Dark Souls II: One Of The Truest Sequels I’ve Ever Played

By Jack . March 29, 2014 . 5:30pm

Dark Souls II is one of the truest sequels I’ve ever played. If I had to sum up the game in one sentence, I’d say “yeah, it’s another Souls game.” Describing it as just that is kind of a disservice, however, as Dark Souls II does a lot of things right. Exactly what a sequel should do or be is a tireless debate, but personally I’m looking for two things: that it improves upon the systems in play and that it adds meaningfully to the formula.


If you’ve never played a Souls game, this might be the best place to start. Now to be clear, I don’t mean that the game is dumbed down or ruined. It’s more that Dark Souls II is the culmination of all the lessons learned from the previous games. It takes the interconnected world of Dark Souls II and combines it with the hub town of Demon’s Souls to create a game that has the best of both worlds.


Veterans of the Souls games will notice little in the way of sweeping changes, as most of what Dark Souls II brings to the table is for balancing and convenience. In the original Dark Souls you could activate bonfires throughout the land, which essentially served as checkpoints. For the sequel you’re now allowed to fast travel between them straight from the beginning, and they seem to be spread more conveniently throughout the world. There’s a whole list of alterations covering things like the weapon upgrade system to the invincibility frames on your roll, but it’s difficult to say that anything is a complete game-changer.


At its most basic level, Dark Souls II is nearly identical to From Software’s previous Souls games. Dark Souls II is an action RPG that has no qualms about killing you over and over. Movement is slower -paced than most action games, and you are punished harshly for your mistakes by losing souls that you’ve collected. Your progress is tied to how many souls you can get from enemies, as these souls work as currency that allow you to level up or buy items.


Interacting with your environments is the core of the Souls experience, and in this sense Dark Souls II is as strong as ever. You need to constantly be aware of your surroundings, both for traversal and combat. Take a small narrow hallway for example. If you rush into things you may find yourself getting trapped between enemies and end up getting killed by the mob. Even if you know they’re coming though, you need to make sure that your weapon is an appropriate size or it will start bouncing off the walls ineffectively.


There’s ingenuity to the level design here that I can’t help but love. On top of your surroundings always being important to your survival in a practical sense, they’re also filled with hidden secrets and shortcuts to make life easier. All of the areas in Dark Souls II feel like mysteries waiting to be solved, with new things to discover every time you come back. Simply put, it’s a game that feels good to explore, even when you’re getting killed repeatedly by a group of enemies.


One of the most notable characteristics of Dark Souls II is that it emphasizes mobs of enemies. This is a game where handling one enemy the wrong way can get you killed in seconds, so adding in more can definitely cause some trouble. Many environments are built for you to run around and attempt to funnel your enemies, forcing you to be resourceful and alert. While I like how tense these situations can get, it starts to feel overused after a while, which unfortunately is a problem that carries over to other areas of the game.


Bosses are handled in a surprisingly uniform way, leaving many of the encounters feeling bland. I know not everyone is fond of gimmicky bosses, but far too often Dark Souls II puts you in a room with some tall guy with a big weapon. Fighting bosses always felt like a big deal in prior Souls games, but so many of the bosses here feel like they’re going through the motions, like they were needed to fill space. There are of course some standout exceptions I won’t spoil, but they seem to be more towards the latter end of the game, and the experience could have benefitted by placing some of the stronger designs earlier into the adventure.


Another part of it is that Dark Souls II just doesn’t play with your expectations as often as it should. In other Souls games you were forced to go through doors that are completely covered by fog, never quite knowing what to expect. In Dark Souls II it’s a boss. About 95% of the time, it’s a boss. The one time I thought it wasn’t a boss was when there were just a bunch of rats. And it turned out those rats were a boss. Oh.


While the single player experience can feel lacking at times, the online experience is stronger than ever. There is of course the usual array of features like leaving messages for other players, summoning phantoms for help, and being invaded by some not-so-helpful people. They all work about as well as ever, with a few minor changes in how to access these features. The biggest improvements lie in the more in-depth online features.


Throughout the game you are allowed to join into groups called covenants, which grant you special perks and abilities. Just about all of the covenants feel worth your time here, with some of my favorites revolving around setting up traps for unsuspecting players trying to get through an area. None of them are useless and they’re all fun to participate in. It’s a great layer of meta-game that goes beyond the typical player vs. player experience and encourages you to mess around with the game in ways you might not otherwise.


Dark Souls II’s main weakness is that it’s so focused on mixing and improving already established concepts that it ends up lacking its own identity. All of the changes Dark Souls II brings to the table are tweaks to already existing systems, almost more of a balance update than anything. Even as someone who’s never fully completed a Souls game, I was recognizing a lot of level design ideas and boss fights (some of them are actually straight up from the previous game!) that I had encountered before. It’s hard to say whether this was a conscious decision made to refine the experience or just lack of creative direction, but it’s a little disappointing.


On one hand, Dark Souls II is a great example of how applying lessons from previous games and tweaking a formula can make a game better. On the other, I can’t help but wish it did more to step out of the shadows of its predecessors rather than dwell within them. It’s still a fantastic, well-crafted game to be sure, and whether you’re a returning veteran or a nervous newcomer Dark Souls II is more than worth your time.


Food for Thought:


1. If you’re looking for a greater challenge right off the bat, Dark Souls II is more than happy to accommodate you. Very early in the game you can join a covenant that buffs all of the enemies to the strength they would be at during a second play through. Good luck with that.


2. One of the most interesting things about the Souls games is that there are really two versions of them: online and off. The first couple of days I played Dark Souls II were offline (I’m a little stingy with my Xbox Live subscription), and I spent a lot of time appreciating the environments and level designs artistically. It was almost jarring in comparison to when I finally went online. What was once a desolate, moody game had now become crowded with messages, summon signs, and player ghosts everywhere, making the game feel much more community-driven. While the better overall experience likely lies with the online features, playing the game without all the clutter might be a good experiment for those who haven’t tried it.


3. The online seems to be very spotty when it comes to connecting to other players, at least on the Xbox 360. Often when I would try to summon people or get notice of an invasion, it would be cancelled a few moments later for seemingly no reason.


4. While Dark Souls II does a lot to make your experience more convenient, it occasionally feels like it wants to be obtuse for the sake of it. To activate the character that allows you to level up, for example, you have to talk to her. A lot. After your first conversation the game notifies you that this particular person allows you to level up, but in reality you need to talk to her about three or four more times before she does anything.

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  • Kornelious

    Dark Souls 2 is so addicting, its’s everything a sequel should be, Heck even Yahtzee liked it :D

  • Symbol de Au

    I heart this game. The only thing that bothers me is the limited enemy respawn. Good thing I discovered that life ring exploit so I don’t run out of effigies that can’t be farmed reliably. Heh, though some might say I made it too easy. Actually I have over 50 effigies now so I really don’t need the ring but it’s pretty dang convenient. I’m also holding onto around 900,000 souls that I have nothing to spend on…or more like am too stingy to spend. Heh.

    EDIT: Oh hey. Emarrel uses it too. Haha.

    • golden izanagi

      I think the limited respawn of enemies was probably a way to stop players from soul farming as there was ways to do that in the first dark souls such as using that dragon on the bridge at the undead burg, and yeah I have two of those rings of life that allow you to keep your humanity and souls when you die and what’s great about them as they only need 3,000 souls to repair them again but I do find that ring a bit problematic for a souls game experience as it kind of makes dying not as big a deal as it was in the first game but all in all this is still a game to be careful in when playing as you never know what’s going to pop out and try to kill you.

      • Symbol de Au

        I’m pretty sure the Hellkite Dragon didn’t respawn in the first game so I don’t know how that would be a way to farm souls. The soul farming place was the forest or apparently some people used the painted world. Soul Farming is still easy in this game though, as long as you can connect to people.

        • golden izanagi

          you can use its dragon fire to kill the enemies on the bridge giving you 555 souls each time just roll back down the stairs as its getting ready to use its fire breath then go back to the bonfire and do it again tedious I know but its pretty useful early on in the game.

          • Symbol de Au

            Oh yeah I forgot about that. I guess that way would have made it easier to farm 20,000 to get to the forest. Heh.

    • KuroNathan

      there’s not really much point in restricting yourself from SL leveling except for pvp meta purposes (which I think is still being debated) cause now online match making is done with your soul history, being that it matches people who earned roughly the same amount of souls rather then SL.

      • Symbol de Au

        Apparently Soul Memory doesn’t count in new game plus and Soul Level is still a factor regardless.

        Edit:Oh the wiki was updated since last time I looked. So that’s why it seems like everyone I meet has a higher level. Hah! Well actually I’m still not sure how it works. I doubt anyone else is either though.

        EDIT Again: Yeah everyone has been higher level than me. Like three times as high…wow.

  • Trafalgar Law

    I was wonder what bosses are the similar. Other than Najka I don’t really feel things were rehashed (only the Gargoyles but they GOAT hehe).

  • MrRobbyM

    I just finished it a few days ago. It’s a really solid game and lot has been improved from the first game. However, it has some major flaws in comparison to the first. As you mentioned, lots of the bosses aren’t really memorable. I found about half of the areas either too short or not fully realized. Areas such as Huntsman’s Copse and Drangleic Castle seemed like areas that would be big and difficult but ended up being pretty short and easy for the most part. Another complaint is the inferior lighting which affected the entire mood of the game. DaS1 felt more depressing and dangerous and DeS even more.

    Overall, the game didn’t leave as much of an impact as the previous Souls games did. I might have enjoyed the game more if they got the mood lighting down(other than Iron Keep and Heide’s Tower), but it’s still a great game that any Souls fan will enjoy.

    • KuroNathan

      I found the lighting in DkS2 to be better actually, or at least the shadow physics. I do wished that some of the areas forced you to use the torch more like in the gutter so that the game would be actually dark.

      • MrRobbyM

        Some areas look much better than anything in DaS1. But overall, most areas felt very samey and bland. The design itself is fine, it’s the feeling that was bland. You’re right though. The shadows are better.

        The torch ideas was scrapped because if they used the old build, you would be holding a torch in your left hand most of the game. Never really letting you use your shield. I’m glad it was scrapped but that resulted in the game being very bland feeling.

        • KuroNathan

          I think a major part of the mood in DkS 1 that was missing form DkS2 was easily interactable npcs that eventually go crazy and attack you. I mean yeah they were still there in DkS2 but I didn’t know that you had to keep them alive in boss fights and ended up skipping most of their cause I used them as meat shields.

          • BlueTree

            They didn’t all eventually go crazy, they could… they just felt like real people or had legitimately interesting arcs. Dark Souls 2’s NPCs are poorly written by comparison. They lack the same quality of writing, scenario design, and impact.

        • Jezzy

          My thoughts exactly. They needed another Ash Lake or something to break the monotony of the castles and forts environments that dominates the game.

          • MrRobbyM

            The only areas of the game that really stick out to me are Iron Keep, Heide’s Tower and Shrine of Amana. I’d say Huntsman’s Copse too but that’s only because I played through that area a lot :/

    • Eilanzer

      About the lighting…The devs promised that the PC version this area would be improved. They actually needed to reduce the light/dark in the game because of the consoles =/

      • MrRobbyM

        I know the PC version is going to look better but nowhere near the quality that we’ve seen in past trailers. From isn’t the type of dev to pour that much money to make one version of the game look great, but it should look better than the console versions.

  • CervantesPR

    As someone whos holy grail of gaming is Dark Souls 1,the very best gaming has offered me in my time as a gamer. im not liking the PVP multiplayer in Dark Souls 2 at all, they ruined it. now it takes no skill to do PVP now its just run foward and mash the R1 button and hope to hit first and do a stunlock. the single player is good though

    heres proof:


    • Symbol de Au

      That’s not even close to being proof but I think you’re right. Though I don’t think the first game had much skill involved in PVP either, not that I was ever into it.

      • CervantesPR

        well if you werent into the first Dark Souls PVP theres really not much point in me trying to go into detail.
        but let me tell you this, the guy in this video got stunlocked with absolutely no way of escaping, in Dark Souls 1 you had options to deal with it without having to have a lot of poise. dark souls 1 was more a more technical game, now its just go foward and R1 spam to stunlock your oponent till their death= NO SKILL

        • decus

          You can escape the stunlock by rolling lol. ADP effects how soon your roll input will trigger while locked, but with like 16 of it you shouldn’t receive more than a hit.

          • Asura

            That’s not what ADP does, and a guy (emarrel I believe) who put out the best video so far demonstrating Agility i-frames claims somewhere between 93 – 98 is ideal.

        • Ferrick

          which is why i laugh at people who says that adp is a useless stat

          • Eilanzer

            Depends of your build…In some is useless…In othes you HAVE to put point in adp…
            The problem is…People still don´t know much about the game and speak bullshit…

          • Ferrick

            aye, pure magic/miracle/hex/pyro users doesn’t need adp too much, spellblades doesn’t need too much adp, as long as their ATN and ADP build up to a minimum of 100 agi, and quality, heavy swingers, and ruler’s build kinda need it.

        • Cazar

          Just because the meta has changed doesn’t mean it’s ruined. You just have to relearn it.

          • Ferrick

            problem is, that they still think that the meta is the same as dark souls 1 (especially with the whole “SL 125 is the SL cap for fight clubs”)

        • Symbol de Au

          Yeah I’ve played in the arena and neither I nor my opponents have ever been locked for more than two hits without being able to roll.

          • BlueTree

            There are some damage types that inflict stun, mainly on the strength weapons, that cannot simply be rolled out of in 2 hits. I think it’s more based on heavy weapons, though. It’s a nice bonus, but with the other options so heavily nerfed, it’s a step forward with two steps back.

        • Card

          I’d actually run into this. I’m not totally decked out in fancy gear, but I rolled a swordsman so my aim is for light armor and I have no shield. Some guy invaded me while in the Belfry tower and I didn’t see any weapons. He was doubled up on ceustus and just completely annihilated me because I couldn’t escape as soon as he stunlocked me.

    • Abysswalker90

      Should’ve rolled.
      Seriously though, Dark Sous’ PvP was a matter of lag manipulation, nothing more.
      The only “problem” with this game’s PvP is in my opinion that the damage output is too high, while health increases very slightly with each point in VIG.
      It’s only a problem if you’re going to honor duel your entire playthrough, which is something the game isn’t built for, yet everyone tries to turn it into a fighting game.
      Dark Souls PvP isn’t about skill in the first place. It’s about outsmarting the opponent.

      • Earthjolly

        “Dark Souls PvP isn’t about skill in the first place. It’s about outsmarting the opponent.”

        Preach brother.

        Reminded me of yesterday when I entered belfry luna and some dude all tricked out in heavy gear and a halberd was giving my sorcerer a bad time. I lured him back to the small bridge inbetween belfry and bastille and waited for him to attack. Rolled around him just as he swung and he fell off the bridge xD

        • Abysswalker90

          A victory like that is worth more than a 100 “honor duels”.

  • Zalin

    I have to say dk2 is inferior to dk1 in every way, from the world and gear designs from the bosses. Dk2 bosses where all pretty boring and no where near as epic as the first game’s bosses. In the end dk2 was fun but a huge let down for me, I don’t think I will bother with NG+ in dk2.

    • Milewide

      I get the impression that NG+ is where it’s at in terms of PvE challenge. Too bad that I can’t seem to make it there with any of my new characters… I just get a bit bored along the way. :(

      • Zalin

        I feel the same way in dk1 every time I died I felt like one more time I KNOW! I can do this! But here I feel more like meh what else can I play hmm…

    • meiam

      The introduction of the travel system is a huge letdown for me, the biggest improvement of Dark soul over demon soul was how the world was all connected, but now in DS2 none of the area are connected, thats a huge bummer.

      And yeah, boss, huge disappointment, nothing memorable (and a bunch of them are just copy of older one). I thought they increase the budget going from DS1 to DS2, not decreased it.

      • Asura

        Nothing memorable is such a freaking overstatement I may as well say that about DS1 because of stuff like BoC, the two bosses in the Asylum, the “first” real boss you fight.

        Most of the bosses are a disappointment, but there is a ton of them. And some of them are really cool looking. Yes, most could have been more fun or inspired, but seriously: NOTHING? Lying there via nostalgia goggles.

    • MrRobbyM

      While the bonfire traveling was convenient, it did make the game a bit too easy. Once you make it to the next bonfire, you replenish everything and continue forward. The enemies do more damage and can very quickly kill you if you don’t time your dodges or get too greedy with your weapon, but I felt both DaS1 and DeS AI was jsut about as intelligent if not a bit less and you didn’t get a checkpoint every 5 seconds.

      I guess my point is, you can easily cheese your way to each bonfire instead of forcing yourself to get good at the game. Before anyone points out anything, some areas are very well balanced but overall, it made the game too easy imo.

      • Milewide

        I can’t shake the feeling that it would have worked out well had they simply put the bonfires a bit further apart.
        Imagine having to switch weapons, to your less powerful back-up, and scrape at the bottom of your inventory for the last remaining healing items just to manage one last push… desperately looking for another bonfire.

        But now it’s… just a bit too gravy.

      • Zalin

        What really gets me with the campfire’s now is how you can no longer level up at them… Well sorta you still can at every campfire but now you just need to go through two loading screens, one to go back to town to level and another to go back to where you left off. I also hated the whole you die you lose some of you’re max health, really I think if you get back to where you die and pick up you’re souls you should also get back the health you lost from that death. I think that would help out that mechanic a lot because as it is now I find it annoying. One more thing the combat also needs to be ironed out it has some glitches, from enemies walking through walls only to pop up behind you and I also have had my sword go through my target making it not causing a hit, this has happened to me many times and have died a lot at times where I would not have.

        • BlueTree


          I don’t even know where to begin with how shitty this game’s combat feels, and how it goes against everything the first two games established in terms of tone in the interest of making things tedious and difficult in a way that isn’t worth anyone’s time save for the most staunch of shills, suits, and fans with no scruples.

          • Zalin

            It really is nice to know though that I am not the only one having weird issues! Sadly I think it’s sad at least I broke my disc in half today because the game pisst me off one to many times in a 10 min time frame. That’s 60 bucks wasted but I don’t feel bad doing it I just saved my self from a ton of rage time, I also got a kick ass metal box out of it. :/

          • BlueTree

            Sorry to hear it all the same :(

            I’m pretty underwhelmed by this game, but I did just start a new run in Demon’s Souls!

          • Zalin

            Yea game was a really big let down for me, I am playing deception 4 now. Pretty fun game look into it, this is the kind of game I want to support.

          • Asura

            I’m saying this seriously: consider an anger management class, dude.

          • Zalin

            Don’t need it. You got to understand that I was super excited for this game SUPER EXCITED! But I was so bored playing it that I just did not care when I got to a hard point in the game, in dk1 when i got to hard a fight I would be ok yea one more try I can do this! In dk2 I was more like meh what else do I got to play in my collection. So I really was not that angry more like really disappointed when tossed my disc. Was a blah action not an angry action.

  • BlueTree

    I’m a veteran of this series… and there are some PRETTY sweeping changes. A lot of changes for the worse, especially for PVE. This game is quite the disappointment for me, I really don’t think this game understands what made the previous games so compelling. It’s kind of a litmus test for who got what made the first two souls games work.

    • Milewide

      Would you mind elaborating on some of the sweeping changes? I’m also a great admirer of the previous games and similarly to you I have some mixed feelings about DkSII. I would like to hear your thoughts on it.

      • BlueTree

        Oh boy here we go:

        The first two games, Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, really feel as if you’re being invited into an actual role playing experience. The first two games, quite elegantly, introduce the player to a mesmerizing world. I’ll stick to Dark Souls to keep this focused but here we go:

        The intro to Dark Souls establishes the lore and background of the world. This feels like a no brainer, but Dark Souls 2 does no such thing. It literally tells you, “You’re gonna do stuff, and you won’t know why, THE CUUUUURSE.” Dark Souls 1 is, implicitly, painting a picture in which the player is NOT important. There is no pandering or patronizing bullshit, you are told the story of a world that is in decline… and then, ONLY then, once that picture has been painted, the game, like a Dungeon Master, tells you via its scenario design, with the voice acting/writing and cinematics:

        “So, you wake up in a cell, you see a man above you drop a corpse into the room, what do you do?!”

        Dark Souls 2 just assumes “Oh we’ve already done all that so we can just assume that the player knows there’s gonna be a King and stuff.”

        Dark Souls 2’s directors tell you to seek the King, but they have no fucking clue why it worked in Dark Souls 1. They rely on “video game franchise” laziness so that people just assume “Well I guess I’ll do stuff cause I did stuff in Dark Souls 1!”

        When the director to Dark Souls 2 said “I like direct storytelling”, first of all I think he’s clueless to how he (fails) to compare to Miyazaki, but secondly and most important of all, I really think he just means that making NPCs literally tell you their life story or literally telling the player certain things, is being direct. It’s not, it just means being bad at storytelling.

        Overall, with Dark Souls (Demon’s Souls too so no one feels left out) the player is INVITED into a world with roleplaying objectives. And you always have a sense of what is important, where you need to go and why,

        “Ring the bell here. Ring the bell here. Get the lord vessel. Destroy the 4 Great Lords and obtain their souls. Place the Lord Vessel. SUCCEED LORD GWYN.”

        Because of that initial back, because you KNOW who the Lords are, because you KNOW who and what is relevant to what you’re doing, you have direction and a sense of atmosphere and purpose. Anything that is counter to these objectives, that potentially is difficult to find and has deeper implications to treading from the main path, is immediately obvious to the player. If you discover Ash Lake or the Abyss/Darkstalker Kaathe… it isn’t a matter of having forgotten to press the A button a lot of times compared to Licia or some crappy NPC in Dark Souls 2… it’s because you knew you had strayed from what you needed to do.

        In the case of PVP… multiplayer, and I’m going to steal a board game term, is a FLAVOR to the Souls games. Dark Souls 2 doesn’t understand this because it panders to people who don’t understand this. When you choose to PVP, which you have the right to do, you are failing to proceed the game to its conclusion. You also need to realize that you are also contributing to a player’s atmosphere. The world is trying to kill you and by opening your world to help, you are also inviting people in to kill you. When you invade others, it is much the same.

        So, given this, given how useless parrying with shields is or how there are different magic types despite what Dark Souls 1 chooses to say about Pyromancy, Soul Magic, and Dark Magic… Dark Souls 2 aims for balance for, often times, PVP… and it shits on the PVE experience that most people will have to accomplish. There are builds that allow you to do things effectively in Dark Souls 2, but it lacks variety and is often one-dimensional compared to the past two games. Backstabbing is frustratingly shitty in PVE because people don’t like getting backstabbed in PVP… but amazing backstabs let you manage multiple opponents. It was actually DEMON’S SOULS that created an abstraction of taking on hoards of monsters with the very parry and backstab that Dark Souls 2 makes useless.

        It’s very telling when your game is based on Strength builds with huge cudgels and magic cannons that your game sucks at variety because you reward SUPER SPECIFIC problem solving and punish other ideas with lack of damage output, all for the sake of…

        Two guys running in a circle staring at each other. “I don’t like them being invincible to me when backstabbing cause it not fair.” First of all, I don’t duel in Dark Souls, I HAVE done PVP, I have vids of myself doing PVP, I play fighting games, but competition is not why I play the other Souls games and it’s not the focus. There’s a reason you are running toward a fog gate. It is a BIG CHANGE to be able to kill someone in a fog gate in this game, to make them stop by hitting them. It is also a big change that a player is vulnerable while backstabbing and that backstabs are strikes with range/start up (IE Backstabs are shitty). If you feel that backstabs should be bad because you want to run in a circle with some dude, cry me a river, I guess. I want to enjoy my game, Dark Souls PVP, even 2, will always be a cute distraction. It is not the foundation or the purpose for why a person is there.

        This game lacks direction in so many areas, and this is one of them. Why funnel the player to a fog gate if you’re going to turn them around and make them fight enemies? Because you’re removing the multiple ways to address an invader is just one of many potential reasons I think the developers had when doing so… but ultimately all their reasons are bad ones.

        They do not understand this series and I think Miyazaki just being a supervisor is very telling. This is a corporate branding game. There are some cute ideas or improvements in this game, that I have ignored honestly, because they’re, at the end of the day, meaningless or shit.

        This game postures at the player, it patronizes them with shitty enemy placement eventually disappearing and tells them it wants to be about a sense of accomplishment without understanding that the first two games were not frustrating or difficult because there wasn’t any adequate solutions or design. The first two games invoke ideas from 8-bit and 16-bit games, but it does not repeat the mistakes of the past, it refines them and makes them palpable. Dark Souls 2 doesn’t get this, like it doesn’t get itself. You have to “press A” against some walls, blow up others, use lockstones on others… why? BECAUSE UH WOULDN’T IT BE COOL.

        Remember how you had to kite lots of enemies in Streets of Rage 1? That’s how old the ideas Dark Souls 2 implements when it makes you tediously kite a bunch of monsters between you and a fog gate. And you will do this thing, because if you run past them, you will either wait a long time and get killed in the fog gate for failing to do so. It doesn’t even do the player the courtesy of having competent options, because enemies break stamina rules, read inputs, and have poise where you as a player never will. And it doesn’t do the player the courtesy of having broken, competent options like Streets of Rage 1, an amazing game, does.

        So many things in Dark Souls 2 will require a guide once the player base that was pandered to, eventually leaves for the next flavor of the month. That isn’t to say the first two games had hidden things, but the level of things on the main path that are hidden in Dark Souls 2, lighting a windmill or fire, the white soapstone, or Licia blocking the path to the Iron Keep…

        Dark Souls 2 doesn’t get its pedigree. It’s a poor fan’s, yes fan’s, interpretation of greatness. There are much deeper themes to Dark Souls 1 and Demon’s Souls… and fuck if I want to find any in Dark Souls 2 because it is so explicitly about being a sequel. It’s a sufficient answer to say “Dark Souls 2 happens cause there’s a Dark Souls 1.” A very sweeping answer, sadly applicable in this fan’s game.

        • Milewide

          Now that’s an elaborate response. Thank you for taking the time.

          I must say I was, at first, taken in by DkSII. I was hooked for close to a week until I eventually beat it. It took me a long time because I have a bad habit of starting over all the time, just to change a tiny part of my build. But after this first run… I must say it takes a great deal of effort to play the game. I think I can muster 40 minutes or so at a time to play. After that I just have to put down the controller out of sheer boredom. The game simply isn’t compelling anymore.

          Which makes me want to compare the game to Skyrim, ‘cos I had the exact same experience with that game. I guess the appeal is only a surface coating.

          What I really feel DkSII missed out on is creating a world that “makes sense”. I know of at least three bonfires that are hidden behind illusory walls, in square rooms that serve no other purpose than to conveniently provide you with a bonfire. Who built this room and put a bonfire there? Who?! To what purpose? It doesn’t make sense!
          And why are there so many merchants in Majula? It’s just too… convenient. I guess if I call it player-centric it ties in really well with what you said in your post.

          Gonna stop myself from rambling now. Again, thanks for your post. I really enjoyed reading it. Cheers!

          • BlueTree

            I thank you for giving me a voice for this frustration I’ve had, especially seeing the critical response.

            Our interactions here are, I’m gonna get artsy here, not unlike the Souls games letting you lay down a soapstone. Sometimes you are afforded generous help, others invite danger or ridicule… it may seem fleeting, but I think a deeper theme to this style of limited communication is that it is a metaphor for our very modern ways of communication.

            Oh Dark Souls 2 has voice chat :(

            In all seriousness, thank you for allowing me a voice. It was cathartic.

          • Milewide

            Vereor Nox.

          • MrRobbyM

            “And why are there so many merchants in Majula? It’s just too… convenient”

            I feel the same way. I think they were trying to go for a DeS’s Nexus sort of thing but it made the game a bit too lively. I remember getting a new merchant in DeS or DaS and being excited because it was so rare. But in DaS2, there are merchants everywhere and you knew every one would eventually move to Majula.

            The entire game is too convenient. I can see why From did this but it makes the game too easy. It just doesn’t feel right.

            Edit: Just thought I’d add in, both prior Souls games left a far greater impression on me than DaS2 did.

          • Milewide

            And that scrawny girl who sells ore stones… how does she even manage to stay alive?

            So many questions, so few answers. :)

            I’m hoping to give DkSII another hearty attempt once the PC version gets released. Maybe new better graphics will help…

            (yea right!)

            But surely, everyone deserves a second chance.

          • MrRobbyM

            I was gonna say. Prior Souls games went out of the way to make sense, even if a bit cryptic.

            I also ordered the PC version and will give the game another go myself. Maybe the community will come together and think of ways to make the game more fun or make mods. We’ll see!

          • Milewide

            I’ll welcome all the nude mods. ;)

          • MrRobbyM

            Can’t wait to kill bosses with my no-loincloth-weapon mod if you catch my drift.

  • Controls in second one is much better, some areas are very good-looking, but most of the bosses aren’t interesting (especially mid-bosses) in comparison to DaS1.

    • Hunts Rattata

      One nitpick I have with the controls this time around is that you don’t seem to be able to buffer weapon switching as easily. I’ve nearly gotten myself killed a few times because I’ve tried to switch weapons while rolling away from an enemy and started attacking right afterward, only to find I’ve still got my crossbow out.

      • Per Sterud

        Agree. I can’t tell if the mechanics are flawed or just different, but it would be nice if I could still press for estus while another animation is completing. Or like you say, switch an item. Very frustrating coming from and being used to DkS controls.

  • kazdamaz

    Great game, not as good as the previous two sadly. pve was 9/10 experience pvp is like 7/10.

  • Abysswalker90

    I don’t understand all the hate this game is getting, besides a lack in boss variety early on, it’s pretty awesome.
    The first Dark Souls received the same backlash when it was released, but now everybody treat it like it was the singe greatest possible gaming experience.
    It takes a sequel for people to appreciate a game. And by appreciate I mean get a nostalgia boner.

    • Card

      Unfortunately it is that lack of interesting bosses in the beginning that may turn a lot of people off. Many people these days want to be amazed and astounded within the first 30 seconds and don’t want to push past that kind of…..”barrier” (for lack of a better term I guess). To me this game has it’s faults yea but I still keep playing it and I still keep liking it. I can understand some peoples gripes with it but at the end of the day I feel like I’m gonna get my moneys worth and then some out of it.

  • TheDarkEmpress

    The only qualm I truly have with the game is the lack of truly memorable boss fights. I felt that a bit more attention was given to bosses in the first Dark Souls as far as introductions go. Also the music seems non-existent…..The first time I stumbled upon the Tower Knight in Demons Souls and immediately greeted with some brutal choir/trumpet symphony was truly sublime….Not saying they need to shoehorn that into Dark Souls 2 but…..it would be nice. HUH HUH HUH HUH!

    • golden izanagi

      I think I know what you mean as some of the bosses in dark souls 2 don’t leave as much of an impression like I remember going to the dukes archives and I went through the fog door thinking it would be a miniboss that would await me, but nope it was seathe the scale less ready to knock my ass out and put me in a prison.

  • Earthjolly

    Great game. Still think its overrated (Boring bosses, bad animations etc.) but its still a very fun game thanks to it challenge.

  • BlueTree

    Do tell.

    • Symbol de Au

      Since my previous response was marked as spam here it is again. If it’s ever approved I guess one of these will have to be deleted. Meh.

      Kaathe is pretty obvious. You’re about as likely to stumble upon him as anything.

      I hear it’s very hard to get to the DLC though I don’t know for sure since I never played it. I actually discovered the burning windmill thing via message in Dark Souls II. I never could have discovered Kaathe that way.

      I didn’t even know you had to be human for summonings etc. when I first played so there’s a high chance of missing Kirk’s armor and several invasions if you don’t know about them beforehand.

      The great hollow is behind two separate illusionary walls that most would never guess were illusionary. I mean who would think after stumbling upon one that there would be another behind the treasure chest? And unlike the windmill this requires being lucky enough to discover two messages that mention illusory walls which with Dark Souls 1’s message/server system is far less likely than it would be in Dark Souls II to the point I doubt it ever happened for anyone.

      It’s also highly unlikely for most players to stumble upon the painted world or even the path back to the undead burg without a guide.

      That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there’s way more. Even as i write I think of more and more thing’s I’d have never discovered without the wiki or a guide. I played through Dark Souls II blind and found most or all optional bosses at the least.(I don’t know for sure though cuz I’m still playing blind. All I know is Cale told me all the fires had been lit so I assumed that meant I beat every boss. =/) I used a guide just to get through the first Souls and that was because I forgot about a locked door that I had passed hours ago. (The one that leads to the Capra Demon)

      • BlueTree

        None of what you listed would prevent you from reaching the end of the game, and while it’s very esoteric, the rewards aren’t necessarily things you “need to know.”

        I talk about Dark Souls 2 needing guides because there are plenty of scenarios, Licia, Windmill, (soapstone is a minor cutoff and negligible here), where you’d WANT to know these things as a player because you need to know them to get to where the game’s conclusion lies.

        So, yes, examples you list for Dark Souls 1are harder to find… but you can hardly use them to substantiate “Dark Souls 1 needs a guide too” in the same context I was speaking about. Those things are the equivalent of side quests… meanwhile, setting the windmill on fire or not depending on your build can severely impede you from reaching the end of the game.

        The painted world? Ash Lake? The DLC? Kaathe? The most extreme of your examples, Ash Lake, is about discovering the point of creation in the world. The origin point. Kaathe means outwardly not trusting the person that would seek to be your guide, not trusting your initial guide, and then how the game seeks to manipulate you.

        1. Doesn’t prevent you from finishing the game
        2. Has SOME sort of reason for how it is hidden or why it’s off the beaten path. Rewarding a person for being observant or “doing something different.

        The windmill is a bland, stupid, necessary thing you’d want to know to progress pass a required boss. The examples you list from Dark Souls 1 are optional and would only require a guide if a person isn’t experimenting. They are pleasant surprises as opposed to “poorly conveyed information.”

        • Symbol de Au

          You don’t need any of the things you mentioned in order to progress they are all optional and are also less important to the overall lore of the game.

          • BlueTree

            I’m gonna assume you mean in Dark Souls 2. Beating Mytha the Baneful Queen to get to the Old Iron King, one of the FOUR LORDS required to progress is optional? Potentially having a build that doesn’t let you kill her faster than the poison heals her is optional? Thus potentially requiring burning the Windmill?

            Getting Licia out of the way to GET to Mytha is optional? No, none of those things are particularly “optional” if you want to get through Dark Souls 2.

          • Symbol de Au

            Burning the windmill isn’t required to beat Mytha for all I can tell. I guess Licia never blocked my path since I always burned the Windmill but even if she did I think I could have just killed her since I also did that for the heck of it in my second playthrough. Regardless I guess I’ll look this up since I never saw it(and as I said i’m playing blind) but either way I didn’t need a guide.

            Oh wait…I was confused just now by who you meant. That Licia? I was confused with Lucatiel. Hah! You don’t at all need a guide for that. She moves the gate for you if you talk to her and spend 2,000 souls. You don’t need to move her out of the way. Do you mean that people wouldn’t have found her or something? I don’t see how that would have been a problem since there are two paths. The first path leads to her and she’s the one that opens the second. How is it a problem if the game pretty much forces you to meet up with her?

            Sorry if I’m just completely missing your point here but she never blocked my path. She actually opened the path for me.

          • BlueTree

            I had to ask someone on X-Box Live how to progress the game when I had beaten The Lost Sinner, fallen down the hole using a Cat Ring to get to Duke’s Dear Freya, and then killed The Rotten using a Fragrant Branch, but had no idea where to proceed afterward.

            The fact you admit to discovering burning the windmill via message, I’m gonna need to suggest you think about the fact that those are PLAYER messages. You said you could never do that in Dark Souls 1, but people lay down soapstone messages in front of Frampt that warn of lying? Either way, both are outside sources, but depending on your build, such as the case of my friend who was in the middle of a quality build, not being able to remove the poison could create an impasse or at the very least make the most elegant solution extremely problematic.

            I’ve either experienced these problems myself in multiple playthroughs or have observed friends struggle to find the solution while saying nothing and just watching them struggle for answers.

            Again, these are things that stand between you and end-game. You don’t need to get to the things you listed to beat Dark Souls 1. They are not required and they are, frankly, implicitly begging that content be on a checklist.

          • Symbol de Au

            Warn of lying? How is that supposed to tell me anything? The Windmill is less optional than I thought (I didn’t know about the poison) but also easier to figure out. What does “be wary of liar” tell me as opposed to “try torch?”. I’m not going to learn anything from that. Try torch just mean bring a torch. Be wary of liar could mean all kinds of things and in most of these cases I would have ignored that message because it basically tells me nothing.

            As for Licia. She’s pretty obvious. The game basically leads you right to her since she’s through the one path that’s open to you, (not at all hidden either) and she opens the one that’s closed. A lot more obvious than the locked door I forgot about in the first Dark Souls as well.

            Anyway I see your point and you’re right about the Windmill. I had thought it just stopped the blades. =/

          • BlueTree

            They’re outside hints not from within the game. But you actually admitted that, so that’s my only issue. And “Beware of Liar” simply can get your brain going on what you might have to do to bypass Frampt, but I’d say only the most creative people found that particular side content. It’s something that wasn’t necessary to know to beat the game, so I’d say it’s an exception rather than the rule.

            Anyway, for Licia, the game leads you to her, but I was a sorcerer in my first file, so it doesn’t mean you’re going to want to progress her “talk tree” if you’re running a build that doesn’t use miracles. And so I didn’t. The game leads you to her, but it’s pretty dumb for doing so considering you could potentially run into all sorts of problems by putting required triggers on “The Miracle Lady.”

            On my fourth playthrough, after having triggered Licia in a previous file, I actually forgot she was the trigger in another playthrough. It’s very forgettable unless you just drill it as outside knowledge or “mechanical” knowledge.

          • Symbol de Au

            So you had no help in the first Dark Souls? She’s also much easier to find than Ingward who is also required.

          • BlueTree

            Google “Logical Fallacy Complex Question.”

            And no, not to beat the game I didn’t have “any help.” I was playing it in a Hotel Room in Minot, North Dakota at a 12 hour stocking job before going back to University.

            I don’t think you can substantiate Ingward being hard to find relative to Licia, I think you’re just listing stuff now in the hopes I talk in a circle, personally.

          • Symbol de Au

            I extremely rolled my eyes at that first part. Anyway Kudos to you if you really didn’t get any help.

          • BlueTree

            I rolled my eyes when you asked me “So you had no help in the first Dark Souls?” because if I were to just say “No” without context, I’m the one who comes across as “an arrogant shithead.” I felt very insulted by that because it’s messed up I would have to answer that question in that way.

            You might not have meant it, but I do want you to know that that’s how I read it.

            I really didn’t get help to beat the game, Dark Souls 1. But I certainly didn’t get as much out of it as I did by talking to others about my experience, and then being directed to the side quests in a shared experience. I needed the help of others to create understanding, same as much of life.

            But the whole crux of this is that I’m saying that in order to just beat the game or do things in Dark Souls 2, you would either need help or a very specific build. What’s problematic is that that help won’t always be there, and I DID need help. I had to ask about Licia and read a soapstone message for the Windmill.

            When I found Ingward, I had not had the misfortune of being cursed, which I think is moreso the problem that would be an actually relevant comparison.

            I also, just to put it out there, recently found out that other members of the first two games were not present in developing Dark Souls 2. Specifically, none of the level designers apparently returned. That explains a lot of things actually. Apparently the script writer was gone too.

          • Symbol de Au

            I believe you and I would have believed you if you’d just said “no”. I also wouldn’t have thought you were arrogant especially since I’ve been the one talking about playing blind. I would have just been like “wow cool” (not sarcastically either) Which is what I was like. If you don’t want to seem arrogant you don’t tell people to google. That makes you seem a lot more arrogant than honestly answering a question. I’m not insulted but telling people to google is a lot more insulting than asking them a question.

            Anyway I respect your points. The only one I had a problem with was the one about using guides, and I honestly think more people had trouble getting through the first one without help than this one. Can’t prove that though. Heh.

            You’re right about the community aspects too. They add a lot to your appreciation of the game. I didn’t even think about the lore until I found the community and I might not have found it if I hadn’t needed help in the first game.

          • BlueTree

            Lesson learned! I got you, thank you for showing the consideration I did not.

            I feel the only thing I can do as a player, since I’m not a designer, is just try to find the most obvious things. And I will say, I did just end up asking for help, searching for things in Wikis after running around for 10 hours. I just don’t remember, moreso, the sensation that things felt directionless, or aimless.

            This would be swapping arguments in, but I guess to move on to a related subject rather than address one with a loaded point… I just never get the sense after playing through Dark Souls 2 so many times, that I know the significance of things that I felt never lacked that in the other two games. It’s weird.

          • Abysswalker90

            I just want to point out, that I personally had a much easier time figuring my way through DkSII than DkS.

            I’d also like to say that Dark Souls II is better judged as it’s own game, The main problem is that a lot of fans go into the game with a very critical mindset, looking for the most minute details to pick at. It was the same with the transition from Demon’s to Dark, but those two were different games, which leads me to believe that most arguments against the game, would have been invalid if the game had a different name.

            I find Dark Souls II to be extremely reminiscent of a game released for the PS2 in 2002 by From called Evergrace. It was my first PS2 game and I loved it back then. DkSII literally gives me flashbacks of that game. Maybe the team members that left development were replaced by people who worked on Evergrace? Because the first Dark Souls doesn’t give me that certain vibe.

            Dark Souls II has a certain vibe, which a lot of people seem to miss. It might sound strange, but I think I manage to connect to it because I had played Evergrace.

          • BlueTree

            Yeah, I don’t think much of what you’re saying is particularly relevant.

            Let’s consider that the game is called “Dark Souls 2” for a reason. Who are you to say it’s best judged as its own game when the creators took it upon themselves to call it “Dark Souls 2?” I hate to say it, reason being because Dark Souls 2 is such a shitty sequel and it actually exists, but the very name is drawing attention to the fact the game is a sequel to Dark Souls.

            People aren’t going to buy the game then purge all those nasty details from their minds because that makes no sense.

            People pick at minute details because, frankly, that is how the Souls games manifest their narrative. I think it’d be helpful, just proposing this, that you evaluate and maybe consider just what “People just go in with a critical mindset” even means in regard to the Souls games.

            How should people go about discovering anything in the Souls games? Is it not being critical to look at how you obtain an item? I feel really good when I see a dead body placed in say, Sen’s Fortress and it has Tarkus’ equipment… and then I think about “Why is that body there?”

            That’s precisely the critical thinking you’re proposing is unnecessary.

            You say your run was easier, but I would argue that now that many people are equipped with two of these types of games under their belt, a lot of why people figured things out is probably in large part to them actually having competency with the game, which Dark Souls 2 messes with in uninteresting ways I’d argue (though not directly here, enjoy the allusion to that point).

            I’ve cleared Dark Souls 2, before a month has even been out, up to New Game ++, I can’t say the same for Dark Souls 1 or Demon’s Souls because I definitely had more reason to take my time. Much of which I’d argue is because those two games are actually substantial and thought provoking in fascinating ways.

            The game is called Dark Souls 2, it’s inviting critical analysis. People ask for reviewers to actually be legit forces in terms of criticism, but it’s clear to me that the actual notion is something that scares and confuses most people because they don’t know what that work entails. It often means deconstructing a work, and depending on the quality of that work, it’s not always going to result in sunshine and rainbows.

  • Skeptika Crediblus

    Just started DS1. Not sure if I like it yet, but man, the game HATES you….

  • Chee Yang

    If the bosses and stages are somehow very similar to the the 1st DS, that means this game is a perfect pickup for someone like me who hasn’t play any Soul games before.

  • Androu1

    “Even as someone who’s never fully completed a Souls game, I was recognizing a lot of level design ideas and boss fights (some of them are actually straight up from the previous game!)”

    This is something that happened in Dark Souls a LOT more, when compared to Demon’s Souls. The bridge with the dragon breathing fire upon it, the two winged enemies as a boss, the magic using boss that splits itself, the cutscene in which winged monsters carry you to a new place (they’re almost identical monsters too), the old sorcerer who gets jailed and is obsessed with learning more, the almost useless apprentice of the sorcerer, the cleric that gets trapped in a hole by Patches, Patches himself, the Crestfallen Warrior (which did appear yet again in DkS2), the NPC-killer who wields Shotels, the knight who tries to repay his debt to you because of his honor, the area with poor wooden footing and a poisonous swamp, etc, etc.

    Dark Souls 2 doesn’t… copy its predecessor even half as much as Dark Souls did to Demon’s Souls. in my opinion. Though DkS2 does do it very blatantly with certain fan-service bosses.

    I played Demon’s Souls AFTER I had played Dark Souls, but a lot of the things I mentioned made me feel as if a lot of Dark Souls was basically Demon’s Souls: Remixed Edition.

    So it might a valid complaint still, but it’s not something new with the franchise.

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