Dark Souls II game review - the great return of the dying simulator

Author: Hed
Date: 2014-03-11 09:26:00
The review was based on the X360 version. Also applies to PC, PS3 versions

Demon's Souls and Dark Souls are games that I really love. Both gave me something that I have not felt in video games for a long time - that I can still be surprised and absolutely let myself be absorbed. For hundreds of hours, boundlessly. After Dark Souls, From Software has gained the reputation of one of the best developers in the world, even despite a few less expressive products on the account (even from the Armored Core series). It was clear that in the upcoming continuation the Japanese would want to repeat their success. However, there were some disturbing signals - hinting that the game would be easier or more accessible, or even the bizarre marketing of Bandai Namco. Were the fears justified?

I will say, perversely, that some of them were in the right place and looking superficially at Dark Souls II, you can accuse him of a few things . On the one hand, the game is similar to the original in many places - it is still a story about the cursed undead who hunts the souls of opponents in the new land. On the other hand, From Software has decided on a few changes and some of them make the game easier to master. However, this complaint is absolutely irrelevant.


If Zygmunt Bauman reviewed Dark Souls II , he would probably write that he sees the ambivalence in this game: it is easier than its predecessor, but at the same time more difficult . I know it sounds like - with all due respect to Bauman's style - butter butter, but it's difficult to describe what the From Software studio did differently. Let's start, however, by recalling the assumptions of the game - we play the role of a hero wandering inaccessible land and fighting with dangerous opponents. The overriding motive is exploration and discovery of the so-called bonfires - we can rest with them at the cost of rebirth of previously killed opponents. We develop our character for collected souls, buy and improve equipment. Into all this weaved a hidden story and online mode, allowing you to leave messages to other players or connect with them to help yourself or fight. In a word, the foundation of Dark Souls II has not changed. We are also still being tested because the authors of the game have decided to challenge the player.

What is the ambivalence about? The fact that the second installment of the game is easier to get involved, because we operate longer and more often in particularly demanding situations. For a long time, the authors have been sending us humanoid creatures, which, although they beat strongly, but are not too difficult to defeat. More often we also get clear descriptions of gameplay mechanisms, of course in the course of dialogues with various characters. The latter are still expressed in a vague and mysterious way, but at least they explain elementary issues without unnecessary charades or understatements. Following the example of the previous Demon's Souls, we have a "safe haven", a town of Majul, gradually filled with independent characters. The symbolism of this place - located by the skimming sea and bathed in the light of the setting sun - is not accidental. This is a conscious procedure that has a soothing effect on the psyche. The downside of the new solution is that we have to visit the city many times to improve the character.

Another important thing is that from the beginning of the game we can teleport between unlocked foci. This option allows you to reach places you've visited earlier, and thus allows you to look for another passage or try your hand with the boss postponed. Another simplification is that enemies killed many times simply disappear . The way to the opponent's chamber, which we often take many times, becomes easier. And one more small change - the healing items known from Demon's Souls have returned, although in return the initial number of uses of the bottle of estus, our primary healing potion, has been reduced. In these numerous - let's call it - simplifications, there is a method, because one of the problems of the series was that many people bounced off her at the first boss - now they should reach at least the third. Yes, I just challenged you.

... but harder

In the conversation about the Dark Souls II difficulty level there is one more thread that can probably be called psychological. At some point in the game I thought that I was to blame - this is my third encounter with the series, so I know her tricks and I got used to specific logic . One where you die to check out a theory or learn about the boss's behavior. Because it is not that deaths have not happened to me - death is still common and common. The opponents are difficult and the locations are full of traps, so they die very often. However, man gets used to the fact that he repeats the location, remembering the deadly surprise he had just discovered. "Can he jump here? Maybe try to kill him with that? I will check what is there ... "- almost all of these cases end badly, but give you new knowledge: that these are stupid ideas.

Postcard from Drangleic

The world of Dark Souls II is probably the most polished of all to date. The addition of the city meant that we venture more and more often into the dirt and darker places. In a sense, the feeling that individual locations are closely related to one coherent system has been lost - there are fewer shortcuts between them. However, I think it's a conscious choice and I don't mind. The more that the whole is designed in an intelligent way. I love and respect From Software for giving little hints and signals that you need to learn to read. Example? In one of the places I found an important item only when I looked at the area from a certain height. It's great that the game rewards us abundantly for all efforts - there are more clits. We often have to pull out these awards by force, but it is also beautiful.

I don't want to talk too much about what I visited in Drangleic because it would be unfair. It is better to discover them yourself without guides and help. So in the postcard style I will say so much that it is a mixture of variations on known locations and completely new ideas. For example, we have something like Blighttown with the difference that now we can light the urns here and there to mark where we've been and to facilitate exploration. From my favorite spots I would mention a dark bay with a pirate theme. Overall, I am delighted because I visited a lot of interesting locations and would like to know their history. Well, how is the story? In Dark Souls II, it is created with the same means as before - more about the game are descriptions of items than enigmatic statements of the characters. It will take some time to discover the secrets, including the connection with the first Dark Souls .

It is worth referring to some new ideas that are controversial - I will say straight away that some of them are the development of the concept from Demon's Souls . In Dark Souls II, after death, we cease to be human and become animate, just like in "only". Each subsequent death, however, shortens the life bar to a maximum of half. You can eliminate this condition with the help of so-called "human puppets", objects that reverse curses. However, it is difficult to get them in some parts of the game. In my opinion, this is not a big problem, however, because, like in Demon's Souls , we can find a weakening ring quite quickly. For every negative change, the authors of the game offer something that can make life easier. We use more rings, we find more auxiliary items. In short, with the curse ... that is, with new ideas Dark Souls , you can live.

I have the only problem with the hit counting system. In Dark Souls, the dodge guaranteed almost 100% certainty that we would not take damage. Here, blows sometimes reach us despite the fault. I wonder if this is a nod to realism and taking into account the size of the opponent's weapons and other factors. Or is it a mistake? Either way, these situations do not happen often and can be avoided.

Dialogue between fan and ... fan?

In terms of world design, available locations, momentum, ideas and climate Dark Souls II is my favorite game from From Software studio . I didn't think I would say it because it is "just a sequel". When playing this game, I often laughed to myself and was impressed with what it is. A kind of dialogue between the creator and the recipient. It sounds like a truism and banality, and yet I rarely feel a similar thing. In Dark Souls II, I often find myself wondering what the creators thought when they designed the fragment. I have the feeling that they created their creation just for me, with me in mind. And at the same time they had a great time, because in what games we like, we are on the same side. I don't want to reveal too many details, but I can give you one example of this Dark Souls II feeling, right?

While fighting a certain opponent, I was able to push him into the abyss in total darkness. I expected the opponent to die, but - and here surprise - he landed below on the ledge. I walked around this area for several minutes, and I had no idea about it. After clearing the location, I decided to check this discovery - I took the torch and jumped down. Below I discovered the entrance to the cave. The first clue that I was about to be hit was the wide width of the tunnel, after which I guessed that it was not a lair of small and harmless beings. The second was darkness - nothing could be seen in the distance. I entered a larger room and at the same time noticed that something was rushing towards me from the darkness. Tentacles? Giants? Some beast? It didn't matter to me, because there was one thing - it was huge. I automatically decided that I want to get out of here as soon as possible. I took a step back, but in the same split second the mind made a quick calculation - I have nowhere to go back, because there's a tunnel and a chasm behind me. Panicked, I started running towards the mysterious, enraged creature and in a desperate attempt jumped into the smaller cave on the right. I saw a characteristic cage, which so far in the series served as an elevator. The approaching patter of legs, hooves or God knows what was the last thing I needed to make a quick decision. I ran into the elevator and fled in panic.

After this incident, I laughed in spirit and symbolically threatened with a fist at the creators of From Software. I am convinced that they designed this scene with me in mind - they predicted that this hidden place would probably be discovered by a coward and would escape. I have the impression that my reaction would honestly amuse the studio staff, because that was what they meant. There is still something elusive in this game. Passion, soul, honesty - call it what you want. And don't repeat my escape story anywhere, because they will stop respecting me at Dark Souls fan meetings.

Graphics count ... a little more

This lengthy description is an attempt to show what you can count on in the game if you only accept its specifics. Because - going unexpectedly to criticism here - Dark Souls II remains a bit strange game. Sometimes blocky, graphically raw and sometimes funny. I mentioned that the hero's mobility was increased and jumping is now easier. This advantage has a disadvantage at the same time - it shows the absurdity of many locations, where our hero may or even must jump over the chasms and is not able to climb a small wall or debris. I realize that this is a typical thing, but in a game so well designed it strikes more intensely.

The controversial issue is graphics, which was supposed to be much better. I will say this: it is, but not as much as some people expect. The lighting is impressive, which in the first Dark Souls was awful. I would like to praise that the locations are designed with greater care - and we remember that in the "only" there were monsters in this respect - but note that we can still find weaker textures. The championship is that better visuals are not just aesthetic - feel that From Software has developed a new engine to realize your ideas. Thanks to this, we have to use torches in several locations and we can light smaller urns to facilitate exploration. Graphics in the service of the game, and not the other way round - this is how it should be done. Another thing is that the game works really well and I don't think I ever experienced great drops in the animation flow.