Dark Souls II

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Dark Souls II is the third entry in From Software’s influential ‘Souls’ series that combines traditional action RPG elements with innovative multiplayer features. This is the first game in the franchise that isn’t directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, although he did perform the role of supervisor on the project.

What You Need to Know

After customising your character and choosing a class you’re thrust into the mysterious world of Drangleic where your goal is to collect souls that will free you from the curse of the undead and ultimately allow you to regain your humanity for good.

Dark Souls II’s world features a massive variety of interconnected regions each featuring their own assortment of enemies and bosses to take down, and you’re often presented with a number of paths leading out of an area. This type of level design emphasises exploration and discovery, and the player is largely left up to their own devices as far as the order they want to tackle the game’s challenges is concerned.


What’s New?

Dark Souls II features a number of new elements that freshen up the experience for seasoned ‘Souls’ players. You are now able to wield a torch in your left hand that can be used to light up dark areas and ignite free-standing braziers. A new item called Human Effigy performs the same function as Humanity from Dark Souls (i.e. restoring your humanity) but is not as easy to farm as it was in the previous game.

Another significant change is that every time you die in undead form your health bar shrinks until it eventually reaches the halfway mark. This punishing new gameplay feature can be negated by being summoned to another player’s world and defeating a boss, or wearing a special ring that caps this effect at seventy-five percent.

A number of tweaks have also been made to the game’s all-important multiplayer mode. Voice chat is now an option during co-op sessions and Dark Souls II has dedicated servers just like Demon’s Souls did. Provided your Xbox LIVE connection is an open NAT type, you should find it easier to connect to multiplayer sessions compared to Dark Souls and you can even specify that you only want to play with people from the same region as you to increase the likelihood of smooth online play.


What’s the Same?

Dark Souls II’s core features haven’t changed much from the original game. Bonfires still act as checkpoints and souls are still the only form of currency that you use to improve your character’s stats, buy new equipment and repair broken gear. Dark Souls’ Covenant system makes a welcome return and ensures that players are rewarded for embracing the game’s vast variety of multiplayer modes that include Player VS Player (PvP) duels, invasions and co-op for up to three players.

Dark Souls’ challenging Sen’s Fortress area appears to have been a major inspiration for the level design in this sequel as its world is littered with traps, contraptions and maze-like locations that will definitely test your navigational skills and make you crave the sight of the next bonfire!

You’ll Enjoy Dark Souls II If You Liked…

… The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. A big part of Skyrim’s popularity is its rewarding combat and Dark Souls II’s gameplay is just as deep and fulfilling with regards to this crucial area.

… Demon’s Souls. If you enjoyed the fact that this game’s locations feel very distinct and aren’t part of one continuous overworld, then Dark Souls II offers a lot more variety in this area than the original Dark Souls does.


What I Liked

– 5.) The game utilises a new engine that allows it to run at a steady framerate no matter how complex the level geometry gets or how many enemies fill up the screen at any one time.

– 4.) It may seem like a minor change but you’re now informed why a summon failed – whether it be that that person was summoned by someone else or that the session timed out.

– 3.) Dark Souls II’s brilliant level design maintains the series’ high standards by always encouraging you to push forward and discover what’s around the next corner, no matter how treacherous doing so may seem at the time.

– 2.) The game’s boss battles are expertly designed and often comprise multiple stages or feature a puzzle element that is necessary to untangle in order to progress.

– 1.) One of the major factors that elevates Dark Souls II above most other games is the amount of choice it grants the player. Whether you’re debating with yourself how you should spend your souls or wondering which path you should explore next, no two players will experience the game in the same way thanks to the number of decisions they’re constantly faced with.

Favourite Moment

The moment that exemplified how much I was under the game’s spell occurred on the first evening I played it. I had originally intended to spend maybe one or two hours on it but four hours later I just couldn’t put the controller down!


What I Didn’t Like

– 4.) There’s almost constant screen tearing in the Xbox 360 version of Dark Souls II that detracts from the game’s overall presentation. Although you get used to it after awhile, an option to engage V-sync to iron out this issue would be welcome.

– 3.) Unlike Dark Souls where you can level up at any bonfire, in the sequel you have to warp to a hub area called Majula and speak to a certain non-playable character (NPC) to perform this action.

– 2.) I found it frustrating how I had to wait for my weapon to break before I could have it repaired at the blacksmith. Although there’s an item that can restore your equipment to its original state, it can only be purchased a few times before going out of stock.

– 1.) One way that Dark Souls II retains the limitations of its predecessors relates to how you can interact with the environment. Ledges that are waist-high are still impossible to climb so you’ll need to seek out ladders or spiralling paths to reach higher ground.

Least Favourite Moment

There’s a lot of heartbreak in Dark Souls II that usually takes the form of you falling to a boss when there’s just a smidgeon of its health bar left. I experienced these moments of hair-pulling, controller-tossing frustration a few times during multiple attempts at taking down an early boss called ‘The Last Giant’ who likes to force you into a corner and then stomp you into a pulp.

What’s Extra?

Discovering every secret in Dark Souls II and earning every achievement can easily take you over a hundred hours. There’s a ton of singleplayer content to explore and even more fun to be had if you indulge in the game’s many multiplayer features. Whether it’s rising to the top of your chosen Convenant’s ranks or turning up the heat in New Game Plus mode, there are many challenges worth signing up for in the game’s massive world.

Another factor that makes playing through Dark Souls II multiple times an enticing prospect is the many different types of play styles you can adopt. Whether your dominant mode of attack is archery, pyromancy or sorcery (to name just a few), gameplay will feel very different according to the equipment and magic you bring into battle.

The Bottom Line

Dark Souls II is an incredibly vast, compelling action RPG that expands on its highly regarded predecessors in a number of significant ways. There’s still some room left for improvement but there’s no doubt that this game will keep players thoroughly absorbed until the next Souls title dominates the headlines.

This Dark Souls II review was conducted on Xbox 360

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