Monday, January 16, 2012

Game of the Year 2011: Dark Souls

Anyone I know will tell you they are sick of hearing me talk about how Demon’s Souls is far and away the best game of this generation of consoles. Well I’ve changed my mind because its spiritual successor Dark Souls is so much better.

Dark Souls is basically Demon’s Souls on steroids. The combat mechanics have been tweaked and improved making heavy armour now a viable option. The separate level structure of Demon’s Souls has been dropped in favour of a more open interconnected world to explore. The fantastic and unique multiplayer aspects have also been expanded upon. Dark Souls keeps the ability for players to summon other players to their world for assistance or to invade another player’s world to attempt to kill them. There are also some nice touches like in the early stages of the game there’s a bell tower that the player must ring to advance. Whenever another online player rings the bell you can hear it in your world giving the player an incentive to succeed where others have before.

Before you reach that bell you have the first real boss fight, this guy... and his friend. It's a real baptism of fire.

Make no mistake, Dark Souls is a difficult games, although not as difficult as the press make it out to be. However the difficulty is its own reward. There are no super powers here and only a few magic spells. When you go up against a 50 ft long dragon it’s you as a normal person in armour and a sword up against this monstrous beast. No other game gives you this feeling of being overwhelmed by the odds but then no other game gives you the satisfaction of when you finally take one of these huge beasts down. It’s not just the enemies that are out to get the player but also the world and its maze like design and various traps. Some excellent art and sound design compliment the oppressive atmosphere.

Yes you have to kill this thing as well. It's not even the hardest thing you'll face, not even close.

Not only is Dark Souls far and away the best game of the year but also the best game of this console generation for me. Don’t be put off by the difficulty, otherwise you’ll be missing out on one of the most challenging but ultimately rewarding games ever made. For anyone that can’t deal with it I have this advice: Man up! (or consult the excellent wiki).

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