Dark Souls II(DkSII), the younger sibling to Dark Souls(DkS) in many respects, trying to be much more than its predecessor, but flowing in the veins of Soul-Vania, was probably the second game I had ever bought on release for Xbox 360. I garnered much respect and experienced much enjoyment for this next installment, and if you haven’t checked out Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, I strongly recommend you do. It’s the entire DLC package and base game, and serves as a fantastic gateway to the Souls series.
Dark Souls II is a fantasy action-RPG developed by From Software and produced my Bandai Namco. It’s renowned for being difficult, but often chided for following in the steps of cult classic Dark Souls.
It was my love for the first game that persuaded me into buying Dark Souls II, the yearning for more adventure as my banner. I wanted to stretch my legs in unfounded territory, to see the sights, and to bury my sword into the supple undead flesh of my adversaries.
I wasn’t disappointed…
Dark Souls II follows in the footsteps of those who came before, featuring the same fighting mechanics as Dark Souls with a few tweaked elements including different riposte animations, i-frames being reliant on your adaptability skill, different enemies with different strategies, and a storyline finding itself peering over the entrenched walls Dark Souls had spent much time establishing years previous.
I had spent several months on Dark Souls beforehand, battling my way through bosses time and time again, and only thought it fair that I hold Dark Souls II to its own standards, reflecting upon the fact that it was not directed by Miyazaki, but instead by entirely different faces.
When I first showed up in Drangleic – the next continent victimized undeath – I noticed right away that the lighting and textures were extremely vibrant and showed great variation, especially when it came to the expansive and undoubtedly attractive set pieces, much in the spirit of exploration and discovery.
There were mountains of ice, pits of fire and lakes of lava, giant bogs with mutated enemies, castles that rose above the clouds and towers that eclipsed the moon. It was in between the glorious reaches of Drangleic that I had found a new, temporary home.
Above all things, I was instantly enamored by Majula, the new Firelink Shrine in some respects, albeit bigger as it felt like I was inside a village I must reconstruct. It was the central hub, where I could find oft reliant NPCs and a small host of aggravated enemies. A step to the side and I quickly found the correct path to go down. It was here that my journey began.
A few differences were noticeable right away. For one, I now had to level up through another NPC and when I died I lost a bit of max health. It came not as a shock, but as a creative and technical difference in how I would play, or so I thought. In the previous game one could not warp between bonfires to start out, and bosses in DkS seemed to be constructed in a way that wasn’t detrimental to the evolutionary curve of your character. I found that with every step I took in Drangleic, a moment of judgement was required to determine the dangers of my surroundings, and after one or two attempts, the answers came to fruition.
It was not nearly as difficult as my first time playing DkS, but I chalked that up to being somewhat experienced with the whole ordeal. This began to bear on me as I cleaved my way through several tons of steel in armour plating, and when my weapon began to degrade, only then I realized I had drawn a trump card in terms of destructive capabilities.
I had found my all-time weapon with which I was to fight every boss for the rest of the game. I enjoyed the fights for the most part, recognizing movesets and character similarities, learning quickly what it meant to be a victim rather than a victor.
The path to each boss was probably the most vile feature of this new crusade, and in the end the bosses proved no more than robots on stilts. It was fun, regardless, and when the challenge had been mounted I felt the chalice of victory’s cold metal if only for an instant.
It was as if I had returned to a place long forgotten, tried to make a difference, and when the game’s final credits rolled, it was as if this place would only exist in a distant dream or a squalid nightmare.
I connected to my character more than ever, the cohort of weapons and cosplay being magnanimous in stature, and broad in girth. I dressed up my fetid knight, tossing him into the bowels of destruction to face every challenge one on one, and I felt like a retired hero from Lordran who had sailed to Drangleic in a quest of mystery and want.
DkSII had proven to me that From Software could rehash their Souls games over and over again, pressing Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, until I paid them $60 for a piece of software. I wouldn’t question it, because I, like many others, fanboy over the prospects of our gracious overlords opening the food traps, even though it might be leftovers or the same shitty meatloaf.
But DkSII tried to be different, much in every way that it stayed the same. The sequel wasn’t inferior by far, it was a different game with tweaked rules, but I realized after my first 200+ hours that I bought these games not to punish myself, or because I was diehard, but because no matter what, I trust From Software to instill in me a spirit of adventure and to test my limits.
They gave me variation, and I will say that I’m hoping for a Dark Souls III either in factuality or spirituality. With Bloodborne being released two weeks ago, I can only see From Software on the horizon as the frontiersmen paving the way for a beautiful mix of survivalism and hardcore RPGs that seemed to have gone the way of the dodo.
Dark Souls II is currently available on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC for $19.99.