The time has come for the cult favorite Dark Souls to receive a sequel and this time the developers promise not to make it easy. Then again, the game was never easy to begin with, yet that is part of the reason why so many RPG fans love the Dark Souls franchise. It brings them back to a time when you had to get better at the game to continue the story and victories were hard-fought. Thankfully, From Software knows their audience and you’ll get the same tough-as-nails gameplay with all the rewarding victories gamers loved about the franchise. If you love Dark Souls, this game is going to be right in your wheelhouse.
Dark Souls II is all about little gameplay nuances without really changing the original formula. The story is still notoriously bare-bones and the fun in the game is just getting to the end rather than pleasure derived from a narrative experience. Make no mistake, Dark Souls II is a crushingly difficult game. Dark Souls II is not friendly to newcomers, but if you have been interested in the game, you’ve heard about how hard it is, so this should be no surprise. If you want to get past the first boss, you are going to have to take a tactical approach and don’t expect any mercy, this game is indeed, out to get you. However, for as difficult as this game is, it is fair to the player. If you died, you can trace back your mistakes and learn how to do that section better the second, or third time around. This style of gameplay has been a tenant of the franchise and Dark Souls II proudly carries the torch forward. Get ready to learn patterns in the gameplay, its the only thing that will keep you alive.
However, there are several key changes that makes this game even harder and less forgiving than its predecessor, but there are several changes that improve this game over its predecessor. Things like the fact that there are less healing items and they take longer to use. Try not to get hurt, but when you inevitably do, you need to find somewhere safe to heal up because you can’t instantly heal like in Dark Souls. If that wasn’t bad enough, there is a maximum health penalty when you die reducing how much health you start over with. However, going from an undead state to a human state reverses the effect. Such a simple change makes this game much harder on the player starting from scratch. However, there are several adjustments that make the game easier to navigate and approach. Bonfires can be accessed from the beginning of the game so you can always backtrack if you need to. This trick is quite handy when you need to get a few more souls. Interestingly, monsters will not infinitely respawn like they did in Dark Souls, you can only kill off enemies a certain number of times. Changes like these don’t necessarily change the way the game is played, but they do give veterans more to think about. There are also tons of new equipment to be found in this game including armor, weapons and armor abilities. There is also a new customization system that allows you to further tinker with your load out to cater to your style of play. Finally, there is a new engine for Dark Souls II that upgrades the visuals and sound performance over the original game.
Those that enjoyed the unique multiplayer mode in Dark Souls will be happy to learn that Dark Souls II has the same core experience with a few new features to help you along the way. In Dark Souls II, you can still leave notes for players warning them of danger ahead or providing advice for something yet to come. In Dark Souls, the notes were rather simplistic only letting the player choose from a short list of comments, but now you can leave more detailed notes which is always handy, especially when you are a new player. If you choose to play co-op, you can now utilize your consoles voice chat system in-game so you don’t need to use a service outside of the game to talk with your friends. However, if you are more inclined to play competitively, you’ll notice a few key differences this time around. In Dark Souls II, you can still invade other player’s games and kill them for souls, but this time by killing players you’ll build up your sin meter. This will make it easier for other players to invade your game, so you’ll have to take it as well as you dish it. You’ll also notice that you can now be invaded when you are undead, when before you could only be invaded when alive. Finally, Dark Souls II has several dedicated servers ready to go which will ensure you get a consistent and smooth gameplay experience while online.
Overall, Dark Souls II is an excellent follow-up to an amazing RPG series. The set pieces are just as big as ever and you’ll certainly have your hands full from the beginning. If you loved the series before, you are going to love this game but newcomers beware, this is going to be a tough ride. We were blown away by the numerous boss battles and overall feel of the game. If you’ve been looking for a new RPG, or just something that poses more of a challenge, look no further than Dark Souls II. Therefore, we give this game our highest recommendation.
This review is based on a review copy of the PlayStation 3 version of Dark Souls II developed by From Software, Published by Namco Bandai
- Excellent Combat
- Crushingly Difficult
- Harsh Death Penalties