I made a thread on stuff that Demon's Souls does the best in Souls games. Now its time for me to do that for Dark Souls which is my favourite game of all time. Without further ado they are the following:
1. World design: Lordran is the one aspect that transcends Dark Souls above any other Souls game. They all share many similar components but the world design of Dark Souls is not like any game I've played. Dark Souls is an open world game but rather than having vast land with some bumpy terrain here and there the open world of Dark Souls is vertical in design and linear in parts. What that implies is that there are certain paths you can follow to get anywhere but you can get anywhere provided you know the path and have opened it. The world design is such that if you can see a place far above or below you can go to that place. Like Demon's Souls there are shortcuts but rather than cutting down on the time you spend on one level it opens shorter routes between levels in the most unexpected ways. I was amazed the first time I went from Undead Parish to Firelink Shrine on the lift.
2. Secret areas: Dark Souls has a lot of secret areas and really well hidden ones that feel rewarding when you've unlocked them. Ash Lake with memorable music and charm and Painted World of Ariamis with its incredible level design are some of my favourites in the Souls series.
3. Best designed level: I praised Demon's Souls for its level design and while that is true for your typical level in a Souls game there is Painted World of Ariamis that I feel is the best designed level in the series. Its a small level that makes the most of its vertical and horizontal spaces and this level in itself holds a ton of hidden areas and I really like how everything in the level curls back on itself in such a way that you always know where you are even with the complex structure of this level. The enemy placement is fantastic.
4. Opening: Dark Souls has the best opening level and boss in the Souls games. Its not like the easy straightforward tutorial of Demon's Souls, the convoluted and incredibly hard for first timers 1-1 in Demon's Souls, the barebones journey to Majula in Dark Souls and the straightforward journey in Dark Souls 3 but Northern Asylum does have some decent thought put into its level design and the introduction of the Asylum Demon is great as the game teaches you to read the environment when you find yourself in trouble. The boss also teaches you plunge attacks and is fun to fight at the beginning of the game for veterans and difficult but fair for newcomers.