Dark Souls 2 Review - Welcome to hell
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Stressful, tough but immensely challenging and rewarding, Dark Souls 2 will take you to hell and back, and then back to hell again.
- Inviting open-world environment that begs to be explored.
- A vast, exciting bestiary awaits your challenge.
- Huge array of weapons, armour and items makes inventory management and exploration fun.
- You'll die a lot, which can be immensely frustrating.
- Enemy AI can be, at times, appalling.
Dark Souls 2 begins with an impressive cinematic intro where players learn they are a cursed, undead, hollow corpse that needs to feed on the souls of the living to survive. It’s a gloomy outlook that doesn’t get any better as you’re thrust into the creature-ridden Kingdom of Drangleic with no real clue as to which path to take, or what horrors lurk around the corner as you search for a cure. A ram-shackled hut is your first port of call where a grotesque-looking, hooded woman warns you that ‘You’re Finished!’ Yes, even from the outset, Dark Souls 2 tells you that you have no hope and jabs at your soul and spirit in an effort to unnerve you. After choosing a class, you head out into the wilderness to explore a world thwart with danger, a land where death isn’t just inevitable, it’s frequent.
The initial hour or so of Dark Souls 2 is a huge departure from the original game. Not only is the environment much lusher, greener and brighter than many of Dark Soul’s murky locations and drab dungeons – entering into the hub of Majula, for example, with the sun beating down and waves crashing in the distance, is an inviting site - but the aforementioned tutorial section introduces players gently into the combat scheme; seasoned pros can bypass them if they wish. For those worried that Dark Souls 2 has been made more accessible, rather than the tortuously tough game fans will hope for, you needn’t worry though. The first battle, if you take that specific path, is against two giant ogres and the first reminder that Dark Souls 2 requires the same three rules that need to be adhered to before taking part in any battle: observe, come up with a strategy, and make the right choice.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Dark Souls 2 is a fantasy-based, action-RPG that is designed to challenge even the most hardcore gamers. Before the adventure truly begins, players choose a class from the likes of a Warriors, Sorcerer or Hunter, each of whom have upgradeable attributes such as Vigour, Attunement and Strength. Gameplay focuses heavily on exploration as you travel through forests, castle ramparts and dungeons in search for answers. With multiple pathways and no clue as to which way to head or what might stand in your path, you’re totally on your own. Along the journey stands many different enemies, ranging in strength, weakness, behaviour and size. One moment you might be battling against a low-level skeleton brandishing just a spear and next you can walk around a corner to face a seemingly impenetrable giant the size of a block of flats who can wipe you out with one swing of his hugely over-sized weapon. The unpredictability of Dark Souls 2 makes every step an anxious one, yet its intense challenge is also its appeal.
Indeed, bonfires (checkpoints) provide one of the game’s only safe havens, where adventurers can refuel on health, and travel between bonfires, while locations such as Majul offer a chance for players to buy weapons, equipment and potions, as well as repair existing items without the threat of death. Once again, the game’s currency is ‘souls,’ earned by killing enemies, looting bodies or opening treasure chests. The value of souls is immense. Without them, you can’t level up, buy items to help you in battle or improve your armour, magic or weapons. Yet again, however, each time you get killed you lose all the souls you’ve collected, which ensures that you’ll soon be thinking twice before running into any battle unprepared. The option to ‘touch your bloodstain,’ and retrieve your souls from the point where you died offers some incentive to return, though if you die before you reach that spot all your efforts have been in vain. The fact that souls are so precious constantly leaves you in a dilemma as to when you should cash them in for upgrades. Be too greedy and you may lose the lot.