Dark Souls is undoubtedly a finely crafted game. From the tight controls, to the meticulous level design, to the subtle yet palpable world lore, everything seems to have been polished into this grand experience. And the boss fights! Few games have made them so exhilarating (and at times infuriating).
And yet, I can't fully love Dark Souls. Maybe it was those infuriating moments, maybe it was just the sheer amount of time I spent with it allowing a little of the magic to wear off, or maybe it was the couple of areas that didn't capture my imagination like the rest of the game did (are swamps ever fun?). I will fondly remember Dark Souls and still recommend it to others, but it isn't quite on my revered favorites list.
It is impossible to talk about Dark Souls without discussing its difficult, calculated combat system. Relatively speaking it is slower paced than many games but with the high impact of each strike, it keeps you on your toes as much or more than those other games. Regular enemies are manageable once you've learned their patterns, but get too cocky and they can always make you pay.
These familiar foes are great practice when trying out any of the multitude of weapon types this game has to offer. If not the boss fights, then the great variety of weaponry is the part of Dark Souls that impressed me the most. Each one has its own style, strengths and weaknesses. Most can be used either one handed or two, and can be switched on the fly. The old standby for me was my trusty spear and shield. But as I became more comfortable I enjoyed quenching my bloodlust with a hefty claymore or speedy katana.
The visual and technical design of nearly every boss is top notch. I still can't decide whether to praise or curse the duo of Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough, but what I can tell you is that I won't be forgetting them. From the terrifying maw of the Gaping Dragon to the tragic beauty of Crossbreed Priscilla there are a wealth of memorable boss battles to test and enthrall you.
Dark Souls technically is open world, but with its relatively narrow paths it feels more focused than a standard open world game. A better comparison is to the Metroidvania genre. As you progress further you'll find ways to unlock shortcuts to use when you inevitably die.
Lordran, the setting of Dark Souls is a stark place, but one of grandeur. Among many more locations you'll find mystical forests in the midlands, hilltop cathedrals above and chasms into the Abyss below. With its subdued colors and tendency toward stone structures, it can get a little samey in places, but it's not too bad.
There is a large amount of lore for this world, but you really have to dig to find it. As someone who doesn't like to have to go to outside sources for more game information, I'd have preferred for this lore to not be quite so obscured. It does add a level of mystique, but it comes at the cost of me not feeling like I have a great grasp of everything that happened, even with 70 hours of play.
I cannot comment on the newer Remastered version, but I was satisfied with the Prepare to Die Edition. It's on the barebones side, but it works. I did install some visual improvement mods so your mileage may vary if you don't want that hassle.
If you're coming into the series late like I am and you're not discouraged by what you've heard so far, let me add my voice to the crowd encouraging you to take the plunge. Death awaits!