world and serve as checkpoints for each level. By resting at a bonfire, the player character is healed to full and regains all of the healing charges of their “Estus Flask.” They can also level up and perform other functions, such as attuning magic, and repairing and upgrading equipment. However, resting at a bonfire respawns all of the world’s enemies, except for bosses, mini-bosses, and friendly non-playable characters.
The player character’s interaction with the world of Dark Souls includes a great deal of combat. Combat includes melee attacks, various forms of defensive maneuvering, and magical abilities. For melee attacks, player characters have access to a wide array of high fantasy, medieval-style weaponry—including swords, spears, and maces-as well as fantastical weaponry such as magical swords, huge greatswords, and immense clubs. For defense, player characters have access to shields, armor, dodging, and parrying. For magic, which includes a wide variety of offensive and defensive abilities known as sorceries, miracles, and pyromancies, player characters do not use any form of mana as in most other fantasy RPGs – instead, they gain a discrete number of uses for each attuned spell when resting at a bonfire. These various forms of combat all have tradeoffs, variations, and in-game costs associated with them; and they can all be buffed or altered in some fashion through leveling, smithing, consumable items, magical rings, and new equipment.