Welcome to the Old School
Gaming changed considerably over the last three decades. These days, the most successful games make it easy for the player to get from point A to point B. Need to find an item to complete a quest? Don't worry, the game gives you a detailed explanation of where the item is located, there's an arrow leading directly to the item and the location appears on the map. In fact, the game may teleport you directly there and back to make it easier.
The original Dark Souls turned that concept on its side and brought back the challenge of classic gaming, and Dark Souls II picks up right where the first left off in terms of challenge. The sequel takes a page from RPGs of old, where accepting a quest meant just that. All you received was an extremely brief explanation of the problem. No detailed map, arrows, X marks the spot or teleportation. Many of the quests in Dark Souls II give you almost no insight on what you're supposed to do or go. It's a stark contrast from most modern role-playing games, and a breath of fresh, albeit frustrating, air as a result.
Death for the Undead
If the simple challenge of completing quests wasn't enough, Dark Souls II carries on from the original game's tradition of making even the most basic tasks more difficult than in other games. While most adventures start off in an easy area to teach players the basics, Dark Souls II throws high-level threats into the fray with no set path for gamers to take. Think those two enemies near the tutorial area are easy to take down? Sorry, they'll kill you in two hits.
Yes, even at the beginning of the game, enemies are difficult to defeat, especially when you have to fight multiple creatures at once. The stamina bar determines how often you can attack and evade, but unless you master the parry ability early on, it can be difficult to fight off several enemies without taking damage. In almost every instance, two or three hits are enough to finish off your character.
A Sense of Accomplishment
So, like its predecessor, Dark Souls II is an extremely challenging game, and this isn't a bad thing. It's sure to turn some players off, especially when they die 10 times during the first hour of play. However, it's a welcome challenge that gives you a sense of accomplishment once you complete a quest or defeat a troublesome boss. In fact, everything in the game provides a proper sense of achievement.
Even the simplest things in other games, such as levelling up your character, become triumphs in Dark Souls II. You can only level up by collecting souls, and in true Dark Souls style, every time you die, you lose all of the souls you collected. You can go back to the location where you died and collect the lost souls, but if you die again before doing this, all of those souls are lost for good, along with your chance of levelling up any time soon. On top of this, souls are also used to purchase new items and gear in addition to levelling up your stats, which makes them even more valuable. Then there are a ton of stats and gear to level up, making it a challenge figuring out where best to use your souls. Couple this with the multiple classes you can play as and the addition of online multiplayer, and the challenge increases even more.
Dark Souls II has a solid storyline, but the game is anything but linear and this could be a struggle for some players when trying to figure out where they're supposed to go next. At the onset of the game, there are several areas you can venture into, but only one or two paths are "easy enough" for you to make it through safely. The trial and error may be frustrating for some, but once you get to the end of an area, youll feel as though you met the challenge and came out on top. It's a feeling that most modern games lack.
Not For the Faint Of Heart. Or Soul.
Dark Souls II is a lengthy, challenging and rewarding game. It doesn't offer many helpful tips, or hold your hand through the early portion of the game, and some players will almost certainly detest this. If you are such a player, this is not the game for you. But if you're one of those who choose to press on, Dark Souls II could easily become one of your favourite games. The challenge it presents truly rewards you, and it can be a great experience.
If you can make your way through, the story is expansive and engulfing. You'll want to play more of the game just to find out how things end. You may throw your controller a few times, but that's all part of the fun.
GAME's Verdict: 9/10
- Compelling story that keeps you wanting more.
- Intricate levelling system that allows for micromanaging stats.
- Online multiplayer adds considerably to the experience.
- The number of times you'll die per hour.
- The raw challenge of simply figuring out where to go next.
- May not appeal to the more casual gamer.