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Back in 2013, my then teenage son had gotten a game free off PSN called Demon’s Souls. Knowing I was a huge fan of Metroidvania type games, and specifically, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, he insisted that I try it. He kept telling me it was like Castlevania but 3D. So, one Saturday morning, I decided to try it. Made a character, went through the tutorial and proceeded to spend hours trying to make it through the first area without getting slaughtered.
After repeated re-starts, it finally clicked and I fell in love with the game. The levels that twisted and turned in on themselves with various shortcuts back to checkpoints, the boss battles, the atmosphere, the way your different stats scaled different weapon types.
I was in action RPG heaven, it was like this game scratched every itch I had in a video game. My son explained to me that there was a spiritual successor to the game called “Dark Souls” that was even better. Then life happened, I was busy a lot and didn’t have time for games. When Dark Souls 2 came out, my girlfriend bought it for me because she remembered how much I loved Demon’s Souls. I liked Dark Souls 2 in it’s original form, but it didn’t have the same magic as Demon’s Souls. I didn’t pick it up again (Or play games much at all) until the Scholar of the First Sin edition came out on PS4.
I fell in love with Scholar of the First Sin. I have probably played it more hours than all of the other souls games combined. I’ve probably played through it with 9 or 10 different characters all with different play styles. Then the rumors about “Project Beast” started going around and I got very excited for a souls type game on modern hardware.
I loved Bloodborne. It was the 3D Castlevania I always wanted, and I loved the Victorian aesthetic, and it doesn’t hurt that I’ve always been a huge fan of the works of HP Lovecraft. It was a great game, wonderful level design, faster paced combat, and after playing through it, I found that when I went back to Dark Souls 2, I was better at it.
I played through Dark Souls 2: SOTFS a few more times leading up to the release of Dark Souls III, and when it came out, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. While the graphics were beautiful, and it was polished like a Triple-A game, and the design of the individual levels wasn’t bad, the game felt very linear. I kept expecting it to open up the way the other Fromsoft games I had played did, and it never really happened.
I enjoyed my first play-through and didn’t really feel compelled to play it again. In-between 3 and the remaster I went back to playing Bloodborne occasionally and experimented with a few new builds in Dark Souls 2.
Then I got the remaster.
All I can say is wow. While I love Dark Souls 2, I can now see why people were disappointed in it. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great game, it’s just that I’m not sure anything else could follow up the original Dark Souls. It has grabbed me the same way Demon’s Souls did. It’s the first game I’ve played since that has. It is truly a huge, intricate 3D Metroidvania. The atmosphere is perfect, and the Journey down to Blightown then back up and realizing I was down in the valley below Firelink Shrine the entire time was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in a video game. The level design is amazing, the shortcuts very satisfying to find, and the way poise works along with the various roll speeds makes combat much more strategic and interesting.
In fact, there is something about the combat in this game that just feels “right” something that was also in Demon’s Souls but I don’t know how to explain it, the combat feels perfect in a way that was never replicated in later souls games. In short, this is the best video game I have ever played, and while I feel the sequels and successors range from great to “meh”, none of them have recaptured the magic of the original.