It’s finally here, my review for Dark Souls II. Now, this has taken such a long time to do because I find it ethically questionable to review or judge a game before I’ve finished. While going to school full-time and working part-time (and at the most busy point in the semester) it’s taken me about a month and a half to finish. However, the 47 and a half hours have been played and I am ready to give my thoughts.
First, I want to get this out-of-the-way. Dark Souls II is an absolute GREAT game. The problem it had coming up to launch that a lot of us fans feared was whether it could live up to its predecessor, maybe the best game in my opinion in the last generation. Dark Souls, the original, is a masterpiece of gameplay, storytelling, and immersion. It wasn’t a perfect game, that prophecy hasn’t been fulfilled yet, but it was darn close.
Dark Souls II had some might big shoes to fit, and unfortunately it doesn’t quite match up. I’ve seen a lot of other Souls fans online judge the game harshly because it isn’t Dark Souls 2.0, but I actually appreciated the changes that were made.
For example, players can warp between bonfires from the very beginning of the game. This wasn’t an option in the original until about the half way point, but there’s a lore reason to why it had to be unlocked in the first place. The unlocking of that ability might still be in effect since this game takes place in the future, but there’s no way to support that.
Dark Souls II added lifegems, a consumable item that raises HP slowly and is designed to be used outside of combat. In the original Souls game, Demons’ Souls, there were herbs that were the primary healing item so this concept isn’t new at all. Dark Soul II compensates by having the Estus Flasks, the main healing item, be extremely limited at the start of the game.
Dying in Dark Souls II has harsher consequences than in Dark Souls. In Demons’ Souls you would lose half of your maximum health upon death until you restored your humanity, in Dark Souls there was no change. Dark Souls II compromises by having each death lower your maximum HP by a marginal amount and is capped at 50%. For people who haven’t played Demon’s Souls this is something to be mad about, but this type of mechanic is just as worthy to be included. And just like in Demons’ Souls there’s a ring that caps the HP loss at 75%. Overall, nothing to bad.
Dark Souls II added the function where your world can be invaded at any point, even while undead. Now, I don’t know if this was due to the internet connection I was on or not, but I was never invaded. However, I was also never able to summon so I think I was just unavailable. Really though, invasions are just a part of the game. You have to learn to protect yourself from the predators, whether they be AI or human. Nothing feels as rewarding as being invaded, only to defeat the invader in glorious combat.
Now, one area Dark Souls II was a pretty big disappointment was the bosses. There were some amazing bosses, the Old Dragonslayer, Looking Glass Knight, and Guardian Dragon all stick out as ones I thoroughly enjoyed. But, I beat them all on my first attempt. There was too many bosses in this game that were either easy to beat in a first run or easy to adapt to and overcome on your second attempt. As much as I absolutely hate them, there was no equivalent to Ornstein and Smough. Those guys are my least favorite boss in Dark Souls, but also one of my favorite bosses in gaming. The whole game leads up to that encounter and it’s more than epic. Dark Souls II doesn’t have a fight like that. And don’t get me started on the Covetous Demon, that’s not even a boss.
Dark Souls II does a great job on enhancing the already great combat in the Souls games. The addition of an extra weapon slot in each hand gives more situational readiness, at the expense of more weight. I found myself playing a much more agile character than I did in Dark Souls. My guy rolled around the battlefield, crushing his foes with his Lightning Greatsword +10. The ability to easily imbue weapons relatively early in the game was something I have mixed feelings for. I feel like the original Dark Souls made it where imbuing weapons with extra abilities a major hassle. The upgrade materials were too rare, especially the slabs that had to be used to max a weapon out. For each type of slab besides the normal, two different enchant routes could be maxed. With there being only one of each slab in each playthrough a wrong choice would set you back a LONG time. However, Dark Souls two makes the stones that imbue weapons with enhancements relatively common, and then doesn’t change the material that you use to upgrade further. Regular titanite is the only thing used and the titanite slabs are pretty common by the end of the game. In my opinion, this was something that I thought shouldn’t have been changed so much. Once you get a maxed out and powerful weapon, combat isn’t as difficult.
As far as story goes… I can’t judge it yet. All the Dark Souls lore buffs out there are still mining the game for clues and hints, but what is there is leading me to my own theories. That’s something I love about these games; their storytelling is unmatched. I don’t want a “save the princess” story shoved in my face, I want a story full of history and consequences that I have to figure out. If someone played through Dark Souls once and was asked what the story was chances are they couldn’t tell you. However, if you take a look through the Dark Souls lore playlists of YouTubers like EpicNameBro and VaatiVidya, you’d find a world that’s, frankly, incredible.
So should you play Dark Souls II? In my mind, YES GO AND GET IT NOW! Dark Souls II is much more forgiving in the opening levels and doesn’t have as steep of a learning curve. It’s probably much easier to get into and beat, leaving the new player to take the next step into Shambala with the original Dark Souls. With the imminent release on PC, most gamers have little excuse to try this game out.
Dark Souls II is a masterpiece, just not as good as the original Dark Souls. But then again, what is? Now I just have to finish the semester so I can finally take down Ornstein and Smough on New Game + and work towards completing the game.
Played on Xbox 360.