Dark Souls II – Scholar of the First Sin is an example of how developers should re-release a game. I loved playing the original Dark Souls II on the 360, but because it wasn’t released before the next-gen consoles hit our shelves, I didn’t play it as much as I’d have liked. I ended up getting distracted by my Xbox One and, eventually, I put down my 360 controller, and Dark Souls II started to gather dust. Over a year later, I decided to pick up Dark Souls II on the Xbox One – and I couldn’t be more happy.
Of late, the re-released games on the next-gen consoles have been a bit disappointing. Well… perhaps disappointing isn’t the best word; ‘unnecessary’, would probably fit a little better. I say unnecessary rather than disappointing because I do love the re-released games that I’ve purchased, but that’s just because I loved the game itself, rather than its next-gen re-master. Re-releases like Tomb Raider, whilst great games, didn’t offer anything new (other than a bit of a touch up in graphics). Games like Dark Souls II and GTA V, however, have brought some extra content to make the expenditure a little more worth it. Scholar of the First Sin comes with the three DLC packs which were released on the last-gen consoles, as well as a nice graphics upgrade to make the whole thing a little prettier. They’ve also improved the online play, and have made it so that six people can play online in one world. But, for me, they aren’t the most important changes.
The reason I believe that Scholar of the First Sin is the perfect re-release, is because of one key factor. That factor is the enemies. The Dark Souls series is quite unique in its unforgiving nature – it’s a tough game, that’s for sure. Enemies are difficult to kill and inflict a devastating amount of damage, combined with that the lack of checkpoints (other than the few bonfires that you light to act as hubs for navigating the map), few health potions and the fact that, whenever you die, your character becomes substantially weaker (unless you fix their condition with a ‘Human Effigy’) – you’ve got a recipe for a difficult game. The way that I would tip the scales in my favour, when playing on the 360, was to learn the attacks of the various different enemies, as well as their positions in the levels. I would know that, when spawning from X bonfire, I would have Y amount of enemies to contend with until I reach my target. I would plan my recourses ahead of venturing out to take on said enemies, and I would make sure that I timed each attack to perfection. That way, I was able to traverse the levels whilst taking minimal damage.
The re-release, however, has turned all of that on its head. That’s because the positions of some enemies in the game has been changed, as well as the types of enemies that you face (in some places). What’s even more jarring is that 70% of the enemies are in their same old positions, but now and then you’ll get side-swiped by an enemy that you weren’t expecting. I was able to run most of those levels to a T, but now I find myself being killed by simple enemies, or being cornered and cluster-fucked by a number of different enemies. Sure, it can be a little frustrating at times, but it makes the game feel refreshed and different. It gives hard-core fans a reason to play again, to see if they can best the game again, even with its new set-up. But for more casual fans, like myself, it gives us the opportunity to experience the game in a different way but to continue to enjoy the challenge that we started over a year ago.