Dark Souls + Artorias of the Abyss, PS3, 5/9
After weeks of effort, I finally beat this thing into submission. What to say? It's a gorgeous game with extremely solid controls, and stunningly good level design. I made made me a tank with big heavy armor, a big heavy shield, and a big heavy sword. If you scrupulously upgrade all your equipment and dump souls into strength, vitality, and endurance, you might find that this build makes the game's famously difficult bosses into something of a cake walk. The only ones I had trouble with (but oh, I had a lot of trouble) were a pair of gargoyles (only the third boss of the game) and notorious pair of assholes, Ornstein and Smough--not coincidentally, the two fights with multiple enemies where I couldn't just lock onto the boss and keep my shield up. On the other hand, the moment-to-moment gameplay was just as deadly as I'd been led to believe. I racked up many, many deaths before I was through. Still, I probably dies more playing Dragon Age on the hardest difficulty; what this game does, which other hard games do not always do, and which I think is what makes it so memorable, is contextualize the difficulty in terms of the game world. In terms of the lore, undead who lose hope "go hollow." You see it happen to NPCs around you. So when you die for the twentyith time against fucking assholes Ornstein and Smough, and are dragging your way to their chamber for match twenty-one, the fact that you--and by extension, your character--are refusing to give up feels like a meaningful part of the narrative. Compared to Dragon Age, which I think you could play on pretty much any difficulty you wanted, the difficulty really feels like part of the game.
So what don't I like? Well, the game features a huge number of weapons with various move-sets, which is nice; but upgrading weapons and armor to high levels is a tedious chore, since you need to farm upgrade materials. So the game in that way kind of forces you to find something early on and stick with it; I'd have liked to be able to experiment more freely. Similarly with stats; if you don't decide exactly what kind of character you're going to play very early, you can easily create a dud. Most of the level design was amazing, but there were two notable exceptions: lava level Lost Izalith, and invisible bridge insta-death level Crystal Caves.
Also, there's what I consider to be a pretty major hitch in the multiplayer. I was actually intending to ignore the multiplayer, but I suprised myself. There are three types of multiplayer, basically. There's a passive system, where you can leave messages for other people on your server to see ("Why don't you try hurling yourself to your death?'--every Dark Souls player ever. But the people who marked the paths in the Crystal Caves are saints.) That's fine. Then, you can summon people to help you out, particularly in fighting bosses--as I mentioned, my build caused me not to have a huge amount of trouble with bosses, and when I did, my ego wouldn't let me summon help (which is ridiculous of me, and not intended as a slam against anyone who did.) Third, invasion--other people can invade your world and PVP you. I thought this mechanism would drive me crazy, but I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I also didn't get to experience much of it. See, in this game, you start out as a human. When you die, you become a hollow, and need to use a somewhat rare item if you want to become human again. You have to be human to do active multiplayer, but the item for becoming human also has very practical uses (it allows you to power up your checkpoints, basically), so I ended up spending most of the game as Hollow, without spare humanity to run human, cut off from the multiplayer. It was really frustrating, and I think they changed it in the second game, so I can't be the only person who thought so.
The second game ... some day. For now, although it was a mostly rewarding experience, I am completely burned out. I am going to play some nice visual novel now, I think.