I have so much to say about this game that I needed a way to control myself, so I have broken this Dark Souls 2 review into simple chunks so that you won’t need to sift through me rambling about how in love I am with it. I have also done my best to keep this review spoiler free, and as such there is little mention of the story in DS2 (the story is amazing, if that’s what you’re here for).
Character creation in DS2 is much more involved than its predecessors. You can essentially customize your character in its entirety, although the true detail is found when forming the head. This means that you can still make really ugly characters (because why not?) and you can make them better… and you can make them hot pink. It’s a great load of fun, when when you figure out how to actually navigate the customization menus.
The only truly negative thing that I have to say about character creation is this:
It’s a shame that you will put so much effort into creation the ugliest scum of the earth, only to have it completely covered in armor 99% of the game. Honestly, I would much rather wear the armor than die but at least you would die looking fabulous!
More relevant to the actual character creation, though, is that I noticed a slight lag between accepting a characteristic. I’m the type of person who likes to see the changes instantly, it’s an issue on my own part, but I was making changes so fast without even realizing they weren’t showing that when my character finally rendered her cheekbones were a mile long and she looked like a freak clown. I hate clowns.
There’s a “tutorial” in DS2, and it is a little more developed than that of DS. It truly is nothing more than “Hey, these are the buttons you need to press to fight.” It’s certainly helpful, but don’t be fooled because there is so much left out. This game is not so simple that a few messages will help you become good at it. You’ll need to discover the secrets on your own, or be sure to read the messages your fellow gamers have left for you. There is no guidance in DS2, no one to hold your hand through the adventure. It’s titillating and terrifying.
Unfortunately, the end of the tutorial was not a boss battle. For a new player, it’s a gift from the gods… but really, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.
After the tutorial, you arrive to the center point of the game, Majula. It is quite like the Nexus from Demon Souls, where players go to level up and trade with merchants. It’s quite empty at first, with only a few residents upon your arrival but once you interact with NPCs outside of the small town, they will begin to move to Majula. Majula makes accessing all sorts of things so much easier when you know where to go. I spent a good portion of playtime trying to figure out which path I should take out of Majula. It just so happens the first one you take, despite the fact that it’s sitting right next to the first bonfire, is down a hill. I did not see this hill because, you know, it kind of just looked like a cliff to me.
So instead, I went down a big spiral staircase and was crushed by this huge knight. I ran away in fear, but at least I figured out I was in the wrong place. The point of telling you this is that there is very little guidance of where to begin and where to go next. There are some exceptions, but chances are you’ll find yourself in a spot you’re not supposed to be in.
The controls in DS2 are not much different from Dark Souls. I think that the fighting is streamlined and it becomes even better when you level up- you’re able to cast spells faster, successfully dodge attacks more often, and not fall on your face from getting punched. There are a few minor problems with controls, though. Sometimes when I am locked on to an enemy, my character decides to spin around and attack the opposite direction. It’s super lame, but overall the fighting is so much more fluid compared to DS2’s predecessors.
Other than a few tweaks on the control scheme, everything is pretty much the same. Those few tweaks could kill you now, though, so be careful – sliding down a ladder are different controls from DS so DO NOT make the mistake of just pressing B. If the ladder is big, you will die.
But this is Dark Souls. You’re going to die anyways. Walking across a bridge? Dead. Taking a stroll through a forest? Dead. Gonna go pick up that item? No, you’re not, because you’re dead. This is not bad! I am thankful, because it wouldn’t be Dark Souls if you didn’t die. A lot. I have seen some people claim that this installment is dumbed down and “sooooo easy it’s not even Dark Souls.” The thing is, if you’re able to compare DS2 with Dark Souls or Demon Souls, it means you’ve probably played those games. Which means that you don’t need to get over a learning curve, you already know how to play. It doesn’t mean the game is easier (because it’s not, really), it just means you’re a pro. Pat yourself on the back! That’s something to be proud of. But don’t get cocky, you’re still gonna die and you’re still gonna rage.
I’d like to say that the multiplayer aspect of this game is improved, but my opinion truly is not fully developed.
I have successfully summoned help with boss battles, but that success falls in between several failed attempts, often because the summon sign “has disappeared.” I don’t know if this means that I’m terribly unlucky and someone removes their sign every time I try to use it, or if it’s simply an error within the game. When summoning players is successful, however, the connection is generally made fairly quickly and without fail- I have only received a “summoning failed” message a few times, and that’s to be expected. This also applies to being summoned, but I am definitely seeing a higher success rate than that of Dark Souls, especially with the 1.03 patch released on April 11.
I have had utterly no experience being invaded, though. I’m disappointed in this. Maybe it’s people are just not invading but that’s unlikely. This is Dark Souls, people live to invade. I have interacted with duel summon signs, and so I do have experience in PVP. It still makes my stomach drop, and it’s still really difficult. Lightning is OP and mages can cast spells ridiculously fast. What a challenge!
Invading is essentially the same, it hasn’t happened for me. I’ve tried using the cracked blue eye orb and I’ve had the Guardian’s Seal ring on for some time without any success. PVP is one of my favorite aspects of playing Dark Souls, so I am thoroughly disappointed in the lack of it in Dark Souls 2.
Changes Made in DS2
- Leveling up is the same as Dark Souls, except that it is no longer done at a bonfire. Instead, talk to the woman standing next to the bonfire in Majula. This is also where you upgrade your Estus Flask (in regards to the uses). The Majula bonfire is where you upgrade its strength.
- Warping is also easier in this game, as players no longer need to reach a certain point in the story before unlocking the ability to. It is available from the moment you rest at a bonfire.
- Acquiring boss weapons is also different in Dark Souls 2. Players no longer need to level up a regular weapon and then use a boss soul on it. There are now two NPCS that will trade a boss weapon for its corresponding soul.
- Turning human is also easier in this game. Use a human effigy wherever, whenever and you will reverse your hollowing. Beware, though, because these effigies are few and far between. Use them wisely. They not only reverse your hollowing, they also reverse your dwindling health bar (returned from Demon Souls). If you are out of effigies and die as a hollow multiple times, your health will remain low until you use another.
- There are also limited enemy respawns in DS2. Farming is still possible, but it is limited. After you’ve killed an enemy a certain number of times, it will remain gone unless a bonfire ascetic is used. Be wary, this also increases the difficult of the area surrounding the bonfire.
The game is still beautiful. I am perfectly pleased with the art and scenery, especially when you climb a tall tower and can see birds flying over a forest. I know that some people are upset about the lighting, but it truly doesn’t bother me. I think that there are several environmental additions that balance this “problem.” I’m also discussing the Xbox 360 version here, and I’m certain that all will look better with PC graphics.
This game is still plenty challenging, I was once stuck on a boss battle for days. Combine the fact that there are limited human effigies, dwindling health bars, and ways to actually boost the difficulty of the game (including joining covenants or using plenty of items), I truly do not understand the complaints that people are finding it “too casual.” I promise, Dark Souls 2 is rage-inducing.
If you are having too much trouble and don’t want to make the game harder, there are so many secrets hidden in this game to help you (and some can hurt you, so I’m not promising anything here). For example, one boss battle is done in the dark- unless you light the arena with a torch before going through the fog gate. There are also traps to set, different paths to take and areas to reveal. That being said, all you need to do is explore. There is so much to discover.
Also, the story is fabulous. Have you notice I didn’t really mention that here? That’s because I’m trying my best not to spoil anything. One of my favorite things about this series is the story and the lore behind it. I promise you, it’s fantastic.
Despite these and other reasons for the game being great, I do have some problems.
The bosses are super cool, and while they are a-plenty I only struggled on a few. Some of these bosses are optional and it’s really neat to be able to have so many more to fight, but it sometimes felt as though some areas were just all boss and nothing else. So, it’s not that I don’t like the bosses but I wasn’t as nervous fighting them in this game, and that’s partly due to a lack of buildup to the fight.
The levels are also not designed as nicely as Dark Souls, but I think that this is because the Nexus-approach was taken. I loved how everything was sort of tied together in Dark Souls, that you could finish one area and walk into one you’ve already completed without having realized beforehand that they were even connected. This is more of a personal preference than anything, but I was a little disappointed.
Overall, this game is majestic. I love it. A lot of reviewers are comparing it to Dark Souls. I don’t have a preference; I love each game in different ways. That being said, if you did like Dark Souls or Demon Souls, chances are you’ll also like Dark Souls 2.