I’ve been playing Dark Souls II for a good few months now, and I’m only just getting around to reviewing it. It’s not because it was a bad game, or because I couldn’t find the words to write about it; it was because it was such a massive game with a tonne of content and no real structure to tackle it all in. So now that I’ve made my way through all of the different areas, discovered all of the bonfires I could find, and defeated as many bosses as I could battle; I finally feel ready to write a review of the game.
There are actually two writers at IM PLAYIN – one of them of course being myself – that want to write a review of Dark Souls II. The second instalment in the series is the first that I’ve played as I never got around to playing the original Dark Souls. However Jonathan, aka ADRNTESPDER, is a bit of a Dark Souls aficionado. So we’ll be doing this review in two parts. I will approach it from the viewpoint of a new comer to the series … a noob, if you will, while Jonathan will look at it as a fan of the whole series, hopefully convincing newcomers and past fans of the series alike to play Dark Souls II.
As a noob to the series, I wasn’t overly sure what to expect from Dark Souls II. A couple of my friends had played the first Dark Souls title, and they really sang its praises. Of course, they informed me of how difficult it was, but mostly they just talked about how rewarding progressing in the game can be. When it came down to it, I didn’t need much convincing to purchase Dark Souls II. I was looking for a game to play, to fill the time whilst I waited for some new title on the One, and I really fancied an RPG. I walked into Dark Souls II pretty blindly and the difficulty of the game, coupled with the nature of how you play it, hit me pretty hard.
As I said before, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that it’d be tough, but I didn’t quite expect it to be as hard as it is. Even the simplest of enemies were besting me at the start. I’d never faced a game without save-points or proper checkpoints, nor had I played an RPG where, if you died, you would re-spawn slightly weaker and slightly more zombified, but with all of your equipment intact. I’d also never played a game where your XP relied on you not dying. It was like I had a savings account that I needed to keep topping up with XP every five seconds. The whole ‘savings’ XP system was probably the biggest culture shock for me. I’m not used to my earned XP being voided simply by dying.
The combat was simple and easy to get used to; Dark Souls II won’t be revolutionising the gameplay mechanics of an RPG in that sense. Enemies ranged from sufficiently challenging to downright overpowered. There was a fine line between being confident that you could defeat an enemy and feeling like you could die at any second. It’s made even worse by the fact that even the weakest of enemies can deal a good amount of damage. Especially considering you never know what’s around the corner. Well, I say never know. One of my favourite aspects of the game is the message system. When connected to the internet, the game allows you to scribble simple messages on the floor to warn or encourage your fellow players. Expect messages like “bonfire ahead” to fill you with an unknown sense of relief, “ambush ahead” a stomach churning feeling of angst and “boss-fight ahead” a sense of fear coupled with anxiety, dread, and a gut wrenching sense of impending doom. I think that really sums up Dark Souls II: a constant fear of failure with the occasional moment of relief and unwarranted bigheadedness.
However, the game does go some way towards combating these horrendous emotions with the ‘Phantom’ system. Phantoms can be summoned at random points in the game and they are either NPCs or other players who will enter your game and help you out in a tight spot. I’ve only defeated one or two bosses on my own in this game; all of the others I’ve done with the help of multiple Phantoms. This is an incredibly tough game, especially for those new to the series, so I would really suggest summoning Phantoms wherever and whenever you get the chance.
Other than the soul destroying difficulty of this game at times, there is little to be disappointed with. The story is interesting, but for the majority of the game you’ll just be drifting around the various areas, collecting things, and finding bosses to kill and bonfires to light. As a newcomer to the series, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Souls II. I couldn’t tell you if it’s better or worse than the first title – that’s for Jonathan to decide!