Dark Souls II review
From Software hits it big
Despair and achievement—two words alone can describe the epic wonder that is Dark Souls II. After establishing a cult following in 2009 with Demon's Souls on the Play Station 3, From Software upped the ante with Dark Souls on PS3, 360, and a shoddy PC port. Dark Souls is a revamped successor to Demon's Souls with improved online play, a covenant system, and an entirely new audience to capture: 360 players. With a wider audience and higher sales, From Software struck gold with Dark Souls II. After putting 45 hours into my first play-through, I actually didn't appreciate the game. My initial thoughts were, "This game is way too easy," and, "Man, these visuals really don't match up to the first few gameplay trailers." It feels as if the true game begins once you get into New Game Plus and restart the game with everything you had in your previous go-around.
If this is your first foray into a Souls game, the first time will destroy you. I envy those players. The sense of wonder and mystery within the world is near unmatched. You constantly wonder why you appeared on this pissed-off world and, “Who are all of these weird NPCs telling me to do their chores?” Every NPC is well-voiced, albeit some lines come off slightly cheesy and don't belong.
The vague and mysterious story causes the player to read nearly every item he or she picks up and talk to all encountered characters, forcing the player to essentially dive in and invest. Some may not like this approach, but I, for one, adore it. I rarely spend more than a minute in my inventory reading details on ALL of my items in just about any RPG, but this is my exception. There is just so much backstory to digest (including references to other games and perhaps the original Dark Souls) that you are constantly on the lookout for more pieces of this theoretical puzzle.
Combat uses weapons like: katanas, scythes, great swords, axes, lances, magic, hexes, pyromancy, shields, and so much more. Patience and learning are key details for encountering a new enemy. Watching their attacks will help so much in the long run as almost every enemy has unique attacks and speed. You start out by selecting a character with skill points put into suggested paths, but after picking a character you craft them any which way you choose. I started out as a Dexterity/ Strength character, favoring katanas and heavy shields to move lightly. I currently switched that character to a Strength Tank/ Pyromancer build. The choices feel endless at times. If you are looking for a game to play multiple times, Dark Souls II is a perfect choice. I easily got my $60 worth.
The visuals could pop slightly better—as I said before, the original gameplay trailers mislead a little. Gone is the astounding dynamic lighting seen in near-pitch black hallways and say hello to muddy floor textures. For a now-last-gen game, it really can be a beautiful world with magnificent background scenery. The visuals excel later in areas like Dragon's Aerie with precocious bridges surrounded by swarms of vicious wyverns waiting to demolish you if you so happen to touch their baby eggs hiding precious loot.
The sound design is immaculate. Every footstep is accounted for and the grunts of disfigured, nightmarish enemies/ bosses are "eargasmic”—easily my favorite part of the game. Tense orchestral music plays during boss fights to further push the atmosphere, just oozing out of every crevice of this game.
This masterpiece does many things correctly: incredible visuals for a now-older game, perfect sound design, strong variety in levels/combat, and value. I highly recommend this game to any RPG fan or any gamer with plenty of spare time and a hunger for a sizeable meal. This game doubles the size of the first in area, bosses, and intensity. I encountered several glitches with online play and bosses not registering as dead, but most of these seemed to have patched over now.
(This game was reviewed on the X-box 360 and I currently have 65 hours logged into so far on my main character, and a total of 25 with my other two characters.)