Dark Souls II
The first Dark Souls was (and still is) nothing short of a phenomenon. More than simply “the hardest game ever”, it was a rewarding game that addicted and challenged gamers of all experience levels. Hidetaka Miyazaki announced ‘Dark Souls II’ at the Spike Video Game Awards in December 2012, and went on to say that the game would be just as unforgiving as Demon Souls and Dark Souls, but would be more accessible and also have multiplayer gameplay.
After much anticipation, Dark Souls II has finally released. While I was initially concerned that the game being “more accessible” meant that the game would have a drastically reduced difficulty, I’m happy to say that Dark Souls II is just as merciless as the previous Souls games while being the best possible sequel it could be. It looks better, plays better, and has more of a story than Demon Souls and Dark Souls. Get ready to be punished all over again gamers, Souls is back.
Set in the same world as Dark Souls (though thousands of years apart), players are once again cast as a wanderer, cursed with undeath. Being Hollow is a degenerative state, while it might seem like immortality at first, in actuality it means that both the victim’s body and mind will rot, until all that is left is a mindless zombie, consumed by madness and constantly pursuing souls to devour. It is a terrifying fate that should befall no one.
At the beginning of the game, the player is introduced to the Firekeepers, a group of strange old women that aid the player in creating their character’s appearance and starting class. If you are new to the Souls games, I would recommend exploring Things Betwixt (the beginning area) and learning the game’s various controls. Once the player has reached the end of Things Betwixt, they can go wherever they wish. Be warned, nowhere is friendly, and death lurks around every corner. This is what Dark Souls is all about.
Defeating enemies in Dark Souls II allows you to harvest their souls, which are used both to level up and also as currency in the game. Compared to other RPGs like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the leveling up system may seem complicated, but upon learning what each stat does, players should have no problem matching their character builds to their play style.
Visually, Dark Souls II looks a great deal than Demon Souls and Dark Souls, whilst still retaining that undeniable Dark Souls look. There is also (in my personal opinion) much more variety in the environments and in the game’s monsters/enemies. I found that in Dark Souls, the beginning of the game was populated by innumerable zombies and the occasional knight, the latter of which had their faces covered up by helmets. While this helped the towering knights feel menacing, I’m glad that there are creatures with more personality and variety in their visual design present in Dark souls II. Early cave trolls in the game wander about their lairs, blinking, breathing, drooling and moving about. This might sound rather pedestrian compared to other games, but it certainly shakes up the feeling of entering room after room in Dark Souls, only to find yet another knight standing perfectly still, blocking the only route to go.
I only take issue with a few of Dark Souls II’s features, as there are a few things that feel like a step backward. For one thing, you can only level up via one Firekeeper at Majula, the coastal village. In Dark Souls, players were able to level up at any bonfire, yet in Dark Souls II, this is only available through one particular character in one particular area. Sure, we now have the benefit of quick travel from the beginning of the game (without the need to upgrade bonfires), but it does feel strange to only be able to level up in Majula.
Another feature that I disagree with was how the multiplayer was executed. There is no constant multiplayer, and instead multiplayer ends after you help (or are helped) with the defeat of a boss. After playing the game online, the longest you will play with other people is a few minutes. It’s only my personal opinion, but I would have liked to two players to be able to stay together for as long as they wish, maybe at the cost of a reduction in sould earned from defeating enemies. For the record, the way that multiplayer has been handled in a much more ” Dark Souls II way” than the mode I had been yearning for. It would have been nice though, what’s that saying… “misery loves company”?
- Still challenging, but more accessible than previous games
- Looks fantastic
Dark Souls II takes the brilliant gameplay, story and atmosphere from previous Souls games and manages to both shake them up and improve upon them. The definitive Souls game, Dark Souls II is an instant classic which will provide many hours of entertainment and is well worth a purchase.
** Editor’s note: It is recommended that you do take the time to watch the ‘how to play’ video prepared by Namco Bandai. It cover’s all aspects of the game and makes Dark Souls II more accessible to newcomers of the series. The video is embedded below and whislt it’s close to 40 minutes long, its well worth watching to get the most out of the game.