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.
Success in Dark Souls 2 really boils down to ensuring you're equipped for the job. There’s a dazzling amount of equipment, armour and items and once again the inventory screen, to those uninitiated, just looks like a series of numbers and percentages. As fans will be aware, each piece of armour or weapon has a host of stats and parameters associated with it, giving you details such as the damage it can do and the strength needed to hold it efficiently. Like most things in Dark Souls 2, there’s little explanation of the stats so you’re left to work it out and try and remember what each icon means. The UI looks cleaner than in Dark Souls and it is easier to navigate and manage the inventory, which is a welcome change considering how much time you’ll spend studying weapons and armour.
In addition to items such as swords, daggers, magical staffs and axes, potions and items can be bought or found, which are crucial to survival. With items such as Life Gems that boost health, rings that increase damage and shards that boost armour, exploration is an exciting affair because finding one item can really be the difference between life and death. And Dark Souls 2 makes exploration well worth the effort too with its detailed environments, impressive lighting effects and solid level design. Multi-tiered levels that can take you swiftly from an open, winding mountain-side path into a corridor-filled hell-hole in the depths of despair, makes for an exciting and unpredictable game world thwart with traps, NPC interaction and hidden treasures. This is a world that begs to be explored.
Playing Dark Souls in offline mode can be a lonely experience, but the return of community features and some new additions ensures there’s companionship and much-needed help at hand. Peer-to-peer lobbies have been axed in favour of dedicated servers to ensure improved stability, while up to two other players can be summoned into your game to create a three-player co-op experience for a limited amount of time, which is also supported with voice chat. You still can’t summon specific friends into your game, though you can improve your chances by aligning to the same God.
Once again, there’s also the option to leave messages in-game for adventurers, choosing from a list of pre-set statements to either help or hinder their progress. Worlds can be invaded for PvP battles by using certain items where you can earn rewards such as souls for beating other players. This can initially be facilitated with Cracked Red Eye Orbs, although the use of Covenants, multiplayer factions, also comes into play again and you can use different items to access other player’s worlds as part of these groups. Within a Covenant you can receive special bonuses in return for completing successful objectives, such as defending an area. At this particular point, I was unable to test out Covenants due to the limited amount of time with access to multiplayer prior to release.*
Dark Souls 2 can be a stressful affair, providing frustration and fun in equal measures. The trial-and-error battles aren’t for everyone but for those who played and enjoyed the first game in the series there’s an enticing world out there ready to test you to your limits once again. Dark Souls 2 is no ordinary RPG; it consumes you right from the outset. It invites you to explore it and then makes you pay the price. It gives you an item of hope in one hand and then takes it away with the other, yet it’s immensely rewarding when you reach the next bonfire, or beat the next boss. Dark Souls 2 may be the toughest game since Dark Souls, but it’s also one of the most satisfying for those who remain calm enough to persist.
*We'll cover the online portion of Dark Souls 2 in more detail after launch.----