Dark Souls is the spiritual successor of Demon Souls, a fiendishly difficult game that somehow managed to attract a lot of players despite hating them with a passion. This is due to the fact that the game is not difficult because of bad controls or poor level design, but because it was made with this in mind.
Dark Souls features the same sadistic difficulty. And people love it. Difficulty has been avoided in recent video games in an attempt to attract a larger audience. This has its positive and negative sides. Crushing difficulty was a way for the small games on old consoles and arcades last longer. This was sometimes artificial difficulty. But on the flip side, easier games meant less of a challenge. Difficulty is the meat of the game and what makes the player get the feeling of accomplishment when advancing and finishing the game.
Dark Souls achieves that balance of giving the players a challenge without it being a way to prolong the game. Like I said, this paradoxically made the game very popular. I hope this shows other developers that players are not afraid of a challenge, in fact they crave it. But it is very important to remember that difficulty is a balance. A game should punish the player being rash and making mistakes, not by having bad controls or situations that are overwhelming.
Knowing that players will die a lot in this game, the developers paid great attention to the death system. If you die you will lose all your souls, the currency of the game. You can retrieve them, but if you die again before you do, you will lose all of them. There are also items that when used give you additional souls. These items are good to keep as a way to not lose souls when you die. There is also a humanity mechanic. You gain humanity if you use a certain item, and if you die you lose your humanity. Oh, your character is an undead from the get-go. Humanity allows you to kindle bonfires, the save points, and a kindled bonfire allows you to fill more flasks that give you health. Saving your game refills your health and flasks, but it also respawns enemies.
So from this stems a lot of tactical thinking. You have to plan out when you will use your humanity, when to use a bonfire and when to use your items to gain more souls. While fighting in this game you to be very precise. One mistake and you lose precious health, and a big chunk of it at that. You have to block or parry and each action drains your stamina. Fighting must be paced, not rushed. If you rush, you die. The armor you wear also comes into play. Heavy armor offers a lot of protection, but limits your movement. The developers have paid a lot of attention to the gameplay. And if there is one element to pay attention to while making a game, its gameplay.
Dark Souls takes place in a dark fantasy world and you will be fighting against demons, dragons and monsters of all sorts. There are a lot of classes to choose from, but in the end it does not really matter, as you will be able to spend points however you want and have a knight that shoots fireballs, or an archer that wears heavy armor.
The developer also gets point for listening to the community. Dark Souls is a console exclusive game at the moment, but when PC gamers asked for a PC port, the developer said that if enough people want this they would do it. So before long, a petition sprung up and PC gamers swarmed to sign it. When the developers saw this, they announced that a PC version of the game will be coming out.
So does Dark Souls deserve a Game of the Year award? Yes.
Dark Souls is based on Demon Souls, so the two games pretty similar. However it stands out as a game that is not afraid to be difficult and challenge the player.
It is very hard to be addicted to a game that is this difficult, but if you can learn the mechanics and tactics you will find yourself addicted to the feeling of accomplishment you get when advancing through the game.
Dark Souls is a well known title, and it is very popular with the critics as well.
Unforgiving difficulty, complex death mechanics and gameplay, and a dark fantasy setting.
GOTY awards won: 5