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.
Combat is immensely challenging, so much so that each battle becomes a trial-and-error approach where you often need to die before you learn how to defeat your opponent; either that or you’ll be running back and forth between a bonfire and your enemy to restock on health before trying again. Enemy design and animation is superb with a vast array of enemy types, from huge hulk-like knights to lumbering giants, who vary in their behavior. The hero of the game seems much more agile than in the original Dark Souls, able to move more swiftly and maneuver and roll out of the way of attacks with swiftness. The dodge move is no longer hampered by heavy armour, so you can leap out of the way at speed irrelevant of what you're wearing.
A combination of potion-taking, item-using, blocking, parrying, dodging, range and melee attacks ensure that each battle requires a tactical approach. The lock-on system also appears to have been tweaked for the better, allowing players to focus firmly on one enemy without it accidentally switching to another opponent mid-fight. While the main character is more agile, making for a more natural fluid pace to battles, enemies are still unforgiving and tweaks have been made elsewhere to ensure this is anything but an easy ride. Equipment sellers only stock 'X' amount of certain items, so you can't, for example, keep stocking up on Life Gems to boost health. Also, your maximum health is reduced by up to 50 percent when you die making it tougher and tougher to beat higher level enemies without resorting to consuming the hard-to-come by Human Effigies (used to restore life).
Enemy A.I. isn’t dissimilar to the first game with some opponents seemingly far too intelligent for their own good and tracking you for miles, while others wander around like headless chickens, failing to follow you after a certain cut-off point when they’ll turn back, even though you’re clearly visible to them. There’s instances where enemies will smash their swords into walls, walk off a cliff, or even stand at the bottom of a pair of ladders having somehow not seen you climb up when they were less than a metre away during your ascent. The occasional clipping issues (two troll's heads poking through one another) also remind you that, despite the obvious improvements to the graphics engine, some of the issues from the first game remain.
Nonetheless, the fact that A.I. behaves so unpredictability between enemy types, whether it's realistic or not, is really where you have the chance to gain the upper-hand. Luring enemies into traps, to the side of a cliff where you can plunge a sword through their mid-riff to send them toppling into the water below, or watching their behaviour from a safe distance, is often what is needed to work out a strategy to beat them. The environment often plays an important part too with the option to utilise traps for your own advantage, though it’s also easier to get caught out by them. And then, at other times, the odds are totally against you with multiple enemies ganging up on you, relentless in their pursuit.