Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition review
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If you decide to pick up Dark Souls on PC before October 26th, you'll be treated the new DLC early and at no extra cost. Artorias of the Abyss centers around traveling to the world of Oolacile to combat the legendary Artorias and save the land from being consumed by the spreading abyss. Initiating the DLC is a bit complicated, but thankfully it provides some of the best Dark Souls content to date.
For those nervous whether the DLC will remain true to the Dark Souls spirit, relax. Oolacile maintains the same sense of exploration, wonder, and danger that made the original game so appealing. It sets the right tone and atmosphere that forces the player to traverse the landscape shield in hand, anticipating the next enemy encounter. Most if not all of the enemies in the DLC are unique to the world of Oolacile, which contributes to the tension of the journey. The three major boss fights -- Artorias, Black Dragon Kalameet, and Manus, Father of the Abyss -- are arguably the toughest challenges all of Dark Souls has to offer. Even the toughest fights in regular Dark Souls don't quite live up to the new ones.
In addition to the new single player content, Oolacile contains a new form of multiplayer combat. After the Artorias fight, the player may stumble into the Battle of Stoicism, which offers 1v1, 2v2, and 4-player free-for-all matches. Unlike world PvP, your humanity and souls are not on the line in the Battle of Stoicism. This new form of multiplayer winds up feeling like a safer, less stressful alternative for people who aren't looking to gamble their hard-earned souls.
The fights in the Battle of Stoicism are simple, but the rules leave a bit to be desired. Each fight is given a time limit -- I only managed to get into 1v1 matches where the limit was 5 minutes -- and the victor is determined by the amount of kills at the end of the round. The fight is not separated into rounds, so any damage you take in the process of killing your adversary will still be present when he or she returns. That is, unless you prepared ahead of time. While the rules state that no healing items can be used on the battlefield, and the game appropriately locks them out, healing miracles still seem to be functional. I dueled one player multiple times who would fully heal up while waiting for me to respawn, which made my potential success that much more difficult. Every player has access to these miracles in theory, so perhaps it's not an issue in the long run. Be aware, though, that when you dive into the Battle of Stoicism, some people may be more prepared than you at the start.
It's difficult to pass final judgement on the PC port of Dark Souls. The PC controls and lack of an update to outdated problems feel inexcusable. It contains great new content like the Battle of Stoicism and Oolacile, but the content is unnecessarily hard to find. Matches in Stoicism have long wait-times, I believe, because many people still haven't found or reached that part of the DLC yet. Despite these issues, if you have a 360 controller and the patience for it's long boot-time, this is by far the best version of Dark Souls currently available. It's a shame that anyone without a controller has to struggle through broken controls to see it.