Updated: Aug 4
Our first play of Dark Souls (Steamforged Games) was punishing but fun. The re-set mechanic was reminiscent of TIME Stories but with the emphasis very much on combat rather than conundrums. In this game, adventurers are returned from the dead to battle denizens of the darkness. The party is rewarded with 'souls', which form the game's currency: spent to level up or to buy equipment.
The problem is that when you buy equipment, you are buying it sight unseen (cards are facedown) so you have no way of knowing whether or not you will be able to use the equipment. In practice, this means that the equipment helps to determine the upgrade path for the adventurers: if you've splashed out souls on a weapon that needs a Strength of 17 to use it, you tend to want to ensure that someone in the party is elevated to a level with Strength 17 so that you can put it to use.
The system for placing out and controlling monsters is well-designed, including a novel mechanic for the 'boss' monsters that involves a sequence of actions that players can 'learn' in order to deploy themselves to best tactical effect.
And I have to say something about the minis, especially the oversized 'boss' monsters. The quality and detail is top notch. In Dark Souls, the minis really are to die for. :-)