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Dark Souls 2 Review *update*

My first foray into the world of Dark Souls was with knowing very little about its history, I had heard whispers about its earlier release, the spiritual precursor Demon’s Souls, but mostly it was always about just how hard it was, little was said just how good it was. Dark Souls itself was a harsh lesson in gaming but without a doubt a worthy one, even after those many early deaths (and there was a lot) it was never the game's fault, always mine. Even after countless replays of both titles and a little bit of DLC, I was still hungry for more of a challenge, so could Dark Souls 2 live up to the previous game's reputation?

Scores of titbits of information had been leaking out since the initial announcement, screen shots, videos, even a very worrying statement about the difficulty which I will put to bed now, it is still rock hard. Playing with said other games behind me, the initial couple of hours were bordering on easy, disposing of enemies with relative ease, but this was Dark Souls 2’s greatest and cruellest trick as just when I thought I had it beat, the game punished me for it, over and over again.

The previous iterations offered me a strange sort of gaming nirvana, the quiet in the eye of the storm, the strange reason why tattoos are so addictive; personally the game was the realisation of the perfect balance of pleasure and pain, one false move and it's curtains, whereas Dark Souls 2 initially felt like I had been through the nine circles of Hell all at once, quickly becoming a game of frustration and anger. In previous titles mistakes were yours alone, if you die it was down to your inadequacy.

Here, with me starting as a Knight, the game struggled with camera issues on more than one occasion thanks to the lock-on mechanic, I spent mindless hours looking for what to do next while fighting enemies that, to be frank, were far too hard and have some incredible powers given the miserly amount of souls to harvest for better weapons and armour to at least give you a chance. If I stopped after some ten hours of play and wrote up this review it would have been quite different. But solely through the love of the series I did something I would usually avoid, I started afresh, trying out a different class, which turns out was the right choice. This time I went the Sorcerer route, who thankfully is embedded with plenty of ranged attacks; there is still a ballet of death, rolling and blocking attacks but with ranged weaponry the camera copes a lot better. The overpowered foes also seem easier to cope with, which in turn caused the souls to flow more freely. I do feel a bit of a cheater just spamming from a safe distance and diving in for the occasional stab, not the most honourable of victories but I will take what I can in this game.

It was after this hard choice that everything felt right again, progress was slow but rewarding, the previous boss that blocked my quest quickly dealt with, the game was not only becoming a joy to play during the day but also invaded my dreams like some Phantom, replaying levels and battles over and over again. This simple choice of class was key; so with others like the Bandit, Cleric, Explorer or the Deprived, there is always a chance the game may not feel right, if this is the case for you, just try a different character.

The story starts in familiar territory to the series; you are recently deceased and appear in the strange and hostile world where you are cursed to become a Hollow, an empty husk of a person roaming the lands. To stop this there is a rumour that the King can reverse the curse upon the payment of a sum of souls taken from key lords of the realm, leaving you to find a way to do this. The game will then pretty much drop you right in it, leaving you to wander the realms, talking to strangers and slowly piece together where you are and what it is you need to do.

The game pulls no punches, giant monsters appear at the very first corner you reach, legging it is not the coward’s way, it's the survivor’s way. Thanks to the many hours spent on the previous titles, Dark Souls 2 slipped quickly well into my "gaming zone" with me managing to survive for some time without hitch, a couple of stupid button presses causing deaths rather than any real challenge, though just when you think you have it mastered, death is always close by, even the inhabitants of the game world know it with old hags mocking your attempt to cure your curse, giddy with the knowledge that one wrong turn can cause punishing death, like the giant owl that drops a serious kick ass floating knight who then disappears on my second attempt, waiting to pounce at a later time and this was not even the first boss, who in turn was no easy feat either. The Last Giant, pinned down by iron bars piercing his body, your presence enrages it, freeing itself from the shackles and focusing its rage on you; this slow lumbering beast that fills the game screen and has an incredible reach and a devastating foot stomp that quickly becomes the first major sticking point. There is a method to its attacks but with a one hit kill, I just can’t manage it and that’s where the adventure truly begins. You start scratching around, finding little secrets, a key here, a tunnel there, slowly grinding souls, upgrading your weapons and armour and finally, the giant is down, hours in and only the first boss is dealt with, you know it is going to be a long journey. I will say the following level is no easier, going toe to toe with numerous stone giants, the boss feeling like relief and it is after these first few harrowing battles that the game finally opens up a little, bonfires becoming frequent and your weapons and powers become stronger, making it feel like you are more of an equal to the enemies rather than a whipping boy.

Though the enemies are a real threat, even the level layout will test you, creating a great overall pace to the game, making you suffer greatly and forcing you to look around, uncovering hidden passageways, shortcuts and perilous falls and risky jumps that are always in your way, leaving only those brave enough to overcome these obstacles to find rewarding treasures on the other side, or a quick and embarrassing death.

The first main “safe” hub area, found just beyond the training area is Majula, a coastal wind swept village, sporting a few ramshackle houses, with supply shops and a few strangers, rambling about their reasons for being there and adding even more woe to this bleak land. From here there are many paths that lead out to the lands beyond, some blocked by strange magic, others unreachable by present means; a great addition is the ability to fast travel from the offset to any previously located bonfire. As you make your journey to see the King you will bump into all sorts of characters, most of whom are helpful and offer advice and their wares, reappearing back at Majula, acting as the go to place for most of the shopping needs, letting you purchase all manner of weapons and armour for your quest with souls once again being the main currency of the game, automatically picked up with everything you defeat and, alongside with your humanity are the few items you lose upon death (you still have a second chance to pick up souls).

Even though for me choosing the right class was the turning point of the game it is just not about who you are as what you use as weaponry is also essential; just settling for a favourite axe or pike will only get you so far, with enemies designed to pick apart your well-rehearsed attack patterns, even environments will get in your way with tight corridors and doorways rendering the long outward swings of your axe useless, so variety is paramount. Thankfully your pockets are deep; with only what you are wearing effecting your movement. Everything else you collect can sit happily in your inventory with a simple layout making it easy to select items whenever the moment arises.

Online is again a little confusing, only making partial sense thanks to playing the previous titles, with messages being scribbled on the floor for you to send out warnings and tips to the rest of the gaming world or utilising summon stones which once placed leave you to patiently waiting for someone who has restored their humanity to call you over and assist them. For those that prefer to wreak havoc rather than lend a helpful hand you can again invade other worlds as a Phantom, warping close to the player so you can mix it up in a bit of player versus player action. Again, joining Covenants will help linking together, earning all sorts of bonuses when you do so.

Sadly, even with a whole week to review it was still not enough time to allow me to complete Dark Souls 2, leaving many mysteries to uncover like the meaning of the strange map carved into the basement floor or the run-down house or the open coffin you can climb into that has been washed up on the shore; hopefully with another 20 or so hours I will find out more. A word of warning, there will be a lot of hype from many who have treaded these dangerous roads and Dark Souls 2 does deserve the reputation it has, however that does not mean it is for everyone.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version Tested: PS3)


+ Well balanced action with plenty of classic role playing game ideals.
+ Create you perfect warrior.
+ A serious challenge but very rewarding.


- Can easily lose hope in the first moments of the game with little to point out where to go and overwhelming odds.
- Some camera issues with close quarters combat.

We have received a review code for the PC version of Dark Souls 2, so have decided to update our review with some new words which you can read below.

Dark Souls 2 (PC)

Are you ready to knock on the door of Drangelic once again? Are you prepared to stare at Death in the eye and shout “I’m not afraid”? Are you prepared to stick a middle finger up at console owners and gloat that the PC version is better than theirs?

By now you are all probably fed up with every reviewer harping on about just how good the Dark Souls games are, however at no point is that going to stop as it is still one of the better series of games out there, offering a worthy challenge set against a backdrop of a wonderful game world. That said, even with all the praise Dark Souls gains, the PC version has to prove itself on more than just gameplay. When the first Dark Souls game was released on the PC it was essentially the same game as the console versions, which was a problem for some as PC gamers are accustomed to certain extras. To be fair, the team at From Software had little experience with PC hardware at the time so just to get Dark Souls onto home computers was a bonus, plus thanks to a decent community there were a couple of behind the scenes tricks to get a little more out of the game. So we know that they can make a good game, but the big question is, is this another port or a definitive version that PC gamers really want.

Well, From Software have excelled themselves this time around as Dark Souls 2 is exactly what the PC community wanted; darting to the options menus you are greeted with a reasonable assortment of lists and switches to tinker with in the game, allowing your PC to produce even better visuals than the console versions. I must say, the difference is quite startling at first with the architecture just popping off the screen, appearing so much crisper and clearer. Things get even better as you progress, your first visit to Manjula is a sight to behold and the level of detail on the many monsters and enemies you come across is even more apparent. Most of this is down to the higher resolution that the PC’s can produce but also worth a note is the smoothness of the game. I had never really noticed it on the console versions as it was what you are accustomed to but on the fame rate on the PC version is so smooth, it feels like you are watching a different game.

As with the previous PC version I should add that this is best played with a controller rather than a mouse and keyboard as not only will if feel more comfortable but the majority of the in game references are based on a controllers layout.

So there you have it, the gameplay is identical to the consoles, it works well with a gamepad, I never had any issue with summoning or being summoned and other than the strange decision to have auto block on as default (M to turn off) it’s the same brutal and rewarding game it ever was.

Edited On 28 Apr, 2014

( 7 )
Zombieflamingo's avatar
Zombieflamingo 3 years ago
Going to be a good weekend with this and Titanfall, now all I need is Infamous to get good reviews then I know I will be set for the next while.
 TruDarkAssassin's avatar
TruDarkAssassin 3 years ago
Gutted had to cancel my copy due to a unforeseen bill arriving and infamous has to come first so will prob pick it up in a few weeks oh well
Zombieflamingo's avatar
Zombieflamingo 3 years ago
It's always rubbish when that happens, hopefully you will be able to get it a bit cheaper when you get round to it then.
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 3 years ago
The game doesn't point where to go at first cos you can just go anywhere
Loli-Nox-Tan's avatar
Loli-Nox-Tan 3 years ago
Good review Btw, looking forward to it more and more
Akemi no Zero's avatar
Akemi no Zero 3 years ago
This game is not about dying. Sorry had to be said my little pun, anyways looking really good im pumped for darksouls II that's for sure! Great review.
Ian1969's avatar
Ian1969 3 years ago
Love the review spot on with your comments i did find changing to sorcerer made the game that bit easier with camera lock on ive clocked up 120 hours gameplay still havent finished it.An absolute delight to play a game i dont want to finish to quickly

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