A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Souls is a violent and bloody action role-playing game that is designed to be extremely difficult, even for veteran gamers. Players use melee weapons and magic in their fight against human and fantasy creatures. Blood flies through the air and stains the ground, and one female enemy nearly reveals her exposed bosoms, which are covered only by hair. Even if the player is of an age to safely experience this game’s mature themes, they may not be prepared for its punishing level of challenge, which guarantees hundreds of player character deaths and frequent loss of progress. This is not a game for beginners. Parents should note that players can play cooperatively or antagonistically in each other’s worlds, but that communication is limited to basic body gestures and pre-formed messages that players can scrawl on the floor. Open communication is not allowed.
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What's it about?
DARK SOULS, a spiritual successor to 2009’s Demon’s Souls, is an action role-playing game that sees players exploring a demon-infested land of the undead in an attempt to retrieve their lost souls. Its realistic melee combat is bloody and gory, and requires players to make clever use of scarce artifacts that can restore health or allow players to engage ghostly specters. Other collectible items allow players to travel online between game worlds to help -- or face off against -- other human-controlled characters. Regardless of whether you journey alone or with other players, the experience is persistently, unforgivingly difficult. This game was designed to put the skill and tenacity of the most hardcore gamers to the test, guaranteeing frequent player character death accompanied by a loss of nearly all progress. Not only is it not designed for children and beginner gamers, it’s not intended for adults or veteran players unwilling to suffer one abject defeat after another.
Is it any good?
Games have slowly but surely been getting easier and easier. Tutorials, onscreen instructions, frequent save points, regenerating health, forgiving enemies -- these elements have gradually become the norm in most games over the last two decades. And Dark Souls has none of them. You must discover how to do everything on your own. You lose virtually all of your progress whenever you die. Health regeneration is highly limited. And, most importantly, your enemies tend to be of the fiendishly, cruelly difficult variety. Every encounter is a nail-biting slice of combat that could easily leave you dead, with all of the character-growing souls you have harvested lost -- unless you can work your way back to the place you died without dying along the way.
It’s not a bad game, and it’s not bad game design. This is exactly the experience Dark Souls’ makers intended. They’re after a segment of gamers who, in this age of player-success-served-up-on-a-platter, pine for challenge. It’s bliss for those who happen to be in this group. If you’re not among them, best skip this one lest you saddle yourself with the expense of replacing the TV into which you are bound to throw your controller.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about video game difficulty. Why do you play games? Simply to have fun? To experience a story? To challenge yourself? If a game is too hard, does it cease to be entertaining? Or do you feel a greater sense of satisfaction once you’ve achieved your goal?
Families can also discuss violence in games. Does video game violence ever make you uneasy? Can ultra-realistic games prove unsettling?
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