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Dark Souls II

By drcoolio34525-04-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
Dark Souls II

The Defence

From Software
Namco Bandai
Action, Role Playing
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i3 3.1 GHz
AMD A8 3.0 GHz
Nvidia GeForce GTX 750
AMD Radeon HD 6870
4 GB
14 GB

The Case

Dark Souls II is the third game in the Souls series and, believe it or not, the sequel to Dark Souls. DSII encounters the classic problem of having to stay true to the Souls legacy while also trying to stay true to its roots in difficulty which has pushed many casual and less dedicated gamers away from the series entirely. The question that many fans and newcomers to the series want to hear is what exactly changed in the sequel? Is it easier? Harder? Why? And more than anything else, is it still a good game?

The Trial

The Souls series, which is most popular for its legacy of intense gameplay difficulty and crushing entry level, certainly stays true to its roots. The classic "Souls difficulty" is still there without a doubt. For every benefit the game gives you, it makes sure to take something away to make sure that the game remains challenging but not crossing the line into unfair.

This is the first thing you see in game. Gorgeous right?

This is the first thing you see in game. Gorgeous right?

For example, in the original Dark Souls, whenever you rested at a bonfire, several things would happen. Your health, stamina, spells, estus flask (healing potions essentially) would all be completely restored to full. Additionally every enemy except the bosses and mini-bosses would respawn, but in Dark Souls II, this is different. Every enemy still respawns after you rest at a bonfire, but if you kill a certain enemy enough times, that enemy will permanently disappear. On one hand, you could say that this makes the game easier since you don't have to fight that enemy any longer thus making the game easier, but on the other hand you can never farm that enemy for souls (the in-game currency and experience points) ever again.

Character customization is amazing, and has more options than any game I've ever played before. Want to be a pink-skinned woman carrying around a giant sword and a shield cut out of a rock? You can do that. Want to be an archmage who can light someone on fire before throwing lightning at them? You can do that. Want to be a manly man dressed as a butterfly who carries an enchanted ladle? You can do that too. You can build just about any character you want if you put some effort into it.

That being said, there are some builds that are clearly stronger than others. These issues will most likely be fixed through patches, but for right now, having a good arsenal of pyromancy spells puts players at a huge advantage. Unlike sorcery, which requires heavy investment in the intelligence stat to be useful, or miracles, which require investment in the faith stat, pyromancy doesn't require anything but an item most people can acquire fairly easily. Some pyromancy items that can easily be found such as the "Flame Swathe" are incredibly powerful and can kill lighter enemies in one hit.

I didn't believe her, then 10 minutes later learned to never doubt Dark Souls.

I didn't believe her, then 10 minutes later learned to never doubt Dark Souls.

Regarding the PVP, players are allowed to "invade" other players’ games or duel mano-e-mano in arena combat by joining certain "covenants.” Players can decrease their chances of getting invaded by burning human effigies though, and if you're really afraid of getting invaded, there are covenants that you can use to summon other players to help in PVE and PVP. However, if you decide to play co-op, Dark Souls II becomes very easy and that Souls difficulty disappears, ruining the experience DSII was supposed to give.

The toughest enemies aren't always other players however, as Dark Souls bosses are exceptionally hard bosses. Be prepared to die time and time again against some of these bosses, for they can and will burn you, stomp you, cleave you, et cetera. In every Souls game, when you run into a boss, you KNOW it's a boss. Boss fight initiations in DSII, however, were a bit disappointing. Throughout the game, as you get stronger, bosses seem weaker in comparison, which is a real let down when you're playing a game that you expect extreme difficulty out of. Even the design of the bosses have taken a turn for the worse. In Dark Souls, the first boss fight was a huge demon with a hammer 50 times your size; in Dark Souls II, my first boss fight was just a big guy with a shield and halberd.

In regards to weaponry, Dark Souls II is the first Souls game to really let you dual wield. While in Dark Souls and Demon's Souls dual wielding wasn't so much using two weapons as it was holding two weapons and attacking with one at a time, Dark Souls II has made dual wielding engaging by allowing characters to actually use two weapons together to form special combos and attacks using a combination of speed and power.

A screen you'll be seeing a lot of.

A screen you'll be seeing a lot of.

Dark Souls II is the first Souls game with 60 fps and 1080P, and is as such, gorgeous. This can especially be enjoyed where the creators focused on scenic overlooks like Majula's vast ocean with its permanent sunset or the huge cathedrals near Heide's Tower of Flame. While these specific spots stand out, even the more dull caverns and run-down castle environments carry a certain atmosphere that clearly conveys the game’s tone. While Dark Souls II looks gorgeous on maxed out, it still looks good on lower settings. You can set your settings to low, normal, or high, but also have the option to customize individual options like textures, shadows, effects, along with the ability to turn on or off motion blur. The settings, options, and appearance of Dark Souls II are much better than they were in the original where, players were forced to settle with just a select few toggleable options.

But the game isn't without fault in this area either, though. As far as environment appearance goes, it feels what I call "zoney." You have the lava castle zone, the forest zone, the castle zone... you've got all these distant feeling zones instead of the setting in the original, which all felt very connected. Also, certain areas can become redundant. Multiple zones get visually tiresome. For example, one zone called "The Gutter" just looks like a bunch of rickety wooden shacks surrounded by dirt and mud. Sure, it makes sense in the setting, but that doesn't stop it from being dull to look at.

This “zoney” feeling is only increased with a new feature that Dark Souls II has added, which is teleportation between bonfires. Being the expansive world that DSII is, it’s convenient to warp around the world so you don’t have to backtrack all the way through areas you’ve already explored. You’ll be doing a lot of warping too, because for some reason, you can only level up at the Majula bonfire. Because of this, there was a lot of backtracking between current game areas and Majula. This is a shocking disappointment since in the original Dark Souls, you could level up at any bonfire, saving the player from wasting time warping back and forth.

Along the way you’ll meet new friends and find hidden loot.

Along the way you’ll meet new friends and find hidden loot.

As for the story, Dark Souls II doesn't have a conventional one. There are no exposition dumps, few cutscenes, and new players can feel very lost because of this. Instead of the traditional styles of conveying story, the players are left to discover and interpret the story for themselves using dialogue from NPCs, architecture, and item descriptions. At the end of the day, the plot of the game will be enjoyed if you're willing to put effort into finding what exactly it is.

There are a few small irritations though. For one, whether you play with a mouse, keyboard, or controller, the cursor always centers in the center of the screen whenever a menu opens. Another irritation while playing with a keyboard and mouse setup is that the interact button is mapped to the enter key, meaning that if you play using the keyboard and mouse, you’ll have to slide your hand clear across the keyboard to interact with something. Sure, you can rebind the key mappings but that is one unintuitive default layout. While it’s recommended to play with a controller, playing with mouse and keyboard is actually possible to do now.

The Verdict

Dark Souls II is a challenging game and can sometimes be frustrating, but that doesn't stop it from being a great game for the right crowd. Anybody who is looking for a real challenge, and a different, darker fantasy setting that has more than just dragons will have a good time. It’s even great for just watching your friends die in. Despite it not being quite as good as the previous Souls game, it lives up to the hype and delivers an experience that you’d come to expect from Souls quality.

Case Review

  • Soul Sucking Difficulty: A difficulty that feels fair and makes victories mean that much more.
  • Pick Your Path: Huge amount of options for character customization.
  • Like a Continent: Large world with lots to explore and find.
  • For Long Haul: Around 50 hours of gameplay (depends of skill level) and tons of replay value.
  • Still Souls: Very few improvements since the original Dark Souls.
  • Zoning Issues: The setting can feel like a bunch of zones instead of an interconnected world.
Score: 4.5/5
While not as good as its predecessors, Dark Souls II is still excellent despite some minor irritations.
Comments (3)
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Posts: 1317

No I'm just referencing to the first sentence of the review; "Dark Souls II is the third game in the Souls series".

Posts: 39

Might the game have been reviewed better if From Software had taken the game in a new direction yet again? That is, instead of a direct sequel, another "reimagining" of the mechanics and atmosphere?

Posts: 1317

It's not the third in the series. It's the second. Yeah, Dark Souls is a sort of spiritual successor to Demon's Souls. But Sony sits with the rights to Demon's Souls. Dark Souls isn't an official sequel. That would be like saying Risen 2 is the 5th game in the Gothic series. It isn't, no matter how similar it is in the gameplay.