Dark Souls is renowned for being one of the darkest, toughest and damn right intense adventure games ever. The game has developed a status among its players for punishing you for every single mistake made within the game. ‘You died’ became second nature for many of the players. Those fans of the first game were left hopeful that the highly anticipated sequel would somehow bring something newer, fresher or ‘easier’ to the table.
Having recently got hands on with the opening hour of Dark Souls 2 at a preview event hidden deep within the crypts of St Andrew Holborn Church. I can safely say that Dark Souls is back for a second helping. It’s tougher, darker and meaner than ever. I can attest that I definitely suck at the game. Despite dying over 20 times, here are a few things that we have learnt about Dark Souls 2.
Go Beyond Death
You drop into the game, pretty unaware of where your foes may lie, not quite sure of what to expect. Within those first few minutes there will be things that want to kill you. Dark Souls 2 is still a game that will punish you for making mistakes.
After encountering the first significant enemy, I attempted a variety of button mashing attempts to attack, block, heal & attack some more. Yet to no avail the first ‘You Died’ appeared smacked across the screen in bright bold red letters. As if to mock my attempts and highlight that I was just that little bit more rubbish than I should be.
Upon my second to tenth attempt I tried for a more tactical approach, coming in from behind to try and creep up on the monster. However, yet again I died, although this time the monster decided to pick up my character and bite off his head, which seemed pretty cool.
I know for the new player, dying sounds terrible. However Dark Souls 2 is very fair in its punishments. There is a very important reason that the first game gained such a cult status amongst its fans. The gameplay in Dark Souls walked the very thin tightrope between reward and progression. Players would make progress, then die & try again. Die some more, eventually get past the doorway with the giant monster & feel rewarded and accomplished. They would then die again just at the exact right time.
Copy, rinse, repeat. The game worked to allow the player enough time and experience to make progress right before frustration sets in and you’re left throwing your controller directly towards your television. This is what sets in for amazing gameplay, this is what allows the player to find the experience difficult, but yet oh so much that more amazing to be a part of.
Dark Souls 2 works to tread this very same tightrope that the first game became so famous at doing well. I can safely say that from my experience it succeeds in doing so. The game has an essence of justified difficulty that allows the player to feel agency in going at it lots and lots and lots of times. Not just giving up in the first instance and becoming frustrated. You are rewarded at the right times, you may die, but you may kill that monster.
Enemies were known to be rather predictable in the first game. FromSoftware has taken this to a new level with Dark Souls 2. Your enemies react to player actions in a different way, they will break patterns to get a sneaky hit while you are trying to heal.
There are also some familiar voices to meet along the way. Peter Serafinowicz, better known as Pete in Shaun Of The Dead & Duane Benzie in Spaced offers his voice talents as the mild-mannered character called Pate. A mysterious treasure hunter with a more chilling laugh. It's not only Pare who is present though, as throughout the game you will encounter various NPCs who will have plenty of things to say and might provide you with crucial items.
Although difficult rewarding experiences may be such a simple concept, housed within a dark world and creepy story, it’s a concept that gamers don’t see much in modern games today. This is why after maybe only getting past the first significant monster in the game. Dark Souls 2 is a game that is going to draw us into its world once again...
Words by Johnathon Waples.