Dark Souls 2 Post-Release Impressions

Dark Souls 2 is brutally hard, punishes those who make mistakes, and constantly robs you of your humanity; but it’s one of the best RPGs I've ever played.

It’s the sense of overwhelming challenge, that you and thousands of others like you are experiencing the same thing, and dying together. However, the feeling of overcoming adversity in this game is larger than that of any other, as you actually feel as though you have accomplished something by beating an area boss, and this is something that has carried over from the previous Souls titles.

The game retains what made Dark Souls such a great experience in the first place and improves upon it, adding even more bosses for you to struggle through, for instance one is simply named ‘The Rotten’, sound terrifying? Good.


Price£40/$60
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Platforms: PS3/Xbox 360/PC

Plot/Getting Started

The game is what you make it, through the general plot of the story is that you are an un-dead, you have lost everything and are forever cursed, doomed to die over and over until you eventually turn “hollow” and lose your sanity. You must make your way to a place known as Majula, where you can rest and buy equipment to aid you on your quest. From here you will learn of a King, a curse, a great battle fought against giants and of the four “old ones” whose souls must be collected in order to gain access to Drangleic castle and what resides within its walls. What you do with all this information is up to you.


Upon starting your adventure into Drangleic you are faced with the character selection screen which is pretty much the same as in Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls just with a few tweaks, nevertheless there is an option to ‘respec’ your character later in the game so don’t worry too much about stats. After your character is given life (literally) you are then free to lose it at your leisure.

There were early concerns that the game would be more accessible, this put some hardened fans off as they assumed that an ‘easy mode’ would be included – that is not the case. All that was meant by more accessible is that From Software would include a longer tutorial to ease new players into the whole dying all the time thing. One of the old women you meet at the start even prepares you for this telling the player: “You’ll lose your souls, all of them.. You’ll go hollow.”

Gameplay/Changes

I went with the knight build, but Dark Souls 2 is designed so that all play styles are viable. Whether you like to shoot your targets from a distance with a bow, fire magic into a trolls’ face or dual wield greatswords. The most notable additions are this, the greatly enhanced lighting and particle effects, and the changes to combat.
Dark Souls 2 also runs at 30 frames per second on consoles and doesn’t suffer from the blight of Blighttown, where the previous game would slow down and become jittery. The enemy AI has also been significantly altered so that even the most basic of foes may catch you off-guard, using spins, shield bashes and other unsuspected fighting techniques. In addition to this equipment can be repaired automatically by resting at a bonfire; however it will break much more often as it degrades quickly with some enemies even using special attacks to weaken you in other ways than just physically.


Bonfire aesthetics can also be burnt to make an area of the game harder (NG+) and respawn all of the enemies, allowing for bosses to be fought a second time in one playthrough. But it’s not all bad news, healing items known as ‘life gems’ can now be bought cheaply from Majula, giving you a supply of emergency health, should you need it.

Many of the areas in Dark Souls 2 are themed, and are visually appealing, such as gloomy poison areas which require the use of a torch, reducing the players’ defensive options, mountains connected by rickety bridges, with drakes flying high above, and a grand castle in the midst of a rain storm. These can, however, seem nonsensical at times, for example going from a poison area straight into a lava ridden castle.

Online

The online multiplayer is brilliant and there’s nothing quite like beating a boss using jolly co-operation, however connectivity is a reoccurring issue with Souls games, one which I feel could be improved. They decided to include a ‘soul memory’ for the sequel, and what this does is it matches the amount of souls you have collected on your journey with that of your friend, and if you’re close then you can connect, if not then you can’t, although this has the potential to be patched.
This doesn’t affect your online experience with random players, just with specific friends, as PVP is as strong as ever within Dark Souls 2.

Conclusion

9.5 / 10          
If you are looking for a game that gives you value for money, look no further as Dark Souls 2 is a 60-plus-hour game, and is even longer if you seek out all of the secrets that lurk beneath the surface. It’s also packed with lore, for all you story fans, and mainly leaves it up to the player to determine what has happened to the world since the days of Lordran have long past; rebirth being a key theme with many NPCs hinting at it throughout the game.
Overall the game is not as polished as what was seen at E3 2013, with some compromises having to be made to ensure that the game runs smoothly. However, it remains one of the most challenging and engaging role-playing games out there at the moment, deserving to be up there on the list of 2014’s best games.
Dark Souls 2 is available on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.

The above article was originally published at Non-Fiction Gaming.

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