Rock, Paper, Shotgun pens a retrospective review of the 1992 classic Darklands, in which they call it "one of the best RPGs ever made". Thanks, GameBanshee.
More information.I could say it’s because the setting is original and unique, which it is. It’s a largely realistic depiction of greater Germany in the 15th century, with scores of towns, authentic currency, and even time itself based on literally canonical hours. “RTFM” is a cliché, but here a fair warning, as that kind of detail makes for a daunting opening. It is fortunately a lovely one, from that line of 90s manuals that featured a completely unnecessary educational section, with a full bibliography. Don’t say games never taught me anything, Mum.
I could also say it’s the absence of levels, XP, and over-abstracted stats, which are cast out entirely in favour of characters defined by dozens of skills, and progression that ebbs and flows with your success and misfortune. While better quality equipment helps in a fight, it’s choosing the right tool that matters most. There’s no comparison of every sword against every other sword you pick up here. Instead you decide based on your skills, and whether you value fast attacks, higher raw damage, or better armour penetration – a battleaxe might be cool and mop up the cannon fodder, but it’ll simply bounce off the plate armour that knight’s wearing.
Weapons and armour are expensive, and while there’s no regular degradation, some events and enemy attacks can damage them permanently. And if you lose a fight or surrender, don’t think anyone will hesitate to strip you naked and take every pfennig you own. And those are the merciful ones. But hey, some of your party survived that encounter, right? So, dust yourselves off, recruit some replacements, and get back on that horse.