Best of 2011 #4: Dark Souls

Because seemingly nobody else can, I’m going to give my opinion on Dark Souls without mentioning the fact that it’s really hard. Apart from that time. And to say that it’s not as hard as some drama queens have made out.

Putting aside this fact-that-must-not-be-named, when this generation is over I’m confident that Dark Souls will be remembered as both one of a handful of Japanese games that didn’t disappoint – along with its spiritual predecessor there – and a truly great sequel that was an improvement on the original game in almost all areas. In fact, the only area where I definitively prefer Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls is in the first game’s setting and atmosphere, but the follow-up is no slouch there either.

I admired Dark Souls’ approach to an open world. Although it lacks the sense of unrestricted freedom of a game like Skyrim, putting barriers between the player and the highest peaks and deepest dungeons in favour of a few branching routes, it walks a nice middle ground of being open-ended and at the same time somewhat directed. Different but not worse. A very Western genre through the prism of Japanese design sensibilities. Rather than mediocre attempts at cover shooters, this is the blueprint for Japanese studios struggling to find the best of both worlds.

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