Dark Souls received positive from critics upon its release. One of the reviewers for Dark Souls described it as “a very hardcore dark-fantasy [role-playing game]” that is “role-playing right down to the roots,” and stated that the “massive field map and powerful enemies serve to rev up both your sense of adventure and your sense of dread.” Another reviewer stated that “the sheer happiness you get after the trial-and-error pays off and you overcome the challenge is absolutely impossible to replicate.”

GameSpot scored Dark Souls a 9.5/10. Much praise was given to the online system, as well as the sense of jubilation felt when conquering boss fights after numerous failed attempts. They also suggested that casual gamers may struggle to progress, whereas role-playing game enthusiasts will thrive on the difficulty.

RPG Dark Souls 1 Reception Dragon

Ign gave Dark Souls a 9.0/10, praising the well-thought out level design, variety, strong emphasis on online features, excessively dark tone and atmosphere, and deep gameplay. They also noted that it is not a game that one can simply jump into and play for plain enjoyment. They went as far to say that it is not a game for the timid and that the game requires both skill and strategy almost all the time. While praising the extremely high difficulty, they stated that “there’s a difference between punishing, and downright unfair.”

Eurogamer gave Dark Souls 9/10, saying “If adventure is to surprise and mystify you and invite you to uncover the secrets of a forgotten world, then Dark Souls is a great adventure game. If entertainment is fun without failure and progress without pain, you’ll have to find it somewhere else. But you’ll be missing out on one of the best games of the year.”

RPG Dark Souls 1 Reception Gwyndolin

Writing for Slate, Michael Thomsen asked if a 100-hour video game was ever worthwhile, stating:

“There is real beauty in Dark Souls. It reveals that life is more suffering than pleasure, more failure than success, and that even the momentary relief of achievement is wiped away by new levels of difficulty. It is also a testament to our persistence in the face of that suffering, and it offers the comfort of a community of other players all stuck in the same hellish quagmire. Those are good qualities. That is art. And you can get all of that from the first five hours of Dark Souls. The remaining 90 or so offer nothing but an increasingly nonsensical variation on that experience.”

RPG Dark Souls Reception Sens Fortress

Jason Killingsworth wrote a response to Thomsen’s review for Edge, arguing that the game’s “vertigo-inducing breadth makes it the gaming equivalent of a marathon.” Killingsworth praised Dark Souls’ length, stating that he began a New Game+ upon finishing the game and that he “didn’t look sheepishly at the clock on the wall to beg its permission.”

Edge later retroactively awarded the game 10 out of 10 in their October 2013 20th anniversary issue, stating that over time the breadth and quality of the game’s design had overruled complaints about its difficulty.

RPG Dark Souls Reception Izalith

In a review of the game, Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw praised Dark Souls in his Zero Punctuation video for its deep gameplay and immersive atmosphere, expressing that there should be a “rule that [the developers] can only put stuff in [their] skybox if the player gets to visit it at some point”, but was “disappointed” with the late-game bosses and criticized the difficulty of getting into the game, stating that: “while it’s fine that [Dark Souls] seeks to court the hardcore audience, a gentler barrier-to-entry might have turned less new players off”.

RPG Dark Souls 1 Reception PvP

Post-release, the game’s director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, contemplated adding an easier difficulty level, saying:Dark Souls is rather difficult and a number of people may hesitate to play. This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about whether I should prepare another difficulty that everyone can complete or carefully send all gamers the messages behind our difficult games.” Namco Bandai claimed Miyazaki’s statement was mistranslated, and should have read “This fact is really sad to me and I am thinking about how to make everyone complete the game while maintaining the current difficulty and carefully send all gamers the messages behind it.”

Namco Bandai’s yearly financial report stated that the game sold 1.19 million units in the United States and Europe by March 2012. FromSoftware announced in April 2013 that the game had sold 2.37 million units worldwide.

RPG Dark Souls 1 Reception Kalameet