I’ve been playing a lot of Dark Souls II lately. Perhaps a bit too much, in hindsight – even now, I can feel the game calling to me, taunting me with the knowledge that I’ve now a surefire means of defeating the boss I was stuck on earlier today. That’s sort of how the game works, see: it’s frustrating as hell, but for some reason you can’t put it down; you become addicted to the satisfaction you receive when you finally do manage to emerge victorious.
It’s sort of like the original, and like Demon’s Souls before it.
That said, it’s ultimately better than both the titles before it – even if it does have a few shortcomings here and there. If you’re up for a bit of a challenge, this is one game you definitely want to pick up and play. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about what Dark Souls II has to offer.
[heading]A Challenging Yet Accessible Experience[/heading]
Compared to most titles on the market today, Dark Souls II is hard – I’m talking controller-hurlingly, wall-bangingly, head-smashingly, brutally hard. The first achievement most of you will probably get – called “This Is Dark Souls” – is gained by dying – which is something I guarantee most of you are going to do quite a bit. Certainly, many will be veterans of the original title, carrying over their skills from the first game (which is one reason I suspect many have claimed Dark Souls II to be easier). Many more, though, will find themselves dying again…and again…and again…and again.
Thing is, you learn something new every time you die. I promise you that eventually, you’ll stop making mistakes that get you killed. Eventually, you’ll figure out the patterns your enemies are using, the best tactics to defeat the boss you’ve been pitted against, and the most devastating combos to stave off invading Black Phantoms (or slaughter people you’ve decided to invade yourself). That’s the thing, see: Dark Souls II may be difficult, it may be challenging, but it’s also accessible – more so than the original.
Perhaps that’s why people find it easier.
[heading]Masterful Environmental Storytelling[/heading]
One thing I’ve always greatly admired about From is their ability to tell an entire chronicle simply by how they design the environment. As you progress through Drangleic, you’ll probably begin to notice little things that connect the areas of the world to one another. Even better, every single item you pick up has its story, and every NPC you meet unfolds a little bit more of the setting’s narrative. Nothing is ever shoved in your face; if you want to learn about your surroundings, that’s on you.
It’s brilliant, and it makes you want to actively explore.
PVP in the original Dark Souls was a horrific, crippling lag-fest; a bloodbath in which whoever managed to lag the least usually got off a backstab and won. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case in Dark Souls II. Instead, From’s completely overhauled its combat engine, installing dedicated servers for multiplayer in the process. The result is what may well be one of the most balanced PVP experiences I’ve yet had the pleasure of playing. Sure, there are still a few combinations and items that could use a bit of work (The Old Leo ring and several of the Miracles, in particular, are horrible), but as a whole? Pretty much anything you could possibly want to play is viable.
It’s just a matter of how good you are at the game.
[heading]An Active Community[/heading]
Last month, I started playing Dark Souls again in preparation for the launch of the second game. I was a little surprised to find that the community was still positively teeming with players; although I occasionally had to wait a fair bit of time to find friendly phantoms, it was nevertheless incredibly rare for me to wind up without any friends to fight by my side (or enemies to bring down). The game had staying power.
Dark Souls II shows every sign of being in the same boat. I’m constantly seeing bloodstains, messages, and player phantoms; a helping hand (or a treacherous knife) is never far away when I play online.
[heading]Consistent Developer Support[/heading]
While a lot of developers offer support for their games that’s patchy at best, From has demonstrated several times over that it’s not among them. Already we’ve seen a few patches for the game fixing a number of issues that cropped up with launch, and From’s been quick to update its players when things have gone wrong. Factor in that From’s made it particularly clear that it’ll definitely release DLC if the demand is there, and you’ve got a winning recipe.
[heading]The PC Version Is Going To Be Awesome[/heading]
With the original Dark Souls, the PC version was a gruesome quagmire of hacking, glitches, and terrible optimization. Features like key-mapping, higher resolution, and higher frame rates were all ignored in favor of a quick-and-dirty port. From has promised that Dark Souls II will suffer from none of these problems, and so far it’s showed every sign that it’ll actually make the PC port better than the versions on console. And if it fails in those promises, well…I guess we can always turn to Durante, right?