As a follow up to the great Demon’s Souls (also my Game of the Year at the time), expectations couldn’t be higher. To my delight, it met pretty much all of them, and soared even higher than it’s predecessor in many respects.
So what’s the main draw of Dark Souls for me? After playing the King’s Field series for the first time, I developed a soft spot for free-roaming adventure games. Simply put, there’s nothing quite like roaming around a completely foreign countryside, not knowing what to expect at every turn – in short, the entire game is exciting – not just the few and far between “shock” moments that seems to be the industry norm.
Additionally, Dark Souls was the most enjoyable game of the year for me for another reason; difficulty. To be blunt, a lot of games these days don’t go out of the way to offer a challenge. For instance, the first 20 hours of Final Fantasy XIII is presented through a series of tunnels, and offers little exploration or challenge in terms of pathfinding. Most games these days also have an extensive tutorial – and by extensive, I mean that tooltips consistently pop up during the entire game and hold your hand (Fable).
The secret to Dark Souls is that it’s not just hard for the sake of being hard: if you die, it really feels like your fault. If a boulder rolls down a stairwell and kills you, it’s because you weren’t fast enough to dodge it. If an enemy jumps around a corner and slices your throat, it’s because you didn’t have your shield up, and were a little bit to cavalier with that shadowy corner.
Dark Souls also doesn’t give you a whole lot of help – it gives you the basics, immediately throws you into your first boss fight, then leaves you in a ditch for dead – after that, the real fun begins. A lot of the allure of Dark Souls is finding your own way – finding out what type of combat you excel in, and what your next move is. There are no “stages” – the world is yours for the taking, and there are a number of different ways you can approach it. For those reasons and more, Dark Souls is my Game of the Year.