I finally finished playing Dark Souls yesterday.
First of all, it plays exactly the same as Demon’s Souls. It could have picked up at the end of Demon’s souls and I wouldn’t have noticed I was playing a new game. Outside of a few minor tweaks (such as healing flasks), it is the same game. So I’m going to assume you know about Demon’s Souls (http://baconfriedrice.com/2010/12/more-video-games/).
Boss Fights: There are less stupid boss fights where you can glitch out the Boss AI and basically get a free win. One of the “multiplayer” features of Demon’s/Dark Souls is that other players can leave messages on the floor. In Demon’s Souls, most boss rooms has a “safe” spot which would be marked with a message. This spot was usally behind a rock or in a nook where the boss would try to futilely attack but be blocked. Then you just shoot 200 arrows and watch the boss slowly die, which was 100% safe. Dark Souls seemed to fix this problem well, as I actually had to fight all the bosses head on in the way intended. Plus, I think there were more overall mechanics. For example, there is one boss that is completely invisible and you have to hit her based on her footprints.
Level layout: One of my favorite things about this game is the way the different sections are interlinked. There is clearly one or two expected paths where the difficulty scales approximately with your character. However, you can pretty much go to any zone in the game from the starting hub if you chose, although they are typically guarded by a monster that serves as a gear/skill check to prevent you from entering areas that are too strong for you.
What’s amazing is that playing through the expected path, you will often go down a path or staircase and encounter an entrance to a zone that is too high level for you and get your ass handed to you by this gear check monster. Later on, after you’ve progressed on the expected path, you will find yourself in the high level zone and come across this same monster but from the opposite direction. It really causes you to go “ohhhhh, so that’s where this staircase always led!” All of the zones are so different feeling, but each is connected through real paths. This is different from Demon’s Souls, where each world was accessed through portals in a central hub. Having to actually walk to each place makes it feel that much cooler.
Stupid narrow bridges: Unlike many games, Dark Souls has no concept of boundaries. If you walk off the edge you fall to your death. You have to pay attention when just running around, because you often have to cross narrow bridges or ledges, where pushing the control stick a little bit too hard results in death. I won’t say that it’s unfair, because everything is doable without dying. It’s just a huge pain in the ass and doesn’t really add anything to the game, especially when you have to travel over it dozens of times.
Targetting System: One of the annoying things about this game is how the targeting system works. You tap down on the right joystick to “target” a unit in front of you, which locks your camera onto it and prevents you from looking around. This is pretty crucial to keep an enemy in sight, particularly when they are jumping back and forth. The problem is that there is a maximum distance that you can lock on, so if the enemy jumps away or up high, it breaks the lock. Then you have to keep pressing down to relock, and sometimes it won’t lock onto the same enemy.
Camera: Most of the bosses in this game are big. Most are several times larger than your character. So when you hit them, you end up hitting their ankle. This means you are up in their face, and the camera gets blocked or clips through the boss/wall and you can’t see anything. Similarly, when you lock on you tend to lock on to to the center of their body, which is way to high to hit. So your camera is pointed up at them but you’re hitting much lower. In one fight, I spend most of the time just watching a boss’s feet and spanning this homing spell because the room was too small and I couldn’t see shit.
Play this game. Buy Demon’s Souls and play that first if you haven’t already. Both of these games are some of the best things to come out in recent years. If it’s too hard look up stuff to help you through it, but there is absolutely no reason to not finish it at least once.