Video Games
25 Top RPGs of the Last Five Years

The Escapist Staff | 1 Aug 2014 21:00
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5. Dark Souls

Developed by From Software. Published by From Software in Japan, Namco Bandai worldwide. Released September 22, 2011. Available on PS3, XB360, and PC.

dark souls cover

Justin says: In an era of hand holding and an increasing trend to make games accessible for a wider audience, Dark Souls says bugger all to all that and knows exactly what it wants to be. A dark fantasy action RPG, with punishing, but ultimately fair, gameplay. This laser focus helps Dark Souls rise to the top in a sea of games all clamoring to be increasingly similar.

What makes Dark Souls so much fun is that it's deeply satisfying in ways that few games can match. Getting through a tough section or finally besting a challenging boss recreate the feelings of gaming's trials of yesteryear. You'll sigh in relief when some nasty monster finally gets put down, only to groan when just beyond its corpse opens up a whole new set of worse dangers. Dark Souls captures a perfect risk vs reward with a number of its mechanics, which lets the game really dial up the tension and then bleed it off as needed.

Something else that keeps fans coming back for more is Dark Souls approach to storytelling. As the player you know that you're the chosen undead and that you're running around the kingdom of Lordran, but much of the remaining details are left to players to guess or fill in the gaps fro themselves based on the world and items descriptions. This intrigue and mystery goes a long way to make Dark Souls more than just another tale of saving the world.

I also absolutely adore the level and map design in Dark Souls. Each area has its down hazards and enemies, they are all interconnected in a semi-open world. It's oh so enjoyable to unlock a shortcut and see how that connects one section to the next or just instinctively know the best route between areas.

Mike says: The highest Souls game on our list, Dark Souls capitalized on the popularity earned by Demon's Souls and brought the game to Xbox and PC, too. A number of changes were made in bringing the Souls franchise to a larger audience. Along with finessing the combat, From Software got rid of the hub world from Demon's Souls and put players into a proper open-world experience. The cohesion of that world and the paths to travel between locales is what places the first Dark Souls higher on our list than its follow up, Dark Souls II.
Another feature that stands out is the minimalistic story-telling. Unlike most modern RPGs, Dark Souls is mostly free of cut-scenes, scripted events, or exposition. Players have to work to piece together the lore of this world through item descriptions, the environment, or short lines of dialogue from NPCs. The Souls franchise also features a unique multiplayer system. There's no matchmaking or raids in this RPG, but players join up with strangers to take down bosses or invade each other's worlds.

The Souls franchise is famous for its challenging combat and uncompromising in presenting its challenge to players, forcing them to learn the game rather than teaching them. And players loved it for that, with Dark Souls being one of the most loved RPGs in recent memory.

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