A truly remarkable game for fans of old-school first-person RPGs
I came to this game for the first time in 2019 - I was something of a casual Souls fan but had never played any of their Playstation-era titles, despite having heard for years from fans of old-school dungeon crawlers that the King's Field games were something special.
I don't consider myself an especially, uh, "core" gamer - I have a soft spot for old-school RPGs and tend to love first-person dungeon crawlers from a few DOS-era highlights to Morrowind to Fallout 3/4, and I won't lie - at first this game was off-putting, I ran right into a cave and encountered a skeleton which more or less one-hit me, the game (while impressive for the time) isn't a looker, and the game plays quite slow - your sword swings are deliberate and require you to commit.
Once I glanced at a few walkthroughs for tips on how to handle the opening area however, I found myself getting sucked into this game, and in fact admiring its design. It's a sprawling open world (a bit overwhelming at first, until you realize how the map design funnels you into the right areas, and until you get the automap), and it follows the "hub" format From would later use for their Souls games - you move from hub to hub, and each hub has several dungeons and areas that "spoke" off of it. It is entirely possible to wander into an area you aren't equipped for, with enemies that are too strong for you - but once you realize this is the game's way of telling you to come back later, and realize that running away from enemies you can't face is perfectly OK, this goes from being something player-hostile to something which contributes to the game's rather compelling and immersive environmental storytelling.
Combat is real-time, and not particularly strategic - the only thing slower than your sword swings is the ability of enemies to turn around, so circle-strafing enemies and attacking them from the rear is invariably the best tactic - in fact, you realize quickly that the game expects you to fight this way. Some very powerful enemies have to be carefully approached - make a few judicious sword swings, back up, reposition, move back in, rinse and repeat (this should sound familiar to Souls fans)
Magic (including fast travel) is eventually obtainable, and extremely powerful.
The game is incredibly atmospheric, and really sells that feeling of roaming a doomed, fallen kingdom - there's even a dungeon which reminds me an awful lot of the Tomb Of The Giants from the first Dark Souls, and the music is excellent.
Like much of From's early work on the Playstation, first impressions of the game are not good. But I promise if you stick with it, take it slow, play smart and patient, and play the game the way it wants you to play it, you will start to discover a gem of a game - remarkably well-designed, atmospheric, and not nearly as player-hostile as it first appears.
For me personally, this went from a game with a very iffy first impression to one of my favorite Playstation games of all time, and absolutely one of my favorite first-person RPGs of all time - more people need to play this, there is nothing like it on the Playstation, and it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best RPGs on the PC at the time - Ultima Underworld, Daggerfall, etc.