Design is Key
Dark souls has one of the most complex but accessible and polished level designs ever. Each area is unique in its aesthetic and gameplay in a way that it challenges and encourages you to switch up play styles and experiment with your character as much as possible. On top of that despite of the technological limitations of the time it is quite possibly one the most vast and varied worlds because of its uniquely and systematically interconnected design.
One aspect of level design that cannot be overlooked is the use of vertical space. The game is filled with lifts and stairs and cliffs (Ah… the cliffs) not a minute goes by before the game has you moving up or down the world in some way
I don’t think any game, after Shadow of the Colossus (2005), came close to portraying the sense of scope of the world and its inhabitants to the player with such great mastery until Dark Souls. You would be battling a skinless undead on a cliff overlooking a town down below and a crumbling castle in the distance. Many hours and multitudes of deaths later you would be running across that village tackling mighty boar monsters, dodging raining arrows and then engaged in a duel with a huge towering knight in the castle who ultimately kills you in one swift blow.
Character design is another shining stars of the game. Every enemy you encounter is unique not just aesthetically but in their play style as well. From how the character moves and attacks to how he reacts to your attacks through out the different stages of the fight. Implementing top notch AI techniques and minutely detailed animations Dark Souls’s enemies feel natural and worthy of your time. You will be constantly confounded by how smart, agile and human like these entities behave.
The true star of Dark Souls’s design though is the combat system. It is tight, extremely responsive, fun and encourages experimentation. If you master the basics of parrying, dodging and managing your stamina you will be a force to reckon with. You will find countless videos on YouTube where people have completed the game in one run without a single upgrade to the base character. That is the beauty of Dark Souls’s combat system. You do not have to endlessly grind a certain area to level up or wield the best weapon with the highest DPS or the toughest of armors to defeat that intimidating boss. After a couple hours into the game you will soon realize that the game is in fact quite easier than it looks. Once you map out the enemies’ attacks in your mind and find their weaknesses it all comes down to your personal skill and patience (I cant stress this enough but patience is the most important thing you will need). And by personal skill i do not mean having lightning fast reflexes or the ability to use the controller like an extension of your arm. It just means knowing when to attack and keeping your guard up the rest of the time.
We are in this together
One of the most awesome features implemented in Dark Souls was a revolutionary multiplayer system. Not only can players fight amongst themselves by invading each other’s worlds but you can also leave your signs (Like a calling card) on the ground before boss battles or key areas and someone might call upon your help anytime to assist them in their world. This is also one of the only ways to defeat a boss more than once if you have already defeated him in your world. On top of that you receive a huge bonus for co-op wins. A real incentive for both parties which ensured that the players were constantly engaged in multiplayer PVP or PVE. My Dark Souls multiplayer experience is honestly one of the best even more so than some MMORPG’s.
Difficult but Fair
The developers of Dark Souls have brilliantly made the game look harder than it truly is and then give the player all the tools and help he would need in the most subtle way possible. As a result when you are victorious it is one the most rewarding feelings ever evoked from a game. The Dark Souls experience has fundamentally changed the kind of gamer i was than i am now. I often find myself increasing the difficulty level of games i play today just to recreate that rewarding feeling that i know is possible within the acceptable boundaries of a video-game.
If you are tired of following dots on a map, quest logs, long tedious dialogues or unnecessary hand holding then Dark Souls series’ games are the ones for you.
Dark Souls is available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
If you do not own the previous generation of consoles then,
Dark Souls 2 is available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox one and PC.
Dark Souls 3 (The final game in the series) is available on PS4, Xbox one and PC.
And Bloodborne, also developed by FromSoftware, is a good place to start if you feel that Dark Souls is too much for you. Bloodborne is a PS4 exclusive.