Wot I Think: Dark Souls II

By Adam Smith on April 30th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Dark Souls is a tough act to follow. While it was the second game in the dark fantasy Souls series, it had a wider audience and fell under closer scrutiny. As well as solidifying the mechanics that Demon’s Souls had laid out it made some major changes and built a more cohesive world. Dark Souls II tweaks the formula again and the results aren’t entirely satisfying. Here’s wot I think.

Dark Souls II is a well-crafted and superbly designed game. With that out of the way, I’m going to write a few hundred words about all of the things that I don’t like about it. You may disagree with some of my opinions and there’s a clear reason for that – the Souls series has a broader appeal than its reputation suggests and over three games, people have been drawn in and discouraged by a range of features and experiences. For my thoughts on the series in general and some of the more obvious alterations between Dark Souls 1 and 2, read my review of the first and early thoughts on the current.

I’m not going to explain why this is one of the most important RPG series in existence because one of the two links above should explain that if the recent bellowing of the internet hasn’t already clued you in. Instead of reviewing Dark Souls 1 again, I’m going to try and decipher my thoughts about Dark Souls 2 and explain what it lacks that made its predecessors so brilliant and bewildering. To do that, I’ll try to identify the different aspects of the game that appeal to different groups of players, and pinpoint in what ways they’ve changed.

Now that I’ve faced the final boss and triumphed, I’m all but 100% certain about a couple of things. The first is that the core of the game – patient, positional and observational combat – is gripping and almost as constructed as in the previous game. If that weren’t the case, the whole thing would fall apart under the lightest scrutiny. Whatever else it might be (and I’ll get onto that in a moment), Dark Souls is a dark fantasy combat game and the brutal simplicity of the stamina-based clashes is responsible for much of the series’ reputation. From the most bruising behemoths to unarmed hollow guardsmen, every encounter is potentially lethal, and every movement of intent and assault must be studied so that a response can be formed.

The second major point that has been solidifying as I’ve played is a bit more of a downer, although not everybody will see it that way. Dark Souls II is a better RPG, in the class-based stat-bothering sense, than Dark Souls I. I’ll explain why that is and also why I think it’s a bad thing, but that involves figuring out exactly what it is that I love about these games.

It’s a more balanced game, although there are still devices, traps and patterns so cryptic that they lead straight to a crypt 99% of the time. Heading into an area while underpowered can be frustrating and because the nature of the game is to offer a challenge even to players who are relatively overpowered, it’s not always obvious when turning tail and discreetly picking another route might be the better part of valour.

The improved balance mainly manifests in the form of a smoother levelling curve, with souls dispensed in regular doses along each path, and easy access to a blacksmith at the main hub. More on that hub in a second – and the way in which bonfires have changed – but there’s more to say about levelling.

I didn’t have to grind for souls at all and that is quite possibly a good thing. That’s not to say I didn’t end up collecting an Alderaan’s worth of the sodding things at some points in the game, but that only happened because I died ten or twenty times and managed to limp back to my bloodstain each time, stocking up on the way. To finish the game, I didn’t intentionally feel that it was necessary to return to areas solely for the purpose of killing enemies over and over again after forcing them to respawn. There’s a new complication regarding the respawns as well, which run dry after a while, but the implications of that are best left vague. Suffice to say, I didn’t feel the change harmed the game.

When spending souls, there are still choices to be made. Which stat to boost, which equipment to upgrade and which items to buy. The biggest question is whether to cash in the soul of each boss or to keep hold of it until it can be swapped for a piece of unique loot. The first Dark Souls could be punishing when poor decisions were made and it wasn’t always obvious that a decision had been poor until a few hours had passed. That added to the hopelessness and the despair, but it also made every purchasing or levelling decision a fraught occasion, and I eventually resorted to the use of guides to ensure I wasn’t being entirely wasteful.

Dark Souls II isn’t as harsh. That’s evident with the redesigned bonfires as well. Light one up and you can travel to any previously visited fire, including the one planted by the safety of the village. That’s a place to restock and replenish, as well as to trade Estus shards for an extra use of the flask. A small nagging criticism is that it’s necessary to travel to the village to level up, even though it’d save on time and button presses to have the option directly available at each bonfire. It’s rare that I don’t quick travel straight back out of the village so there are a lot of pointless loading screens.

Here’s a bigger criticism – the quick travel detracts from the sense of claustrophobia, and of being lost in a cursed world. That feeling is central to my admiration of the Souls series and the quick travel softens it. You’re never more than a few minutes from a teleporter that will take you to the beginning of the game, which makes the world overlap itself and obliterates the sense that it has been left unfolded, Origami-like, or opened up like a ribcage before surgery. That’s how Lordran felt, spires like cracked ribs in the distance.

With the bonfire teleportation system you could be lost in a desert and all it’d take to get back home is finding a single waypoint. It’s as if the characters in The Descent could have been back home with a cup of tea and a Hobnob if they’d managed to survive a couple of action sequences. In Dark Souls, being underground was oppressive because it was always necessary to find a way back to the surface. In Dark Souls II, if you keep going deeper in or down, there’s likely to be a bonfire that’ll take you back to the start.

Some people will like the change and it does have its benefits, chief among them that it makes farming for items much easier and encourages revisiting areas to tease out their secrets, of which there are many. But my complaints cut to the heart of what it is that I like about Dark Souls – I like the atmospherics and the sense of being trapped in a dark fantasy adventure. Dark Souls II may be a stronger RPG but it’s a weaker adventure.

Compounding that, the first areas suffer from a lack of variety, in both enemy types and architecture, but there are surprising vistas and reveals in wait. Lore – and indeed the basic plot – is hidden in item descriptions and in conversations, usually two or three button presses deep. Like the visual design, the story and world-building isn’t as evocative as that in the two previous games for the first third of the game. By the time the approach to the final conflict arrives, stakes have been raised and the basic and well-worn foundation of the story has begun to show its sinister hand.

Story is worth focusing on for a moment. The Souls games can seem plotless, like a cocktail of dungeons from roleplay supplements that have been muddled together haphazardly. The dungeonmaster who should explain the ‘why’ and the ‘whatnot’ is mostly mute, leaving the ruins and the things that stalk them to communicate the tale non-verbally.

There are themes though and characters to go with them. All three games have a similar forward motion but one side effect of their atmospheric dread and mechanical repetition is that they can feel devoid of progress. Dead warriors slogging through limbo’s grey areas, like shadow figures of the heroic ideal.

Repetition is not stasis, however, and something is happening. Just as Disney has its fairytales, princesses and happy endings, Souls has its curses, hollow humanoids and ruined lands. A piece of armour collected from a fallen enemy early in the game tells a story of unspeaking automatons that awoke, climbed from unknown depths and assisted in the defence of a fort. They are enemies now, as are most things. The Souls world is in its twilight and the disconnection from the usual questing storylines is easily explained by the finer details of the setting – the player characters arrived too late to perform all but the most minor miracles. To a great extent, they are the heroes in a story that has already run its course and ended in disaster and disintegration.

One way to reframe the plot, while acknowledging some of its metagame implications, is to ask a question – is it possible to be the hero of the story when you only arrive during the epilogue?
All of that, combined with the brilliance of the combat and some of the more inventive boss designs (flexile sentry, I’m looking at you, grotesque though you are) makes this a game full of weird wonders and a fantastic piece of work. The multiplayer integration is excellent and I’ve left my mark on the world in the form of helpful signs and as a phantom ally to the beleaguered.

Those people who play with the intent of creating the most powerful character possible and beating the cruel systems at their own game will be in their element. I saw the shade of a character by one bonfire who looked like she’d been plucked straight from an anime series or a JRPG, with an enormous sword resting on each shoulder. I like that it’s possible to build those characters but I also know that’s not why I’m playing. It’s entirely possible to direct your late-game and new game + characters toward PvP dominance and the layout of some levels seems directly attuned to the qualities of specific classes for just that purpose.

For me, Dark Souls is at its best when I’m harrowed and hollow, lost and cursed and beaten down. I love the eventual victories but I appreciate the journey toward them far more than the end result. The journey through Draenglic is a memorable one but some of the mystery and the rot has gone from this world.

One new system that I do like and that I haven’t mentioned is the sapping of health with each hollow death. Every time a ‘dead’ player dies again, without restoring humanity, another notch is knocked off the maximum health bar. That adds to the sense of being eroded and creates its own long-form tension and it may not be possible without the ability to quick travel and replenish restorative items so easily. Everything is tied to the balance of these delicate mechanics.

For those willing to invest time into the New Game +, into the covenants and the raiding of other players’ worlds, there’s far more to uncover than I’ll probably ever see. As I said at the beginning, Dark Souls II is a very good game. These have been some of the reasons why as well as some of the reasons why I don’t think it’s quite as great a game as I’d hoped it would be.

Dark Souls II is available now.

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Top comments

  1. crabsnapper says:

    Yep registered just to say this – overwhelmingly the consensus online is that a gamepad is all but essential to play/enjoy Dark Souls 2 (or 1). That is not true!!

    It’s just as the poster above had said – AutoHotKey fixes the input lag and that’s pretty much the only problem with the setup. The key customisation in this game is a ridiculous improvement over the last game – and navigating the menus using the mouse feels amazing. Aiming (when you need to) is also very much a win for the mouse. I’ve seen criticisms aimed at the camera control – the pad can turn at a regular pace whereas the mouse is wholly dependent on the user’s movement – I like that actually. Parrying is not a problem at all – I can do it pretty consistently which means there’s no lag. Overall, if you’re comfortable with a pad use a pad, if you’re comfortable with K&M, use K&M. They’re NOT inferior to each other, each has pluses and minuses.

    Oh and FIY I’ve 100%-ed Dark Souls with K&M and dsfix. It was a blast, no probs whatsoever.

  1. Prolar Bear says:

    Can’t wait to get this. I hope all the magic from the first one hasn’t been lost, but I’m fairly optimistic. If anything, it looks like it’s going to be a rather replayable game, with the changes in the RPG side of things.

    • Davie says:

      I’m only a few hours in, but so far I think it’s safe to say the bleakly beautiful atmosphere, and the sense of “Oh god I’m fucked” every time you run into a particularly powerful enemy, are both still firmly in place. There’s a strange melancholy to the way enemies seem to stop respawning after you kill them enough times, too–you’re making the world feel even emptier, bringing it closer to the seemingly inevitable end, which adds a lot to the apocalyptic feel of the series, I think.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        There’s another mechanic hidden into it, if you want stuff to respawn you have to burn an ascetic thingy, which turns the area into NG+ mode. But there’s more, the game will remember that! When you’ll visit that area in the actual NG+, it’ll be NG++ ! Evil stuff!

        It’s a brilliant mechanic because you can chose to make your life miserable in order to obtain some loot that would otherwise only be available in NG+ and forward, but if you’re not as good as you think you are you might have just locked yourself out of the game.

        The rest of the review is nice, some things are debatable just like fast traveling, you’re just getting it sooner and it’s an excuse to create a more open world, though i admit DS1 had that interconnectivity brilliance to it that it’s lost there.

        The leveling system, especially the new stats balancing is great, i actually think every single element that’s tied to how builds are made and how combat works is an improvement.

        Bosses, though, are something that turned me down a little at times, same as some environments. Then again, for every dull place there were two brilliant ones. The difficulty is higher ( unless my build sucked at the earlier soul levels ) but it manages to obtain this status with more fairness and less annoyances, which is something a lot of people asked loudly for.

        All in all i’m putting it higher than DS1, but i guess i wasn’t in the camp that was frightened to death about a sequel.

  2. amateurviking says:

    It’s great, but not as grossly incandescent as DS1. Something about the bosses, world and animations is lacking. Soul maybe?

  3. Jockie says:

    I tend to agree with the majority of your problems with the game, but I do think its worth mentioning just how much deeper the RPG systems go here – it feels like they sacrificed some of the more gruelling aspects of the game in favour of long-term appeal, repeat play and the NG+/Ascetic system.

    It’s also an absolutely gargantuan game in comparison to Dark Souls in terms of length and sheer number of bosses etc.

    For me, despite an awful lot of hand-wringing about shadows and the graphics etc the most important technical change from DS1 PC, is that the multiplayer works and it works well, adding several new dimensions to the game almost entirely lacking from the shoddy GFWL implementation from the first. In effect you can play the whole game co-op, or you can be an evil rat lover who sets traps and lures other players into your lair (along with a variety of other clever mp implementations – I could keep going for a while here).

    So yeah, DS2 probably feels like a slightly less pure adventure through a decaying world, but it has depth and replayability and beauty and I fucking love it.

    • mechabuddha says:

      I’m loving the game so far, but I can’t comment on the PvP. I’ve been playing for…Steam says 14 hours. Not a single PvP encounter. A little disappointing.

      • derbefrier says:

        yeah it seems rare outside of PvP areas. Once you find one though good luck taking two steps without getting invaded.

        • Jockie says:

          There are PvP areas tied to Covenants and then there are areas where PvP tends to happen because people have basically decided to congregate there, there is also opt-in duel based PvP tied to a couple of covenants.

          I think it was probably a design decision to move it away from the very beginning of the game, due to to the sheer amount of griefers and people who would essentially farm new players for covenant progress in DS. But basically if you go looking for PvP here past a certain point of the game, you won’t go wanting. What there is certainly less of prior to NG+ is unsolicited invaders, which is probably a slight concession to people who don’t particularly like PvP.

          • derbefrier says:

            Oh cool thats good to know. I keep hearing NG+ is were its at, I guess I need to hurry up and get there.

        • Koozer says:

          I joined the covenant that’s supposed to automatically summon me to other’s worlds to fend off dastardly invaders. It’s never procced disappointingly.

          • Evil Pancakes says:

            I am in the same covenant, and have gotten some use out of it a few times, once being summoned and about three times invaded sinners.
            All times the enemy was using an infinite health hack. So yeah, not getting much enjoyment from PVP here.

            Beyond that, I enjoy it more than DS1, mostly because it just runs and plays much better on PC than that shoddy port. I will concede though that as far as boss monster designs and level design DS1 is definitely superior.

        • Slaadfax says:

          Invading is also much more common if you either A) Invade and kill some other pour soul, or B) Kill an NPC in your own world. Once you get on the book of sinners, you make yourself eligible for the blue invasions.

      • dE says:

        Wait ’til you enter certain areas or NG+. Then it’s hailing invasions like it’s going out of style. There’s also a certain bridge later in the game that seems to be the current hub for PVP Activity outside of BellKITTENS Gankfests and Rat Bastard Cheesefests.

        • Jockie says:

          I refer to them as the Bellends personally, I even have a character called Bell Ender who I’m planning to use purely to ruin their day with my summon signs at the start of their areas.

        • Edgewise says:

          On the PC version, the Bell Tower is getting to be unplayable. I tried some co-op with a friend last night. The thing we found is that you have to leave your summon sign in the tower to co-op there, because a blocking fog wall appears at the entrance if you are summoned in the Bastille. We both wear that ring that basically creates a “channel” for multiplayer activities. I was reduced to running onto the bridge to the tower (3 steps away), leaving my summon sign, then sprinting back to the Bastille. Then, my friend would stand on the bridge and hopefully spot my summon sign before he got invaded.

          At least half of the time, I would be invaded before I had time to drop the summon sign! In other words, I would be invaded within five seconds of entering the tower. Inevitably, a second invasion follows the first after a minute or two.

          I’m not bad at pvp, but this is a relatively new character and not optimized for it. That means I’m getting destroyed by guys who are dual-wielding weapons with elemental effects that pass right through my shield. Basically, I don’t expect to complete the tower any time soon.

          • dE says:

            Honestly, I recommend everyone to go offline for the Belfrys. It’s just not fun, nor is it worth it and people are actively trying to grief as much as possible. Had an invasion where a second invader used the distraction by the first invader, to deck me with Corrosive Urns. That was sooo much fun.

            The one time I was actually invaded prior to the end of NG, it happened while I was AFK in an area (my mistake) and again, my entire equipment was broken.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            It feels good when you manage to kill both invaders, but if you’re not in the mood on a certain day i can pretty much understand the issue.

            Didn’t have the misfortune of meeting the acid urn dudes, but then again it’s to be expect from such a covenant.

            The Rat King is more interesting at least, still cowardly but at least if you beat them you get some Pharros thingies, and there’s that whole “plan your dungeon” element that might be worth a try.

          • Ringwraith says:

            However once you are invaded once, there is a grace period where you cannot be invaded again. As such, death runs are viable.
            Also, once you unlock the door, you can just circle around them and run into the fog when they’re not looking, and it immediately banishes them.
            So you can just avoid them to get to where you want to go.

            Burning an effigy in a bonfire will do the trick too, as it closes off phantoms, either invading or summoning, for an hour.

          • Nate says:

            Being the piss-poor player I am, I went offline for the Belfry and Rat levels, but it should be noted that all are 100% optional. Belfry Luna can make the Sinner easier– but the Luna bosses are vastly more difficult than the Sinner anyways! Otherwise, these levels are really only necessary if you’re in love with one of the (admittedly nice) weapons available through them.

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        I think PvP is much more likely when you’re human, certainly the summon signs are a lot more frequent when human. If you’re anything like me you’ll have been running around hollow and at half health for most of the game. I’ve had one proper invasion so far and flipping beat him despite dying at the hands of every invader I ever had in DS1. Think I air punched my way round the room even more than after boss fights when I won that one.

        SPOILERS
        Trying to ring the bell you may have heard in Lost Bastille provokes much invading. I imagine there are other areas I haven’t discovered yet which trigger the same.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          There are two covenants that work like that, you step in their areas and as such you are totally supposed to die a terrible death.

          The mix of consensual/non consensual/i-warned-you/ PvP this time around actually makes me like the thing, i hated PvP with a passion in DS1 and i didn’t even try to properly fight invaders. Maybe it’s that?

          By the way, when you say “half health” do you actually mean it? You might easily have something in your inventory that caps it to 75%, if you didn’t know. Or if you don’t use it, off course.

          Also being summoned in co-op by other people restores your humanity if the “task” is completed, at least it does so in the SunBro covenant, didn’t test on others, then as you’re human you can just summon others to kill the boss in your own world this time if you want an “easy” way out.

          Eitherway sooner or later with some human/hollow time managing your effigy count should slowly go up as the game progresses.

  4. felisc says:

    Great Wot I Think. I have to agree that the sense of being lost alone in the depth of a world is a bit gone. That said, I’m in some woods without Estus, hesitating in front of a bonfire because I’m not sure if it will reset some annoying things… And I feel pretty freaking lost. Great game indeed.
    Oh, by the way, you didn’t mention that we can now write some colourful language with the improved message system. Come on.

  5. caff says:

    What’s it like with a keyboard and mouse?

    (should I get my coat?)

    • Geebs says:

      No, just get a 360 pad.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Indeed.

        I mean, i get the argument that KBM simply needs to be supported properly for it to work, and it CAN work on almost anything, but it doesn’t change the fact that different peripherals have their own pros and cons and that DS is made with a gamepad in mind. Even with a perfect KBM support, i think i’d personally still use a gamepad there.

        The “master race” has always been known for being able to use a lot of peripherals, this points seems forgotten nowadays.

        • frightlever says:

          Pfft, some people think they’re in the club because they can run COD on their Facebook box. You’re not a part of the master race unless you have a controller, wheel+pedals and a huge joystick + throttle.

          • SomeDuder says:

            Psh, whats this, amateur hour? Unless youve got a multimonitor display set up across your entire wall, then your still part of the unterwünschten problem.

      • Ditocoaf says:

        I don’t have anything against gamepads, I just don’t own one and don’t really want extra… stuff. My desk is cramped between my bed and my closet, with not much storage space around, in my tiny basement apartment.

        One of the big reasons I’m a PC gamer is that I can use the same setup to do work, watch movies, browse the internet, and play games. I’m not in the market for extra peripherals, not when I can play 80% of games I’m interested in with just the KB+M I already own.

        So, when I ask how good a game’s KB+M controls are, telling me “just get a gamepad” is irrelevant to my question. I’m not trying to decide which peripheral is optimal to play this game. It’s more… “IF I’m only going to be playing with the peripherals I already own, THEN is it worth buying this game?”

        • spr00se says:

          Shame gamepads require such a massive integrated storage system to store their enormous bulk somewhere within the room.

          Seriously grab like a logitech F310 or something, $20 odd, chuck it in a cupboard when you’re not using it?

    • Shadow says:

      I read they dropped the ball there. Kudos to the devs for making an otherwise good port, but I’ll pass due to the atrocious controls.

      • pilouuuu says:

        “I read they dropped the ball there. Kudos to the devs for making an otherwise good port, but I’ll pass due to the atrocious controls.”

        Wow! I had forgotten about those mouses with balls.

    • Horg says:

      This was the most informative reply from the last DS2 article:

      ”kyrieee says:

      They fixed the raw mouse input so that it’s 1:1, you can now move the camera. Unfortunately they fucked everything else up. They let you use modifier keys for mouse inputs, so shift-click is different from click, but you can’t bind multiple inputs to the same action so if you use shift to block you can’t attak while holding it. There’s also built in input lag for mouse clicks because you can now bind doubleclicks, so there needs to be a delay for the second click. The input lag is annoying enough on its own, but it also breaks the forward+attack moves, if you press them at the same time it doesn’t work because the mouse input is delayed. You also can’t bind the mouse freely, if you liked using the scrollwheel to switch targets in DkS too bad. Navigating menus with the mouse is half broken too, but it works I guess. The only workaround for the issues seems to be using a program that resends your mouse inputs as keyboard inputs, as those aren’t buffered. Breaks the mouse in menus though but whatever.”

      If they allow people to mod the control system then we might get a fan made fix at some point. It would be perfectly playable if they allowed free rebinding of buttons and hadn’t decided to use double click as a function. The big issue this time though is Steam and VAC bans, so any potential fix would have to work around that threat.

    • Nenjin says:

      It’s terrible, to be frank. Better than DS but still offering none of the options you expect as a PC gamer. Mouse commands are a list you pick which combination you want to use (enjoy hitting a mouse button and two keyboard buttons to do what you can do with the stick and one button on the controller.) There is no recognition of anything beyond a 3-button mouse. After about 20 minutes of trying to find a KB/M configuration that didn’t feel awkward and stupid, I gave up and used my USB controller. Again.

      So while From managed to get graphical options to an acceptable level for PC, their input schema is still completely based off controller inputs and doesn’t make the effort to be any better for PC.

      • Lemming says:

        A pad is a valid control method in the PC Gamer’s arsenal. If you use a pad, you’re still a PC Gamer FYI. For the same reason FPS and strategy games are better with a mouse, third-person action games are better with a pad. It’s not the 90s anymore. We can do more stuff now.

        • UncleLou says:

          Well, in the 90s, PC gamers had Logitech RumblePads, and Siderwinders. Because PCs have always been about flexibility, and picking the right tool for the job. The m/kb dogmatists are whippersnappers that certainly weren’t there when PC gaming was born and grew up. :)

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Heh, i got called a snob because i like using a wheel for some racing games, go figure.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            Another of my gripes about PC gaming today. There used to be a varied selection of quality pads available back in the day. This is gone because Microsoft decided to strong arm their shit quality brick of a pad into PC gaming and now you have a struggle getting any of the older stuff to work with new games, no longer have a selection of peripherals on the market and are basically forced into using an Xbox pad (Or Logitech’s incredibly generic substitute) which for some people like me has been an uncomfortable abomination since its creation and makes me less likely to buy games like this that don’t play well on mouse and keyboard because I just hate using that damn pad.

        • Nenjin says:

          This isn’t setting up some PC Master race debate. It’s simply an opinion on the quality of the port they did, which could have been a lot better. PC controls are awkward at best, and actively inhibited at worst (see: double clicking to attack.)

          Also, I’m in my 30s UncleLou, but thanks for attempting and failing to dismiss my opinion on the basis of age. It was mildly amusing having someone try to talk down to me.

          • Ich Will says:

            “PC controls are awkward at best”

            Let me correct that for you:

            “Kb and M controls are awkward at best”

            Because PC controls are fucking fantastic on my PC, mainly because I have taken full advantage of my PC’s ability to have a twin analogue control peripheral plugged in and I’m not trying to play a game which requires twin analogue controls with one analogue control and one digital set of switches.

          • Lemming says:

            Right, and what I’m saying is that pad support only would be legitimate for a PC port. For the same reason I can’t complain that Supreme Commander is a shit PC game because my pad doesn’t work with it. I don’t think a third-person action game designed around a particular control method is a negative. This should be no surprise on a platform where having to buy individual components and peripherals is the norm. It’s why we use it, surely? For the range?

          • Nenjin says:

            I always like it when someone hand waves needing a secondary control method, or Autohotkey, in order to bring a PC game to a base level of effectiveness. I guess it comes down to how much of a fanboy you are of the product in question. I like DS but not enough to give it a pass here, especially considering how bad DS1′s control inputs were and how they said they would do better. It’s a fun game but this is a definite strike against it, just like the first.

          • Ich Will says:

            Right, it is a negative strike against it but you were being overly dramatic which was why I corrected your words.

            To the other poster (I’m on my phone and I’m not scrolling up just to see your name) it absolutely is a legitimate excuse, I’m sorry but your flight sim only required one analogue imput, to point the nose of your plane. I suspect your so called professional software was fluffing the rudder controls so your digital imput was managed for you, because if you jam your cesna rudder to full whack, you fall out of the sky almost immediately. In other 3rd person games, precision is not so important, part of this lies in how seriously dark souls takes its combat mechanics, it makes games like gears of war look casual in comparison. Part of it is in the fact that predominantly, this is a melee game – I wonder if the nutters who use ranged combat exclusively can move with digital controls well enough to not notice its imprecisions.

            You could probably do quite well with dual gaming trackballs, the ones with all the buttons on, but you’d still be outmatched by the people playing with the perfect device for the game.

            I’d love to see people posting this crap on somewhere like race department, give everyone a good giggle. Sure, kb and m controls are OK on codemasters racers and the like but when you get to more serious racers, the lack of precision in digital controls and “fit every player” algorithms for interpreting your digital input mean you will be too imprecise to do much more than flail around the track like… well like a casual racer.

          • UncleLou says:

            I somehow thought it would be comparatively clear that my post wasn’t entirely serious, and certainly not meant as being condescending towards you. Oh well.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        The problem is, games used to feature fully customisable controls, auto-detection for pretty much any gamepad you plugged in and they’d take the time to refine the controls. Now Microshit invented their XInput nonsense and every developer is just porting their controls from the crappy XBox pad and not supporting anything else at all. Keyboard/Mouse controls are an afterthought and seems like thrown together in a few minutes just to provide some support without optimising the game to work as well with them at all.

    • rockman29 says:

      I personally recommend getting a Dualshock 4 controller and simply using X360 controller emulator (a simple file drop and execute to configure, into the game directory). I use the same for Dark Souls 1/Next Car Game, it’s a far better controller than any generic or Xbox controller on the market.

      Stick sensitivities are incredible, size and shape are nigh on perfection. Once you play games with it on PC, you won’t go back to any other controllers, it even makes the previous PlayStation controllers feel poor in comparison.

      • webs1 says:

        This.
        As I think the XBOX controller sucks but don’t own a PS4, I just play the game on PS3, and boy, the controls really make a lot of difference. I still think walking/running was better balanced in the first Dark Souls (if you want to go really slow you have to be move the stick just a tiny fraction, which on the Dualshock at least is managebale), but otherwise it’s the same precision that I liked in the first installment, and I take that over better graphics any day.
        I’ll probably get a PS4 as soon as they do a port, simply to experience the even superior feel you are talking of.

      • Volcanu says:

        I’m keen to try a DualShock 4. That said I found previous PlayStation controllers pretty horrible. Whilst I dont really like the loose feeling of the analogue sticks and the spongy shoulder buttons its the shape and size of the controller itself it that I find really awkward and uncomfortable to use (I mean I do own a PS3 so I can see past it, but Id never choose to use a DS3 if I have an alternative). How does the DS 4 compare in that regard would you say, given that you are a fan of the previous PS controllers?

    • revan says:

      I don’t know what to say. I see that some users are having problems with kb&m, but I’ve been playing the game that way since I bought it and had no problems. Everything basically works as intended. Locking on enemies is simple, evading them too and you can now easily remap every key you need. I’d say guys at From Software have done at least a decent job this time around. Controls are perfectly usable this time around, whereas I quit first DS because using the gamepad was just awkward and kb&m controls were a disaster.

    • Bladderfish says:

      Mouse controls are spot on if you get Autohotkey. I’m using it, and it’s solved all issues with input lag.

      Check this: http://steamcommunity.com/app/236430/discussions/0/558754259771637425/

      There’s also a command to make the script pause when alt-tabbing out of the game, so it has no downsides.

      Much rather fix the game that way than move backwards to a gamepad, which I can use all well and good, and did so for Demon Souls on the PS3, but I’d much rather use the peripheral I’ve been using day in, day out for 20 years.

      • crabsnapper says:

        Yep registered just to say this – overwhelmingly the consensus online is that a gamepad is all but essential to play/enjoy Dark Souls 2 (or 1). That is not true!!

        It’s just as the poster above had said – AutoHotKey fixes the input lag and that’s pretty much the only problem with the setup. The key customisation in this game is a ridiculous improvement over the last game – and navigating the menus using the mouse feels amazing. Aiming (when you need to) is also very much a win for the mouse. I’ve seen criticisms aimed at the camera control – the pad can turn at a regular pace whereas the mouse is wholly dependent on the user’s movement – I like that actually. Parrying is not a problem at all – I can do it pretty consistently which means there’s no lag. Overall, if you’re comfortable with a pad use a pad, if you’re comfortable with K&M, use K&M. They’re NOT inferior to each other, each has pluses and minuses.

        Oh and FIY I’ve 100%-ed Dark Souls with K&M and dsfix. It was a blast, no probs whatsoever.

        • seniorgato says:

          Man, that is fantastic to hear. I’ve got DS2 installed, but haven’t had time to play. I’ve been expecting to use the controller, but I’d much rather use a keyboard and mouse. Now I’m psyched, especially with my new keyboard on the way.

      • Horg says:

        This is the sort of response that is actually helpful. Good find.

      • jonahcutter says:

        The autohotkey option works great. It makes the half-assed control scheme actually work properly.

        If you’re like me and hate controllers, you’ll love it. Highly recommended.

        Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll also find the game pretty weak overall.

    • sansenoy says:

      It’sI’m terrible setup at first, they are actually treating the mouse as a separate controller, an alternative to the keyboard… And since they rely on doubleclicks and button combos, there is always terrible lag, almost a full second, it’s unplayable. But I’ve managed to get everything running through a simple autohotkey script and some small tweaks. First, unbind all mouse controls except mousewheel scrolling for items/spells, then rebind all attack keys, target lock keys and target switching to unused keyboard keys (every mouse action us doubled in the keyboard controls, and the target switching are actually the camera up/down keys, not the NAMED target left/right keys). Then bind the 2 key as action key, any key other than enter as the confirm key fir quick confirmation after picking up items (use any unused key near wasd, i actually use space, and use shift for rolling), leave backspace as is, bind the delete and end keys as menu actions, pgup and pgdn as tab switching and you have a mouse free menu setup (you can’t click on the menu without suspending the ahk script, but you’ll only need it for the help button). Bind the left Now for the script:

      #NoEnv
      #IfWinActive, Dark Souls 2
      NumpadEnter:Suspend

      LButton::(enter RIGHT attack keyboard key here)
      RButton::(enter RIGHT heavy attack keyboard key here)
      MButton::(enter target lock keyboard key here)
      XButton1::(enter camera up key, actually target switcher)
      XButton2::(enter camera down key…)

      Most of this is from the steam forums, I’ve just added the easy menu navigation, extra mouse buttons for target switching and numpad enter for easy thumb activated script suspension… I’m having a great time with this setup, i wish i could change targets with the mousewheel, but the side buttons are working great so far… Enjoy

      • sansenoy says:

        Also, don’t forget to click the confirm button after changing any separate tab for keyboard controls because they actually treat each one separately, it’s insane. So unbind the mouse controls, CLICK on the confirm button, exit and again for every tab…

        • sansenoy says:

          I forgot to say that the parry and block keys are near wasd in my setup, but you can put them on the extra mouse keys instead of target switching if using a dual wielding build…

  6. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Worth mentioning that the decreasing health serves an important role in encouraging you to conserve your effigies and helps you to spot summon signs that might be near a boss gate (as NPC summon signs typically are; humans tend to drop theirs near bonfires). A subtle but effective means of helping new players come to terms with Souls’ way of doing things.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Though the whole “turn human if you help someone defeat a boss” was actually a glitch that sometimes happened with one of the patches, but everyone liked it, so they made it a mechanic with the next patch. Which was obviously included in the delayed PC release from the start.
      Strange it wasn’t there to start really, as it encourages an endless cycle of helping on bosses: help someone to turn human, then summon others to help you.

      • thebigJ_A says:

        What? No. That’s been in since Demon’s.

        The thing lots of people are missing is the *small* soapstone is far more useful.

        Place it in a level, anywhere, and help the host through part of it (no boss required). It takes five or ten minutes (the time shortens the more enemies you kill) and you come back fully human, fully restocked on casts and estus, and with a far better reward then the big soapstone gives.

        • Volcanu says:

          Aha! I was wondering what the point of that was. 60 hours in and I have to say I’ve probably only seen 2 ‘shade’ summons though – so seems like most people are in the same boat as I was…..

        • Ringwraith says:

          Yeah, it was a standard feature in the previous games, but not in this one.
          Hence why it was a glitch that got made into a feature, and probably why people preferred it so much. They did cut the souls for co-op after all (to down to about a quarter, varies by boss).

          • thebigJ_A says:

            So you’re saying that a fundamental feature of the series since the beginning was removed, but then *accidentally* it started happening again as a bug, and people liked it so very much they decided they’d keep it?

            Yeah… Source, please.

          • Ringwraith says:

            Here under Patch 1.03.
            It was not in the base game.

          • thebigJ_A says:

            Pretty sure that was them fixing it. The only argument otherwise is that misunderstood tweet. Because people WERE turning human, just only sometimes. The tweet From gave in response was misunderstood.

          • Ringwraith says:

            I didn’t know there was a mistranslated tweet, but whatever the case, it’s pervaded more than being a fix.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        The only issue is that as i farmed my 30 sunlight medals for the “thunder magic spear of ultimate armageddon +15″ i ended up with a souls count that was simply flabbergasting, which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t play a role in the whole “soul memory” thingy.

        Just like i’m fucking up my counter again as i’m going for silly achievements like “have ALL the spells” and so on.

        • thebigJ_A says:

          Once you enter NG+ and beyond, Soul Memory doesn’t count anymore.

          It’s pretty apparent that From heavily intended for people to play primarily in NG+. Things open up, the game changes quite a bit. Hell a lot of fairly basic stuff you don’t get until late in your first playthrough (try being a pure pyromancer in the first half of the game, for example).

          Now that I’m much of the way thru my 1st playthrough, I think I’ll restart with a new character. Covenant of Champions pure singleplayer run while I build my guy up, then play through NG+ in a mp covenant. Blue Sentinels, or hell even the meek Blues. (Had a protector come help me once in just NG and it was awesome killing the Blood Brother together).

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            That’s good to know, and yes i had some issues early on because my build was something of a slow starter, but now i’m somewhere in the 150 level range and stuff like the mirror knight was possible even with a bonfire ascetic in normal NG. Pretty hard but possible.

            I’m totally ready for NG+ and beyond now, even though for now i can’t resist the temptation to farm my titanites and stuff for the sets i love.

  7. ribby says:

    Er …those 2 links at the start seem to lead to the same page.

    I’m almost 100% certain the first of them should lead here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/08/30/wot-i-think-dark-souls-prepare-to-die-edition/

  8. Dwarph says:

    I love how you tried to be critical and yet i still came away from this article with a positive feel for the game. I think the general consensus is that its still an amazing RPG, just slightly less than its former games

    • SomeDuder says:

      I’m very wary of trying DS 2 (Not buying it till a sale either, so there’s plenty of times for patching) since DS1 was pretty damn great at setting the mood.

      One thing I wouldn’t mind is bit more forgiving difficulty – in DS1, I died way too often JUST before a boss (Crystal Cave was… enjoyable). I liked the game too much to give up on it, so I resorted to ALT-F4′ing and restoring an earlier savegame, but it was a lot of work to play a mostly enjoyable game.

      And I don’t understand the critisism regarding teleporting – in DS1, once you have the Lord vessel, you can use any bonfire to teleport to any other – isnt that what’s being described here? Granted, you only got the Lord vessel at like 60% through the game, but it’s still the same functionality.

  9. DrScuttles says:

    Dark Souls 2 strikes me as being slightly less refined that Dark Souls 1, but it’s also more Souls. I played the first for a frightening number of hours to the point where Lordran had long since lost any sense of foreboding, mystery, fear and all that. The main thing I’ve been wanting from DS2 is to reclaim that feeling of venturing into the oppressive unknown, and that’s exactly what I’ve got.
    I’m also stuck on a sodding skeletal horse and chariot and can’t seem to find any decent supply of titanite anywhere. Luckily there’s about 3 other ways for me to investigate, but damnit, they’re all nasty.
    It’s great.

    • The Crane says:

      I think I’m at exactly the same point as you! :)

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      You’ll find the Titanite spots soon enough, i too was quite worried at the start but as much as there are random “suicide jump” locations just to get a single piece of it, and far more annoying lizards than they were in DS1, there are areas with enemies eager to drop that stuff, even twinkling titanite, which is normally a pain.

      I suggest to research a bit what you’re planning to use, because even with some effort in farming you still don’t want to spread your upgrades into too much gear.

      • DrScuttles says:

        Hmm. I was planning on beating the game without resorting to the wiki constantly. Granted, that’s taking a heroic strength of will that I’m not sure I fully possess; I’ll probably just struggle through this round and plan a bit more for the inevitable Next Time.

        • Volcanu says:

          I actually found titanite came much easier this time around – including the big ones like chunks and slabs. Carry on, you’ll amass enough in time no worries. You can also buy most types of it from various vendors.

          On that note, improving your gear is somewhat less important than in DS1 – clearly it’s still important but I never felt the need to find an ‘uber’ weapon on my first playthrough.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            That’s true, the huge ones are more common this time but that’s also because there are less types, so no matter how you infuse a weapon if you want it +10 you have to go with the “normal” slab, which means you have to be able to find more of them if you want some selection.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          You can also wait once you are pretty high level, maybe you understand what you want and go for a respec, maybe for a precise build and gear that you have in your inventory.

          A quick tip is due though, i never bothered with the armorer in Majula, but after you spend 1k and then 16k souls on him he restocks with the gear of some bosses you killed!

  10. thekelvingreen says:

    As someone who likes rpgs like Baldur’s Gate II and Final Fantasy XII and Xenoblade but is not so fond of Skyrim or the first Dark Souls, would this one be more to my tastes? The article suggests it may be but it’s a lot of money to risk on a “maybe”.

    • derbefrier says:

      if you didnt like the first dark souls chances are you wont like this one. they ARE different but still basically play the same way.

    • Ravenholme says:

      No, I don’t think so. I suspect if you didn’t get along with DaS1, then you won’t get along with this.

    • Matt_W says:

      If you don’t like the first Dark Souls, it’s a good bet you won’t like this one. The gameplay and systems are very similar.

    • Greggh says:

      FFXII isn’t matched by any RPG known by mankind*.

      *except maybe a few of the FFs that came before and/or after. OOOh, and the “Seiken” saga!

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        I played it recently, it’s amazing how much hate it got just from trying to change things. Hell, even the plot is more mature than most. It really is one of the best FFs.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Dark Souls 2 is more like Dark Souls than it isn’t. How did you get on with Demon’s Souls, or did you not try that one? Because a lot of what’s changed with Dark Souls 2 is picking up on design threads from Demon’s Souls. In a lot of ways it’s a sequel to that game as well; there’s not many of the design changes from Dark Souls 1 to 2 that don’t have precedent with Demon’s Souls.

      So that being said, there’s enough differences that you may get on with it, but if you bounced off Dark Souls 1 hard it’s unlikely that 2 is going to really hook you. Although, personally I thought the initial story hooks of Dark Souls were really not working for me, whereas Dark Souls 2 grabbed my interest immediately, so who knows.

    • bigjig says:

      It really depends on how much you disliked Dark Souls 1 I guess. If you hated it, probably give DS2 a miss. If you didn’t really like it but you found some things you liked maybe check it out when it’s on sale?

    • Lemming says:

      It’s not even a maybe. You won’t like it. I’m not sure why you are even questioning it with that comment.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Because the article says it’s more like a traditional rpg and less like the first Dark Souls and everyone else here seems to suggest that it’s quite a different game. It doesn’t seem that unreasonable to ask if it’s different enough that I may like it. So, you know, that’s why. Thanks.

        • Lemming says:

          If it looks like a duck…

          It’s still a Dark Souls game. If it was that far removed from the formula, there wouldn’t be Dark Souls fans hyping it.

        • keithzg says:

          Yeah, don’t let the Souls fanatics mislead you; they’ll claim this game is dramatically different, but to anyone who *hasn’t* spent a hundred (or hundreds, as many of them have) playing Dark Souls and/or Demon’s Souls, the changes almost indiscernible.

          It’s like if I was to talk about the differences between KDE-based Linux distros. To someone heavily steeped in it, it really does make a huge and interesting difference that Muon is developed for Kubuntu and the Debian devs seem to be stubbornly sticking to KPackageKit, so even though Debian is what Kubuntu is based on by way of Ubuntu, the GUI package management situation is actually dramatically different, even though the packages themselves are mostly identical. And you’d be all “ummm . . . okay?” because you wouldn’t notice or really care about any of this until you had put dozens or hundreds of hours into this field of endeavours.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      Thanks everyone for the pointers. I haven’t played Demon’s Souls so perhaps I’ll give that a try and see how I get on with that one.

      • Volcanu says:

        2 things – its a PS3 exclusive just so y’know. And Demon’s is actually (in my opinion) the most unforgiving and hardest in the early/mid game. Dark Souls 2 is probably the most accessible of the lot in all honesty.

  11. Casimir's Blake says:

    It’s reassuring that Adam finds issues with Dark Souls 2. I didn’t expect it to be perfect but 40-50 hours into it I came to the conclusion I just wasn’t enjoying myself. What was different? Something had to be, after all, I eventually became used to Dark Souls and learned to greatly appreciate it for what it was. I still believe DkS achieves masterfully what it sets out to do and to those with the right mindset it is an engrossing experience.

    Dark Souls 2 stumbles and sometimes outright fails for a variety of reasons when examined closely. Here are just some of the issues:

    Erratic combat with unpredictable rolls, backstabs and parries. Poorly-judged monster placement, often due to too many of them being placed together at once. Revisiting prior (Demon’s / Dark Souls) level designs in less interesting ways. Linear levels that have no logical reason to connect to other levels, and often physically _shouldn’t_. Nonsensical plot with ill-defined back story leaving the player with no incentive to play beyond playing for the sake of it. Seriously, why am I supposed to be in Drangleic again? Why am I supposed to kill the lord souls?

    NPCs that have no reason to stay in Majula and yet they do, and do nothing for the rest of the game. Contrast that to most of the NPCs that hung around Firelink Shrine in DkS1 that often went off to focus on their own quests, giving them their own purpose. Copy-pasted bosses and enemies, the majority of which are oversized humanoids which lock on to the player too much. Enemies in general lock onto the player too often. A paucity of good items early on and titanite shards given out until an arbitrary point is reached after which the player is suddenly “allowed” to buy as much as they want. TOO many bonfires reducing the sense of risk, some placed right next to enemies!

    The Black Gulch is a particular design nadir where my ire culminated in realising that its boss – The Rotten – has a sword with a hitbox far in excess of its “real” size, as can be evidenced when the player will inevitably fail to successfully roll away from it (which I did many times), and that right there is a sign of a game that is – in some ways – outright broken.

    There is so much ineffective or downright poor design in this game, I’ve outlined this further here. Dark Souls 2 is to Demon’s / Dark Souls 1, what Ultima 9 was to all the previous Ultimas. What “Tomb Raider” was to all of the prior TR games. What “Thief” is to The Dark Project and The Metal Age. Shoddy fanfiction. An imitation lacking the vital qualities of the previous games. Disappointing would be putting it mildly.

    Matthewmatosis has a video here explaining many of the issues in the game and I agree with ALL OF THEM.
    (NO I’m not promoting this channel.)

    • Geebs says:

      The only way they could really go from the first Dark Souls was down, but Dark Souls 2 is really not that much worse. It’s kind of Dark Souls’ B-sides compilation, but there are some fun new mechanics, and plenty of jolly cooperation now that the networking’s fixed.

    • rpsKman says:

      I was really bummed out watching the video. The care put into DS isn’t back on the menu, it seems. Even this review makes it sound like DS2 is a bag of dicks.

      • Volcanu says:

        I think this review probably comes off as more negative than Adam actually feels. Its essentially more Dark Souls – which means there isn’t a lot new to say about what is good. The core experience is the same and as such, if you loved Dark Souls you’ll almost definitely love Dark Souls 2.

        There are obviously differences and it’s certainly true that Dark Souls 1 was a more cohesive piece of atmosphere and design. But honestly dont be put off. Dark Souls 2 is f-ing great.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      It’s still not really much confirmed but parries frame windows might be influenced by adaptability, which might explain why i sucked at it while being pretty decent on DS1. I believe there’s a stronger influence on parry frames this time around, using the “Buckler” makes it easier, even more than the difference i felt in DS1 between different parry animations.

      That and the fact that there’s a 100% damage reduction shield that CAN parry very early in the game, whereas in DS1 you had to know how to get it, it might be the demonstration that they’re trying to give few frames to those who don’t invest into it. Afterall, pumping adaptability means you don’t upgrade something else, some PvPers focus a lot on that and on the Buckler, which is a serious way of gimping yourself if you parry right.

      It’s confirmed that you get more invulnerability frames during rolls, though.

      • keithzg says:

        Yeahhhh, see any time things can (and are expected to be) approached in terms of frames, I can’t say I’m terribly enthusiastic.

    • Cinek says:

      Matthewmatosis video was a truly excellent one. Just finished watching it and it very nicely highlighted all of the major issues with Dark Souls 2, IMHO – if anyone plans to buy this game I would highly recommend watching it before wasting money on DS2.

  12. LightSpirits says:

    Just registered to say how happy I am: I just succeeded in gettinh DS1 to work after 2 months (had some issues with Gfwl). Had hoped to have it finished by the time this one came out, but Gfwl had other plans.
    Now quickly back to Ornstein and Smough, it’s been too long.

  13. dE says:

    It seems to me that a lot of negative opinion about DS2 is owed to the idea of Sequel Angst and the fact that it’s more of the same. That Matthewmatosis Video that always pops up in these discussions is a good example of that. I remember when Dark Souls came out, a lot of people called it a pale shadow of what Demon Souls was, concluded it to be a really bad game in comparison. And they had examples and made up long posts about why “factually” Dark Souls is not just figuratively Hitler, but literally too.

    The Souls Series is fighting an uphill battle in that the first time you venture into it’s realms will be a new, stunning and magical experience. If you’re tactically inclined and love to experiment, you find a world unlike any other with many details to appreciate and discover. But when a new installment in the series comes out, it’s not as big a surprise anymore. The mechanics are mostly the same, combat is mostly the same and by then it’s really hard to surprise people with new things. It’s not new anymore and the things that started nagging at the end of the previous installment’s lifecycle are still there to continue nagging.
    So the sequels appear to be worse in comparison and don’t facilitate the same heightened rush, but for someone that just started with the newest title, it’s all of these things we’ve felt the first time we went into our first Souls Game.

    • Geebs says:

      Spot on.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      That’s the impression I’m getting too. The biggest criticism of DS II can be summed up as ‘more DS’ and nothing really makes the same impressin the second time around. Lots of folks can’t seem to grasp it and they end up overanalyzing the game with such lengthy criticisms which are just giant nit-picking sessions.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Perfect.

      I’m still liking it more so far, but it also might be because i’m some sort of metagame dude, and that element is possibly the biggest improvement this time around.

      I’m also preferring the lore, but it might be because i find the NPCs more interesting aside from some great ones in DS1. i think the first entry is better only when it comes to that sense of solving the interconnected puzzle and some bosses.

      But really, a lot of people called it since the beginning, “This game can’t be better than DS1 because no game is better than that” and they ruined the sequel for them over one year ago before even realizing it.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Dark Souls is not a “pale” shadow of Demon’s Souls. It’s the same combat in a less linear world, with a few other minor differences. They’re both excellent games.

      Dark Souls II has many legitimately inferior design choices that are blatantly noticeable during gameplay and diminish the experience. For example DkS 1 and Demon’s Souls force you to go through large sections of the game before reaching save points. DkS 2 puts bonfires down every 20 minutes! Because of the incongruously-structured levels, there’s no point to going back to most of them, and gone is the risky, dark hour-long dungeon crawls. It is a fundamental shift in tone that goes a long way to ruining the experience.

      If you’re enjoying it, fine, but if there is to be a fourth Souls game it would be useful to discuss the ways DkS 2 fails or otherwise provides a lesser experience, and hope that From take notice.

  14. Shadow says:

    Idly, I wonder if Dark Souls really is all that hard, or if it’s just old-school challenging, and appears grueling only in these times when games are easy on average and people (especially younger gamers) aren’t used to real challenges.

    • Shooop says:

      In the first game, the minor enemies deal a lot of damage if you let them hit you (a good and fair difficulty thing), but there were far too many traps and events that completely decimated players unless you read a guide first and knew exactly how to proceed.

      The single thing I’m hoping for in the sequel is less trial and error, and more “if you failed, it’s because you didn’t pay attention”. Anyone able to say it delivers that or not?

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        13 hours in and I would say it’s a lot less dastardly than DS1, but then that may be because DS1 taught me what to look out for. There’s been plenty of sneakily hidden enemies and a couple of doors opening to certain doom, and they love a booby-trapped chest in this one, but I’ve mostly seen them all coming. The sheer volume of messages other players have left make it much easier too. I was late to DS1 so could be there were fewer to see, but in DS2 every possible deathtrap has an accompanying bloodstain and message to research before stepping into it if you have the patience.

        That said the AI is noticeably smarter. A lot of enemies have spinning and rear damage attacks that stop you circling behind them for certain victory all the time, and that sweet spot just under and to the side of a boss’ feet that got you through 75% of DS1 boss battles is so far fairly absent. I think the combat is improved, it’s certainly the bit DS1 players will have to spend the most time getting their heads around. The traps, ambushes and general dread not so much.

      • Koozer says:

        I would say it’s worse than DS1. In the first game, whenever I died to a dastardly trap (hello Sen’s Fortress) I would pan the camera around, find the pressure pad/blood smear, and think “oooh the sneaky buggers! I should’ve been paying attention.” DS2 has some of that, plus some bloody stupid ones that instantly kill you without any clues whatsoever.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        You mean less Tomb of Giants and that thing with invisible platforms or the tree before the ash lake? Yeah, i think it’s more fair this time around.

        What’s fair or not can be subjective, all i can tell you is that in DS1 i often cursed the game, while this time around i often cursed myself.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      Try it and see. The thing I notice is nobody says they gave up half way through, everyone either tries it and hates it in the first hour or 2 (because they hit ‘the wall’), or tries it, hurdles ‘the wall’ and then ploughs on through to the end and onwards to NG+++++. There is no middle ground.

      In answer to your question, I would say it’s old-school challenging, those moments 20 minutes from a bonfire downing your last estus flask frantically after dodging a bosses attack do remind me of Megaman and old Mario games where one more knock would be Game Over. But the challenge is cleverly built around the subversion of the modern checkpoint-based save system. You cannot die, ever, you just respawn, so in that sense it is not a hard game. It is, however, a game that requires patience, concentration, perseverance and occasional need to repeat areas/bosses 10s of times to make it to the end. It is the only singleplayer game I will not play after a drink, that is how close the margins between success and failure are. For all the talk of daring design decisions and amped up difficulty, it’s actually the carefully honed precision of the challenge that makes the games so good. DS2 actually seems to lose a bit of this with it’s more open structure as it’s easier to accidently level up a load in an area you weren’t meant to face yet, and then sweep through the other areas with relative ease. That’s assuming you were masochistic enough to stick with that area in the first place though. It provokes voices in your head telling you to turn around try another route, you’re not ready for this one yet. That’s the Dark Souls experience, overcoming your own doubts and fears makes you feel a hero more than any amount of Skyrim-like quest completing, or Mass Effect style speech giving achieves.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I would imagine that the majority of people, like most games, probably just completed it or played it at least a decent amount then stopped. Generally the people being vocal about a game are the ones that either really hate it, at which point they want to bash it because they are bitter about the wasted money/time, or the people who really loved it, at which point they want to shout from the rooftops about it. Its just a divisive game in that respect because of the relatively high difficulty.

    • gwathdring says:

      Idly is the proper word.

      Christ.

      Back in your day, huh?

      You know, there were a lot of easy games back then too. And you weren’t as good at video games, I bet, which changes the math. Easy for you now and easy for you then probably look kind of different.Not to mention the finnicky, complex beast that is memory.

      That’s not to say games haven’t gotten more accessible. They have. But there’s more to it than getting “easier.” Further, it is just as lazy to blame players for disinterest in an obstacle that resists them as it is for the player to decline to take the time to overcome it. Design is a conversation. When we make a game difficult … we have to make it compelling enough to be worth that difficulty else all we have for audience is the obsessive and the not-very-easily-bored. Challenge is but one class of tool in the game design kit. I feel games have gotten a lot better about handling challenge, generally, though they have also on the whole leaned toward accessibility.

  15. Cinek says:

    Not a word about interface?!

    It’s the biggest garbage since Skyrim. One of the most lousy PC ports in last several years. All the menus look like designed for 800x600px, character creation is a f*** joke (Skyrim character creation is a miracle of design by comparison), all of the hints are made for controllers, even if you play with M&K, navigating through menu tree is a constant struggle (eg. ESC cancels all of the changes and exits completely from the menu instead of going just back to the submenu, default K&M controls suck hard, and good luck setting your own configuration in less than 5 minutes (yes, I’m being super-optimistic here)), game throws in a first minutes of a gameplay dozens of terms that are specific to the series and tell exactly NOTHING to anyone who didn’t play it before while the game does very little to nothing in order to explain these nor reasons why I should do thing A instead of B (yay storyline), etc. etc. etc.

    Then there’s combat that (at least on a PC version) got a constant feeling of having a lag (even in an offline mode) and lack of responsiveness mixed with the fact that character tends to do it’s attacks in completely different direction than you’re pointing at with the mouse (quite evident once you get into a quick combat sequence with 2+ enemies) makes everything feel needlessly tedious. Oh, and the thing I hate most of all in games that are focused around combat: “wait… wait, please, till I finish my animation”.

    Level design, at least on the initial levels, is very underwhelming, reminds me one of the worst levels of Tomb Rider series. And it’s Skyrim sin all over again: linear, linear, linear. At some moments this game reminds me of iPad game Infinity Blade, only… you know… Infinity Blade actually have a great environmental design from a first minute on, and placement of the opponents doesn’t seem to be completely random like it often does in DS2.

    Then there’s AI. Don’t get me started on this, please. Way to win this game is basically kite AI into the locations that it cannot handle (doors?) and shoot it with arrows till it dies. o_O Uhh….

    I never played original Dark Souls, so I’m not looking at this game as if it’d be a “legend” of some sorts or incarnation of awesomeness in RPGs, but DS2 so far for me was an utter and complete disappointment, even though I didn’t have any high expectations.

    • dE says:

      Neigh! Neigh!
      Keep flogging. It might have the Darksign.

      • Shadow says:

        Who knows what you meant. Cinek raises important concerns.

        • dE says:

          Thank you for writing, Concerned. Of course your question touches on one of the basic habitual gaming impulses, with all its associated hopes and fears for the future of gaming. I also detect some unspoken questions. Do our benefactors really know what’s best for us? What gives them the right to make this kind of decision for gamingkind? Will they ever deactivate the suppression field and let us beat the dead horse again?

          • Cinek says:

            dE, eat a Snickers.

          • dE says:

            Why? You’re the one shouting hyperbole. And since your post had nothing new to add and the only other thing was hyperbole and rage, surely a little comedy comment could lighten your mood? No? Well enjoy your blockers.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            It wouldn’t really be an article about Dark Souls without a little smarmy fanboy rage, would it dE?

    • meepmeep says:

      But apart from that, you liked it?

      • Cinek says:

        No, I did not enjoy it.

        I really wish I would, cause after reading through Adam’s WOT it seem to be a really great game, but the major feature of this game, something that’s suppose to make it stand out, is suppose to be challenging combat.

        Only in practice it came out that it’s not challenging because AI is brilliant, AI in fact is worse than in some PC games from ’90s (let’s say: It’s comparable to AI in 1997 Dark Forces II, worse than AI in 2002 Jedi Outcast (both featuring sword fights and guys with ranged weapons) ), it’s not difficult because of environment – in majority of encounters the only environmental hazard is falling down – nor it is difficult because of puzzles and tactics involved in combat. It’s difficult because you struggle with the way combat mechanics work, where your character lacks in responsiveness (even at 60 FPS, offline mode) and each time you press something you need to wait till your character finishes his animation until you can do another thing. Then I watched some very nice video review and it comes there are much more issues with combat than that – not only hitboxes of the opponents are broken, but also hitboxes on their weapons are broken allowing them to hit you even though you dodged the weapon itself, and your character turns on invincibility mode each time you roll, with added difficulty in a fact that the amount of time you are invincible depends on your character skills (which, obviously, isn’t explained anywhere in the game).

        And that video was pretty much a final nail in the coffin for this game – after watching it I lost pretty much any will to play it even 15 minutes more. I hoped some of the things from intro get explained later on in the storyline, but it comes out that little to none of it gets any explanation and there’s only more and more of nonsense decisions, options and choices that have exactly zero explanation. And that curiosity of how the story unfolds and discovering details about everything in totally cryptic intro video were pretty much the only reason why I considered playing it further on.

        So…. Dark Souls 2 PC was a waste of money for me.

        • Ich Will says:

          If you ever feel so inclined, try again but this time pay careful attention to your build and the enemies you are fighting. It sounds like you checked the stats of all your new gear and bundled on the best of everything without paying attention to the enemies you were fighting and how your equipped items affects your roll time, speed etc. Point of reference, in the first area after Medula for most players is the forest of Giants. Here you’ll get a very long way with a longsword and medium armour – you’ll hit harder, faster and from a longer range than most enemies. Try this in the next natural area, the Towers of Heide and you’ll be too slow and inflicting too little damage and even worse if you’re equipping all that lovely heavy armour that drops.

          I did that area, including miniboss naked with a buckler and a mace and cruised through – one upgrade on my mace and I could kill the enemies in the time it took for them to raise their weapon before swinging!

          Perhaps part of the difficulty that you haven’t tackled is in choosing the appropriate gear before setting out. It sounds like you are fat rolling which means your encumberance is over 75% – try to get it closer to 25% and see how you feel then about the combat – if you still don’t like it, well we all buy duff products every once in a while, but it just may bring an experience you enjoy and that would be good!

          • Cinek says:

            “If you ever feel so inclined, try again but this time pay careful attention to your build and the enemies you are fighting” – why would I be bothered? AI doesn’t pose any challenge, it can be kited all day long, especially if you have any ranged attacks, but apparently – even if you’re melee character you can kite AI easily.

            “Perhaps part of the difficulty that you haven’t tackled is in choosing the appropriate gear before setting out.” – you didn’t read my post, did you? I never said that the game is difficult due to weapons / damage output.

            “It sounds like you are fat rolling which means your encumberance is over 75%” – nope, I’m not. Even stock character with no added items before anything you get at the very beginning of game has all of these issues. It’s just how the combat is designed. You click, and you have to wait till animation is done before doing the next thing.
            It might be OK for you, I know plenty of console games are designed around this principle – but for me it’s very frustrating. I want responsive, quick game where I’m not limited by the scripted sequences. I want to point cursor at the enemy and an instant attack landing on him, jumping quick between multiple opponents, using flanking, etc. Dark Souls 2 meanwhile is mostly about clicking, waiting till sequence is done, rolling back in invincibility mode, then quickly running to the other enemy, clicking again for another sequence while enemies wait till you finish the animation. Oh… and that totally retarded feature where all of the opponents don’t move if you run around them – they rotate in place. WTF is that?! It’s a game based on combat and movement of the characters is essential part to differ between game that’s great and… everything else.

          • derbefrier says:

            Its fair to say you don’t like this game and nothing anyone can say will convince you otherwise. sucks to be you.

          • Volcanu says:

            I don’t really get your point about making an attack and then having to wait for a ‘sequence to be done’. The pace of combat in Souls games is deliberate, it’s not about spamming attack as quick as you can. If you swing a weapon, there is a certain amount of recovery time before you can swing it again, which absolutely makes sense if you’ve ever swung a sword or even a hefty stick in real life. If you want to attack more quickly, use a quicker weapon like a dagger or rapier or short sword – but obviously you’ll do less damage per hit. It’s a trade off.

            And you absolutely can quickly switch between foes, I do it all the time – so not quite sure why you don’t think you can? As for flanking foes, again that’s something you can do – in fact many of them REQUIRE you to get around the flanks or back of them.

            It sounds like you want a completely different type of combat – something quick and twirly like the Witcher 2′s or Assassins Creed. I for one am VERY glad Dark Souls combat is n’t like that. Its just probably not your cup of tea unfortunately.

          • Ich Will says:

            “Mostly about clicking”

            I see what the problem is.

            The other posters are right, you’re talking crap now, which was a shame because I was genuinely trying to help you out. You can flick between enemies at will, flank them for critical backstab damage etc etc. Clearly you don’t wish to learn the game properly before writing it off and that’s absolutely your right. I can’t count the number of console style hack and slash adventures I’ve dropped before the tutorial level is over because it’s just a power fantasy with nothing worthwhile behind cheap combat mechanics and that’s my right too.

            I would be interested to know what sword fighting games you’ve played where you don’t have to wait for the rolling animation to finish before you can do something, I can’t think of any and unless you are fat rolling, dark souls rolls are snappy.

            Still, maybe next time you’ll do your research before buying a full priced game, if the cost of losing it is enough to send you whining to the internet.

        • Koozer says:

          Are you using mouse and keyboard? With a controller I don’t experience any input lag.

          • Cinek says:

            Yea, I don’t have a controller, so can’t comment on that. but the animations system is largely to blame for lack of responsiveness, so I doubt using controller instead would help much.

        • Mman says:

          95 Agility is all you need to avoid just about every hitbox issue, having played at various agility levels now I’m not even sure it’s a problem with enemy weapon hitboxes but something to do with lower agility making the dodge hitboxes lag somehow.

          • Cinek says:

            It’s that bad? Seriously? I need to raise my Agility up to 95 to the problem? Wow… I’m speechless. That’s explained somewhere in the game or is it another of these things that game never bothers to tell the player?

          • Mman says:

            95 agility takes a pretty minor investment to get to, especially if you have any attunement (which also raises it but at a slower rate than adaptability).

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            It takes 20 or less points in adaptability, please. It’s almost like you don’t even know what Agility is and thought it was another stat that required 95 levels.

            You can also raise strenght instead and turtle behind a greatshield, which behaves differently than a medium or small shield regardless of stats but it requires investment. It has more stability and requires less stamina for blocking, but it’s heavy and it can’t parry, but can bash, and again you need a proper build.

            Everything requires something being build towards it, it’s just obvious, what might be less clear is how different things work, which requires either to try various stuff yourself or to research the information provided by those who actually did. Experiment and learn, that’s what the souls game always been about.

            It’s hard to agree on any of your point if there’s really no effort to try and understand the game. The pacing is not an issue, that is YOUR issue, the game is designed around deliberate moves with risk/rewards mechanics, there is some pretty deep design around that fact and if YOU don’t like it it’s not the game’s fault for adopting a style over another.

        • NothingFunny says:

          Yes its so-called ‘artificial difficulty’ where the game is only hard because the controls are unresponsive and there is no room for mistakes – enemies kill you in no time. The fighting system is primitive with only few moves, but executing them in the right time is problematic. But once you adapt to it and learn the timing it feels rewarding.

          I assume you are already using Autohokey bandaid to remove the lag from the mouse buttons, otherwise its impossible to time your strikes and do parry or jump attack.
          You might want to play classes with more endurance( for stamina) and vitality (for getting less speed penalty from armor) – like the Bandit.

    • yotmato says:

      Your posts are cringeworthy, i registered on the site solely to say this. You just forced me and many others to read a myriad of posts where people are telling you to learn the game, before making false assumptions. But you keep on raging, may i suggest you look into one of the other 8 million games available on the market? Maybe it will help you in your search for happiness.

  16. bigjig says:

    Just out of curiosity Adam, did you ever get invaded by a red phantom on your playthrough? (not a bell bro, or a rat bro)

    One of my biggest disappointments with the game was the general lack of invasions. Sure there are the arenas, but one of the things I loved about Demons/Dark 1 was the tension of never knowing when you could get invaded, and how you would have to deal with that. Maybe it’s because of the new soul memory mechanic but I didn’t get invaded once on my PS3 playthrough. I hear it’s better on NG+ but for me that’s the same problem that Diablo 3 initially had with having to do an entire playthrough to get to a more interesting difficulty.

    I don’t know, this with the added bonfires and warping from the get go just made me feel like too many concessions to the Skyrim audience were made making it a more boring Souls game all in all. To contrast this, they jacked up the difficulty in really weird ways, spamming a gang of enemies at you at once that magically track to whatever direction you dodge while nerfing parries to the point where you may as well not even bother using them.

  17. Boosh says:

    absolutely loving this game. I never played any of the previous, in fact, never heard of dark souls until the hype started for this game some months ago. It’s not even a genre I’m particularly interested in or played before.

    But holy crap has this grabbed me. It’s just so different to anything I’ve played before, it’s accessible whilst being satisfyingly challenging, it doesn’t patronise the player unlike so many games today. It just kind of says ‘yeh this is it, come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough’, no hand holding.

    There is a nod at a tutorial at the beginning by means of a series of ‘rooms’ with instructions to basic concepts, but as a total new comer whilst these helped with the how, it left out completely (probably deliberately) the why, which was just awesome actually. I’ve just kind of inched my way forward learning as I go. What I really like is save for the odd annoying death by camera fumble, or texture hidden cliff of doom, every combat death is a lesson, you instinctively know what went wrong and you just cannot wait to get back and try again.

    It could actually have some info on the finer points, especially equipment stats and character attributes (the manual is hilariously inadequate), but you know, it takes seconds to find that info on the web, bizarrely it seems very much in the spirit of the game!

    I also like the fact this isn’t laden by an elaborate plot. It’s clear the game isn’t setting out to tell a whimsical tale.

    • Koozer says:

      If you ever exhaust DS2, you can treat DS1 as a sequel, it’s identical in all the most important ways.

      • Lobotomist says:

        Thats actually good idea.

      • Casimir's Blake says:

        DS1 is not identical, in fact it is mostly superior in combat, difficulty, game world design, atmosphere, plot… about the only issue DkS1 has is the shoddy port, which is mostly fixed with DSFix.

        • webs1 says:

          By not getting his point, you’re actually reinforcing it. Nice work!

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          We all wanted DS1 on PC, DaS was an exclusive, we were all hyped and some didn’t want to get it on consoles, so when it landed on PC it was suddenly the best game in the world and the worst port in history was forgiven because mods.

          Now we all finally played DS1 and DS2 is different so it sucks and it’s Hitler all over again, just like DS1 was Hitler for the console players who actually played and preferred DaS.

          It’s perfectly legitimate to dislike it, i’m not claiming otherwise, but a lot of people should really humble up a bit and TRY to realize WHY they think what they think, because i’m not going to believe that there can’t be other psychological influences aswell.

  18. derbefrier says:

    Loving the game so far. Don’t think i like it as much as the first but I didnt expect too. you just cant replicate that feeling of your first souls game. Still a great game deserving of its praise even with a few minor nit picks here and there.

  19. baozi says:

    The second game? I thought Dark Souls 2 was the third game in the Souls series?
    I always wonder when people laud Dark Souls as so special and innovative; I haven’t played Demon’s Souls because I don’t have a PS3, but is there really such a big difference between them to warrant so many people praising Dark Souls over Demon’s Souls?

    • RedViv says:

      Dark Souls II is actually sort of between the broader design of Demon’s and that of Dark. The hub area, progressive advancement with warps, more linearly followable “side quests”, those things.
      As stated above, there were several people stating that Dark was a factually truly way way worse game because of the changes it made (or, as the interwebs call it, literally Hitler), so it’s more than just annoying to see those same lines of arguing appear once more.

      • Adam Smith says:

        I was referring to Dark Souls 1 as the second Souls game, as you hopefully realised. I played them in order and thought Dark Souls was a big improvement. A lot of my criticisms apply to Demon’s Souls as well, which is one of the reasons I tried to articulate them rather than saying one design choice was better or worse.

        There are aspects that I think aren’t quite as good this time around, in the elements that are shared by all three games, but my biggest criticisms are tied to the philosophy of the game. I’d find a better word than ‘philosophy’ but it’s been a long day and I’m short on energy.

        Sequel fatigue can certainly be an issue but I don’t think there’s much of that in my thinking here.

        • baozi says:

          Sorry, you’re right, I stupidly misread that line. I admit I haven’t actually read the article yet, just the intro on the front page, but that’s because I bought Dark Souls 2 recently and didn’t want to spoil the experience.

          But, I still read a lot of Dark Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls on the internet, and Demon’s Souls isn’t mentioned nearly as often, which seems curious.

          • damoqles says:

            It’s not that surprising. DeS was a PS3-exclusive title, while DaS also came out on X360 and PC, so the audience of the latter game is much-much bigger. I would be happy if I could talk about Demon’s, but alas, I’m not gonna buy a console for one game, even if it’s a Souls game. :/

            By the way, I’m loving DSII. Of course it’s not as big of a mindblowing experience as the first was, but it is really an excellent sequel with much improvement, some lost charm, a couple changes to keep it feeling fresh, and the greatest effing voice acting ever.

          • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

            Console exclusivity would explain that. I’d love to play Demon Souls but I’m not buying a PS3 just for that. Dark Souls was the first one available to and played by a mass audience so it’s the ‘original’ in many people’s eyes.

          • Ich Will says:

            That PS3 is such a niche product, you certainly couldn’t describe the number of people who own one as a mass audience.

          • AngelTear says:

            As someone who went from Ps (1 to 3) to the PC and would not transition back, I think, depending on your tastes of course, and how much money you’re willing to spend, but I’d say now is the best time to buy a ps3. It’s cheap and you have 7+ years of games, many of them that can be found used at very low prices, and therefore access to a number of high quality exclusives without having to wait and without having to filter out what is good and what is not.

            So, if you really want to catch up on Demon’s, you can take the occasion to buy, I don’t know, FF HD collection, or MGS HD Collection, or Journey, or Beyond/Heavy Rain, or DMC HD Collection, or any other number of games, especially Japanese games, depending on what you like.

          • baozi says:

            Mh. I get that it’s due to the increase in popularity, which is fine when it comes to regular folks commenting. But game journalists (other than Mr. Smith here :D), whose writings IMHO should include context / a broader view, and especially those writing for sites that deal with many platforms, should IMHO include Demon’s Souls when they praise the aspects of Dark Souls that were already present in the predecessor. I guess I just mean it’s misleading touting something as unique and original when it’s not really.

          • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

            I think most journos do credit Demon Souls as starting it all, but you have to remember Demon Souls was niche at launch. It was only released in Japan initially, so some played it on import. Then it got a Western release but only on one console (a big audience, sure) and in a gaming press dominated by hype a quietly released translation of a respected Japanese import was hardly going to make waves. It trickled out. By Dark Souls of course the community had caught up so it got the full and well deserved gushing from all quarters, some of those reviews were partly informed, I imagine, from people’s love for Demon Souls and need to express it.

            It’s actually quite a pleasantly organic growth of hype that you rarely get in games these days. Its more like when Indie Bands suddenly go global after their 5th album. Dark Souls 2, however, is getting the full anti-hype backlash you’d expect of any modern AAA release.

            Anyway, point being: Dark Souls is the gaming and cultural reference point everyone understands so it’s easier to compare to Dark Souls.

        • RedViv says:

          Oh, I did not mean your well-argued piece that does not talk in absolutes, more that …thing… by Mathtoolongnicknameguy that is always linked to when people talk about this or the other Souls’ strengths.

    • Tengil says:

      The waypoint teleportation and hub area a lot of people seem to be complaining about are actually more in line with Demon’s Souls, which was structured around separate areas which you progressed in by unlocking waypoints allowing you to teleport between them and the hub after beating bosses, with the hub filling similar functions as described here (levelling, repairs, shopping). The areas in Dark Souls were all connected in one big map, checkpoints weren’t strictly limited to bosses and teleportation between areas becomes available fairly late in the game, creating a different style of play which some people seem to prefer. This sounds closer to Demon’s Souls than the first Dark Souls but without having played the game I can’t really say.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        The difference is Demons Souls made up for the Hub by essentially having several intra-connected worlds that were just straight up insane conceptually and visually. Vertical, City-sized Prison with blind Mindflayer guards, topped by skyscraper high towers infested by a gigantic organic cancer and then you ride down the elevator and you see the roots of the towers in a dirty swamp of blood? Floating Island topped by a castle surrounded by flying manta-rays that descends into necromancer haunted crypts (and I don’t remember the last layer)? Diseased Swamp with waist high mud, thick fog full of giant leaping leeches that leads into a bloody bog full of undead babies worshipping a bloody priestess?

        Demons Souls was absolutely incredible with it’s worlds, so them not being connected physically is no problem.
        Dark Souls 2 has you teleport from one European castle to another identical one several times because they didn’t bother to figure out a way to fit them together physically. It’s just lazy, since they could do it in Dark Souls 1.

  20. Nenjin says:

    I very much agree that waypoints have kind of broken the sense of the world. Having to foot slog everywhere in DS, while it kind of sucked, helped the player assemble their mental map of the world.

    The waypoints take that away, and combined with what feels like the kind of arbitrary level design choices (one minute it’s a coastline, the next Anor Londo, the next caves) it makes the areas feel disconnected from each other instead of this wonderful, convoluted puzzle that fits together once you’ve seen enough.

    Plus, DS had a sort of concise plan: big city, a few outlying areas. DS2 is trying to create a “land” of mystery and weirdness, but because of the larger spaces conceptually and physically….it’s harder to fill with meaningful imagery and content. Anyone that’s ever tried to build a fantasy world knows that the more space you have, the more ideas you have to have to fill it. And it feels like a few of the areas were phoned in, compared to Dark Souls 1.

  21. dongsweep says:

    I have been having a lot of fun with Dark Souls 2 but playing just makes me miss Dark Souls and now I kind of want to reinstall that instead of continuing DK2.

  22. Armatool says:

    Overrated crap

  23. mathead says:

    That was the first thing I thought when I heard about the travel system: there goes the feeling of being lost far, far away from any secure homebase. Being able to jump out of a grim dungeon and return to Majula is pretty convenient but the game loses some depht. I remember how lost I felt between Blighttown and the swamps, knowing that I still would have to make it back and, on my first visits, losing my way at every turn. Now, I feel like a paratrooper who is being parachuted into different mission areas, to be fetched back later on. I definitely preferred how the original Dark Souls only allowed fast travelling later in the game, after hours of painful dungeon crawl.

  24. DatonKallandor says:

    Okay, real talk about Dark Souls 2:
    The world is boring at least for the first long-ass time. Like seriously, incredibly boring. Old European crumbly castles may have been interesting the first two games, but they had the brains to make them only a short part of the game and then go full on hog wild with the environments. Dark Souls 2 is european crumbly castle for AGES.

    Bosses. Yes Dark Souls 2 has a lot of bosses. Unfortunately those bosses are mostly the same. Out of the first 6 bosses you fight, 4 are the same fight with different health pools/numbers of bosses, one is your basic Dark/Demons Souls tutorial boss and one is a goddamn Dark Souls 1 reskin. And the next one? Another one that’s the same as the same 4 you already fought. The optional one after that? Another Dark Souls 1 reskin.

    Then there’s the development shortcuts and all-around stupid decisions. Gutting the lighting engine so the consoles could get 60 frames? TERRRIBLE decision. The game looks incredibly flat, the whole torch mechanic is wasted (and it’s buried deep in the game, including entire inventory items that are essentially pointless because light is pointless) and you’ve got lighting bugs all over the place (lighting leaking through solid objects is the most obvious and glaring issue).
    And let’s not forget pointlessly removing the invincibility on backstabs and counters. Because everybody loves being locked into long animations and NOT being invulnerable for the duration.
    Oh yeah, and the stuff any basic tester would have pointed out, like having to go through the same 5 lines of dialogue every time you want to level up, or having to go through a loadscreen so you can level up when just leaving it on the bonfire would have done the exact same job.

    All in all it’s absolutely serviceable. It’s more Dark Souls. It’s less good Dark Souls, but it’s more of it, so if all you wanted was more and you don’t mind it being worse, Dark Souls 2 is awesome. If you wanted the same kind of leap we got with the Demons Souls -> Dark Souls transition you’re out of luck.

    • mathead says:

      True. The whole lighting system really is pointless and discouraging when you imagine how it was probably thought out initially. I kept asking myself what the point was in lighting all these fires wen I realized that the game had probably been conceived as a walk into dark, creepy settings and that this concept had been sacrificed in favor of a game athmosphere that would possibly appeal to a broader, less sophisticated audience. It sicks me to imagine how much better the presumed original concept would possibly have been.
      I think this and the teleport system are two sad decisions that are both aimed at making the game less frightening and more consumer friendly. What a waste of talent and opportunity. It’s still a good game but it’s clearly not what the audience that made it popular had waited for. Seeing how Dead Space went from a dense, claustrophobic horror shooter to a goofy adventure shooter with microtransactions and awkward coop, I don’t expect anything else from Dark Souls’ next installment. Maybe some other company can come up with a high-quality game that’s really hard and creepy but I don’t expect much from From Software after this.
      still a good game, though. Sigh!

    • Qazi says:

      Soul of the mind, key to life’s ether.
      Soul of the lost, withdrawn from its vessel.
      Let strength be granted, so the world might be mended.
      So the world might be mended.

  25. NothingFunny says:

    I would argue that the game is far from “well-crafted” as Iv been struggling with contolls all evening with both mouse/kb and gamepad and then searching the net for all the possible fixes and controller emulators. I havent gotten any enjoyment from the game, I really hope I will…

  26. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    Great review Adam, trust you to cut through the hype and deliver a genuine critical analysis. I’m 13 hours in so can’t verify all of what you’ve said but certainly the levels so far have been a bit repetitive in style barring Heide’s lighthouse, and the quick-travel definitely removes some tension and those “should I rest or not?” conundrums from the first game.

    I am, however, loving it so far, the combat is PERFECT just ever so slightly honed from the first game, it is a joy to wail on hollows I could do it all day if they didn’t stop spawning after a while. And the From sense of humour is still there:

    SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT!
    Anyone else get their curiosity punished with a sex change? Open a secret door to a bell tower defended by midget phantoms and other players? Jump pirate hollows drunkenly asleep at their dinner table? Get endlessly squashed by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ bigger brothers? Get bum-rushed by 3 little piggies? This game is so much FUN. And yet still desperately challenging enough to deliver those little endorphin rushes of triumph when you beat a boss or find a new area. Still feel like I’m in the presence of genius, even if development was in new hands. Bravo, From Software.

  27. ffordesoon says:

    I was dreading reading this, but it highlights what I like about RPS. That is to say, the reviews are entirely holistic and don’t try to be “fair.”

  28. thebigJ_A says:

    You climb to the tippy-top of Earthen Peak, a peak seen clearly from outside as surrounded by flatland. At the tip-top, you take an elevator, *straight up into the sky* for hundreds of feet, and come out in….

    a castle sinking in lava.

    Come on, From, you’re better than this.

    Oh, and No Man’s Wharf is like 300 feet below sea level. :/

  29. MkMax says:

    My biggest bugbear with the game so far is the way they gimped dodging by making everyone lock on you and enemy weapon’s hitboxes too big, way too many times i end doing a 10 minute backstep-waitcombo-stab-rinse-repeat, i wish different enemies had different weakpoints but it seems the all enemies follow the “backstab-immunity” theme

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Have you increased your agility (via Adaptability or Attunement, or both) till it’s around 100?

      Doesn’t take much in points. Makes a HUGE difference.

      • MkMax says:

        ill try but thats seems like its going to take a while

        • Blackcompany says:

          Beginning area mooks aside, I was unable to backstab anyone at all.

          Then I switched from a mace to the Estoc. I am backstabbing all over Lost Bastille now. Every one of those sword wielding guys – the ones entirely too similar to Darkwraiths – go down easy. I think its as much about the speed and agility of your weapons as it is your own. That, and the stats governing those weapons. I say this because I have no adaptability beyond the base stat for a warrior, which is little enough.

        • thebigJ_A says:

          Take a while? nah. I think you misunderstand. Agility is a derived stat, like defense, not one you put points in. Leveling the Adaptability stat, or Attunement to a lesser extent, increases it. Same way Vigor increases health.

          It makes your rolls have more invincibility frames, as well as generally making thing faster and smoother (drinking estus and such)

          If you’re not a caster so you have no attunement, get your Adaptability up to 18-20 to have around 100 Agility. As a caster you’re putting points in attunement anyway so you need less or no Adaptability to get to 90-100 Agility. (The testing I’ve seen suggests any more than ~110 Agility is overkill, but jury’s still out I think)

          You don’t *have* to have high Agility. It’s part of the whole “more RPG-ish” thing this has going. But if you dont, be prepared for your rolls to suck, to be less AGILE. Makes sense to me. Turtling behind a greatshield would be an alternative.

          And what’s your encumbrance? It’s not at all like the first game, with break points between roll types. There’s just the one at 75% for fat rolling, but below that it’s gradual all the way down. So 40% you roll a little further than 50%. 34, 33, 32%further still. Also effects your stamina regen speed.

      • Mman says:

        Around 95 agility seems to be enough to avoid just about every “bullshit” dodging issue in the game, 100 helps general dodging further but you don’t need it right away.

  30. racccoon says:

    I hope it is as good as you say, I been watching a lot of vids on this game, slowly deciding for myself, it seems alright, My one hate is a none open world. corridors tend to make feel locked in and forced to go forward sideways and backwards. but, on that note I have had many an enjoyable time in older games that did this. So by your ecouraging review I might reach deep on my mouse finger and click the button.

  31. pasports31 says:

    Although I loved DS2, I was let down. The world, characters, and lore weren’t as interesting as DS1, and I didn’t think the level design was as good. Also thought the move from the very much interconnected world to the ample eventual dead ends was a step in the wrong direction. It’s a great game, just compared to DS1, it feels… shallow.

  32. EkoAzarak says:

    Excellent review… the teleporting just sours the experience for me. the combat is fine. but it was always the brutality of the world, its grandness and size, that elevated the dominating sense of danger – the fear that skill alone wasnt a guarantee to victory in such a dangerous world. Teleports just ruins the “world” and turned Dark Souls 2 into a cramped combat arena.

    meh

  33. Lobotomist says:

    In my opinion Dark Souls 2 is better game , game design wise.

    Every element of the game is taken in consideration, re-evaluated and improved.
    The game is far easier now as well. But not because its challenges are easier , but because of some frustrations are eliminated by better game design.

    So what happened ?
    Same thing that happens to (almost) every sequel, be it game or movie or book… Some charm was lost during transformation.

    Does this make Dark Souls 2 bad game ? Not at all.
    Is it worse than Dark Souls 1 ? Its bit different, it lacks that “hopelessness and the despair”

    By the way. I think that the great part of DS2 missing that “feeling” is because they removed the “darkness” , light and dark engine, that was shown before game release.

    I think that it would make all the difference. And perhaps even make game better than DS1.

    • yotmato says:

      A friend of mine picked up DkS2 without ever playing any souls games, I can assure you, he feels “despair and hopelessness”, might be that you, me and a lot of other people, are already used to Souls mechanics? Thats what makes you lose that feeling, because you’re better equipped in your head to deal with all the trolling baits and nuisances from Souls games that make you desperate if you’re not so familiar with it. Just my 2 cents, I love DkS2 as much as i loved the first one, my only grip might be slightly more shallow level design, but the experience is intact. And i completely agree with you, i also think DkS2 is way better game-design wise, making the game “easier” because of better design choices rather than lowering the difficulty of the challenges themselves.

  34. unangbangkay says:

    “Dark Souls II may be a stronger RPG but it’s a weaker adventure.”

    Most of the other complaints are valid, but this one really stuck in my craw, because that statement is utter bullshit. It’s the kind of complaint that comes from an actual armchair adventurer who only fantasizes about going places without ever leaving the safety.

    It’s not an adventure unless I’m halfway to death, despair clinging onto life by the thinnest thread? Must every worthwhile experience only be judged by its closeness to what we see on (the entirely staged) Bear Grylls survival series?

    Is there no joy to be found in being able to see a great vista without having to worry about being run through by a horrible monster the minute you look away? Does turning on the lights take away from the survivalist “adventure” of tumbling down the stairs to fracture your skull on the tile? Thoreau went to the woods to enjoy living without support, but was never more than a dozen miles from civilization, and journeyed several times to Concord. Was his experience lessened for it? Maybe, if the only experience that mattered was the one where you had to work really really hard to not die.

    Hyperbole, I know.

    It’s not like I have a problem with grinding despair that seems inherent to the Souls experience, but the implication that any form of additional accommodation, of safety, any “give” on the part of the design somehow compromises the entire affair is disingenuous at best.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Interesting points and I mostly agree with you. You’ve missed the mark a little as to what I meant by ‘adventure’. I’d love a game that gave me vistas to look at without any hostile parties trying to stop me – hell, I’m one of the people who championed Euro Truck Simulator 2 and that’s partly because I consider it to be a game about touring and exploring new places.

      Dark Souls is dark fantasy so I do concentrate on the aspects that emphasise the grim and the grimy, but I’m not trying to argue that it’s the struggle that makes every adventure. Maybe you’ll think this is bullshit as well, but I don’t enjoy quick travel in general because it’s often a reason to ignore the places in between and that’s where the greatest surprises are often found. Most travellers of any sort – whether they’re urban wanderers or jungle trekkers – will find the most memorable sights and experiences in between the points on a map rather than at the destination.

      And, yes, funnily enough, when I’m playing a fantasy roleplaying game I tend to do it from the comfort of my own front room rather than while hanging off the side of a mountain.

      Hope you manage to clear your craw!

      • unangbangkay says:

        Fair enough, but if nothing else, you at least have to make it to those bonfires before being fast travel to them, and that doesn’t lessen the adventure in my book.

        Why not? Well, thanks in part to DS2’s handling of respawning enemies, and the rinse-repeat nature of a Souls game, trekking through these wildernesses becomes a commute after a while. And if there’s any place where there’s little adventure to be found, it’s on a commute. I would absolutely love “fast travel” from my house to my office, and I don’t think my life would be worse for it. It’s the difference between playing a no-fast-travel game of Far Cry 2 and a no-fast-travel game of Far Cry 3. The first one is a miserable exercise in self-flagellation, the other is a lively trek through lovely vistas you can legally shoot people in.

        Does it make for a slightly less coherent, “tight” world? Sort of. Unlike Demon’s and DS 1 you don’t wind in and out of the same space, slowly discovering shortcuts and “getting to know” these places like the back of your cold dead hands. But DS2 trades that budding familiarity in for scale. I love Boletaria and Lordran, but they never felt BIG to me in the same way Skyrim, Morrowind, Azeroth and Cyrodiil did. They certainly didn’t feel as big as the games implied in their few (epic) cinematics. Drangleic does.

        It’s not the same, then, but change is good, if not always preferable. Besides, they could always go back to the old approach. I doubt Bandai Namco will let From end Souls here. They are Japan’s Activision, and will squeeze this series until it starts to feature bloody Ace Combat jets. Which might even be cool, you never know.

        • unangbangkay says:

          Addendum: In Demon’s Souls you basically got a fast-travel spell by mid-game, too, so even back then From was willing to acknowledge that the commute isn’t always an adventure.

          And on the topic of Skyrim’s adventurous open world, I find it would be good deal more adventurous if navigation wasn’t so hilariously inadequate that to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time you needed to glitch your horse over a damn mountain range. Thank goodness for those mods that cleared out the clouds and highlighted the main roads.

      • Lobotomist says:

        I think that Adam pinpointed the exact reason why DS2 lack “that feeling” with superb precision.

        But on other hand. I praise it for this.

        I barely managed to play DS1 because it was too demanding. I dont start a game with my limited time if i know that I will have to backtrack hour or two, again and again.

        DS2 removes this. And one thing that people didnt notice is that enemies that gradually disappear from area – let you repeat bosses after you fail, without having to go trough all the enemies again and again.
        Something that made me pull my hair out countless times in DS1 (and resolve to save scumming)

        So yes these changes make game easier and more approachable.
        It does remove some of the “feeling of despair”

        But heck, i am happy about this.

  35. strangeloup says:

    I think the problem I have with Dark Souls 2, and to maybe not quite the same extent with DaS1, is that while I really like the lore, art direction, setting etc., I’ve found little to enjoy in terms of the gameplay itself. I managed to finish DaS1 fairly recently — with the exception of a couple of optional bosses — but thinking back on it, I can’t think of a single area that I actually enjoyed for the gameplay aspect, rather than taking in the area design which I could easily have gleaned from a Let’s Play.

    The break point — literally, the disc is in fragments — for me with Dark Souls 2 was Iron Keep. The entire level is bloody awful, imho, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was a blind corner past a more-or-less instadeath flamethrower (have they fixed resistances yet?) around which there was a narrow passageway with a Turtle Knight, who could hit for about 70% health. You couldn’t back up because of the flamethrower, and you couldn’t go around because the passageway was so thin.

    There is, apparently, a way to turn the flamethrowers in that room off, but the damage had been done by that point.

    I’ve gone back to Demon’s Souls, which to me is the best game in the series. It feels a great deal fairer — I can think of only one death so far that was rather unfair, an invisible enemy hidden around a blind corner (in 4-2, I think?) — and I like the art direction and setting more in that title. Unfortunately I’ve had to start over, as my saves from the physical copy I borrowed from a friend don’t work with the digital version that was recently on sale, so I’ve had to start over, but I’ve found picking the Royalty class from the outset gives a much easier ride, at least to begin with.

    • Volcanu says:

      I wouldn’t consider DS2 to be my favourite of the Souls games but I definitely think it’s the least ‘cheap’ in terms of handing you unavoidable deaths.

      That bit you mention is nowhere near as hard as you make out. Firstly the flame thrower is intermittent- so you can time your run past it. Secondly there is a ladder in the corner -go up the ladder and you can turn off all of the flame throwers in the keep. That’s just you not looking at the environment. Alternatively you can lure it into the flamethrower and instantly kill it.

      Demon’s Souls has many more cheap deaths. The first bit of the Valley of Defilement is full of them. Boletarian Palace will kill you with a dragon’s breath from behind you if you don’t know to tease it out first and then time your run (and how would you the first time?). The Shrine of Storms spawns ghosts behind you if you go for a certain item. Or the boss fight against the Fool’s Idol – where if you don’t kill a certain hollow in an optional room, it respawns the boss. Don’t get me wrong – I love Demon’s, but let’s not pretend it didnt pull out a cheap death on you. Far more so than DS2 does in fairness.

      Perhaps it’s just that you’ve long since learned Demon’s traps?

      • strangeloup says:

        I reckon Demon’s and DaS2 are roughly equivalent in terms of cheapness — the first Dark Souls has some really outstanding moments of “okay no fuck this” — but dear god, I’d had enough of Iron Keep by that point. I did look out for the ladder in that room, but I couldn’t see it, so I assumed I was in the wrong place and tried to press on.

        You might be right that I’m more used to Demon’s, but I played Dark Souls first (as I didn’t have a PS3 at the time) and maybe it’s due to the different way healing is handled, but I can’t reliably clear an area in one go in DaS like I can on DeS. It also feels more reasonable in DeS that you get the Cling Ring (which limits your health reduction in Soul form) in the first level, whereas the equivalent item in DaS2 is harder to come by — and by that point you can have died enough that you’re down to 50% health, which makes it really difficult to progress, with no reliable way to get more Human Effigies. (Of course, this isn’t an issue in DaS1, as your health is the same if you’re human or hollow.)

        Agreed that Valley of Defilement can fuck right off, though. Why they decided to make the same sort of thing again in Dark Souls (Blighttown) and DaS2 (The Gutter, Black Gulch, Harvest Valley to an extent) is beyond me, as every time they seemed to be derided as the worst areas in the game.

        That being said I think that DeS has the most impressive area design, with Tower of Latria as a whole being particularly outstanding. I’m by no means saying DaS2 is bad, and aside from not gelling with the gameplay it definitely has some impressive aspects, it’s just not for me — except, I suppose, if it turns up in a Steam sale some time down the line for a tenner or so, by which point balance patches will have probably smoothed out the whole experience.

  36. Volcanu says:

    Does anyone else almost wish that you were limited to just the one co-op summon for boss fights?

    Some of my best moments in DS2 came when it was just me and one other person in a frantic and close run battle to the death with some of the early/mid game bosses. Standouts were a battle against the Lost Sinner, where me and the other guy’s health bars were down so low that another hit would kill us, frantically evading and drawing the Sinner away from our ally so the other one of use could get a few hits in. The sense of triumph when we finally defeated it was awesome. My heart hasn’t been pounding like that for a long time.

    Similarly I had a great battle with the gargoyles, with me and my ally double teaming the ‘goyles one by one – taking it in turns to cover whilst the other one withdrew to swig estus, before we got separated and had to fight our own desperate ‘backs to the wall’ combat against two foes each, somehow managing to prevail.

    By contrast, many of the boss battles with 3 players involved end up with all of you wailing so hard on the boss you almost feel sorry for it. Honestly most of the time the poor bugger doesn’t know which way to face and withdrawing to heal is so easy because there are always 2 other people to keep it occupied. Even the final boss is a cakewalk if there are 3 of you hurling lightning bolts at it.

    I know you COULD choose to just summon one person to help you with a boss but honestly if you see two summon signs right there, most people will take advantage. I actually ended up choosing to solo quite a few bosses eventually. Don’t get me wrong, I think co-op works much better this time out (in terms of connectivity) and I get a real buzz out of helping people defeat bosses as a Sun Bro – just wondering if anyone else had similar feelings that 2 human summons kind of unbalances the boss fights?

    • Anguy says:

      I haven’t played DS2 yet but had the exact same experience in DS1 recently (Playing it for the first time). A friend of mine who had his first run at roughly the same time as I did but was a little ahead always made faces and said “ooooh that’s going to be tough” when I told him what I would be doing next in the game. Turns out I almost always had some help by summoning someone and it made the bosses incredibly easy. I would even go as far as to claim that even the AI summons take a lot of the challenge away, even when you just have one of them. So for me it wasn’t as much a thing of “two summons make it too easy” but “any summon makes it too easy” at least for most of the bosses.

      For a while now I wasn’t able to see any more summoning signs which might be due to the locations and bosses I tackled recently or the fact that I have a SL that’s too high for most of the areas since I spent a good amount of time farming. So for the last 4 or five bosses (4 kings, Bed of Chaos, Centipede Demon and Nito) I only had the company of AI summons or none since no other summoning signs showed up.

      • Volcanu says:

        Yeah have to say none of those DS1 bosses you mention ever had player summon signs outside on any of the times I played through it.

        AI summons do make bosses a fair bit easier, but more for the way they distract the bosses attention allowing you to get in lot’s of hits. The problem in adding multiple human summons is that they also deal significant amounts of damage.

        With DS2 it feels like a lot of the bosses are designed with a view to them being co-oped, but probably with only one other summon. That gives you the sweet spot for difficulty/fun in my opinion. There are one or two that are very difficult solo, usually the ‘multiple’ combatants bosses (Ruin Sentinels, I’m looking at you!).

        I probably did a good 1/4 or 1/3 of DS2 before the servers were switched on and it certainly added to the challenge. But as I said in my post, the most fun I’ve had with it was some of the mid game bosses with one other summon, before either of us had figured out the optimal boss strategies and were surviving on our wits and reactions.

  37. meepmeep says:

    Two huge improvements over DS1:

    1. Almost every aspect of online play is improved. There are huge PvP possibilities, and I am hugely enjoying playing through the game a second time with a friend in perma-coop, which has been made possible via the name-engraved ring. The increased difficulty of bosses etc during summoning is just about perfect.

    2. NG+ is no longer just everything with +50% health and damage. It adds loads of extra enemies, red phantoms and the like, and is a real, deep challenge.

    But yes, it broadly plays like an overproduced double-album to Dark Soul’s finely-crafted riff-heavy breakout album, where Demon’s Souls was the creatively weird garage band demotape. Overall, a 9/10 compared to DS1′s 10/10.

  38. Gargenville says:

    Hey I’m 46 minutes in and after 30 minutes of cutscenes I’m doing a torch puzzle in a giant tree while occasionally slapping down nonthreatening enemies. Can someone please confirm Dark Souls 2 starts with a tepid Zelda homage because I’m worried Steam might have downloaded Darksiders 2 by accident.

  39. webs1 says:

    I started as a deprived yesterday, and so far I am really thankful for the fast-travelling option.
    I also think the commute-analogy unangbangkay makes is a valid one.
    Although I can see how it may detract from the experience once I have advanced further in the game.
    In terms of challenge, starting at soul level 1 without any weapons and only the most basic of armor did work for me so far. Being able to finally equip a short sword and a shield after more than an hour already felt like a real achievement.

    • crabsnapper says:

      That’s acually when this game clicked for me – broke my broken sword in the tutorial area – and all you get in that area is the dagger. So there I was in Majula, with the blacksmith locked out of his workshop and no way to buy or repair a weapon. I was going for a strength build so what I really wanted was a big heavy sword of some kind, the dagger was barely adequate. Loved that feeling – you’re on your own, you have to earn your spurs as it were.

      So I go down to the lighthouse area with the great big hulking knights and start chipping away at the first one with the dagger. Took ages! Well what does he drop, the very first knight? Only the Old Kinght Greatsword, which is freaking awesome and I’m still using it now! That’s when when the achievement “This is Dark Souls” popped into my mind, not the first time I died.

      • webs1 says:

        I guess you’re much better than me at the gameplay, then. I can’t really imagine facing this guys with my low stats and dagger..nah, maybe I’ll give it a try..
        What I realized after swapping the dagger for the short sword is how conveniently fast the little bugger is. Swinging the sword felt like ages in comparison..Maybe a built with some sort of fast weapon that does a bit of damage would be fun..

  40. Gpig says:

    For the first 7 hours I did not enjoy it, and I loved Dark Souls 1. (Well, the first hour was spent with me trying every day from Thursday through Sunday to launch the game until the patch on Monday finally made it playable.) It was too hard. I had to do nearly perfect runs to get anywhere because every time an enemy hit me it took off nearly all of my health bar. I retried the first armored humanoid boss so many times that all of the enemies along the route stopped respawning. (Which, by the way, is an awesome feature and makes repetitive boss runs with one hit kill deaths much more tolerable.) I could see all the tips on the ground saying to try co-op before that boss, so I turned into a human and looked for summon signs and couldn’t find them.

    I had used the wiki for the first Dark Souls a lot to look up what an item or covenant did, but I decided I wouldn’t for DS2 since people said that part of their experience was “finding things out on their own”. I figured if I loved Dark Souls 1 I might as well try playing DS2 the way others said they played it. I didn’t know that enemies stop respawning, or that the health bar decreased with death, or how to get it back once that started happening. Finding that stuff out was fun, but 7 hours in I felt like quitting and wondered if maybe I had just outgrown the series.

    I finally caved and looked up how to summon. It turns out you can’t if you’re in certain covenants. I looked up the covenant. The covenant I joined IN THE STARTER AREA disables co-op. It also makes enemies do more damage. Again, just to spare anyone else the 7 hours of frustration: THE COVENANT IN THE STARTER AREA IS A SECRET HARD MODE. I’m not putting that into a spoiler tag because honestly I think that’s a little messed up, plus things like the enemy respawn limit and health bar degradation aren’t spoiler tagged. The name of the covenant that is a secret hard mode in case you might have joined it (this I will spoiler): (errr, can’t get the spoiler tag to work so I won’t write it)

    I’m loving the game now. I’ve been helping people with co-op in the area that was giving me so much trouble before, and since I know it like the back of my hand I make a good guide. Last night someone invaded, and someone else from my covenant was summoned to help me fight. It was very cool. I went on to the next area after that boss and killed five soldiers that rush out of a tower all at once and felt like Jules from Pulp Fiction after having an entire gun clip miss (I am now a bum). It feels like Dark Souls 1 difficulty now. That is to say that it feels almost easy once I come to grips with it, but then I realize I still die several times in a play session, always have my guard up, and I move with cautious precision through the environments. What is actually easy is the feeling of playing more.

    • webs1 says:

      Sorry to say this but you seem to have not been paying attention when you joined that covenant.
      In my game it explicitly asked me if I was sure about it since the game would get harder once I joined. Which I took as enough of a warning to not join.

      http://ap.ign.com/pictures/articles/11884/69105.jpg

      It also should be noted that there is another, much more beginner-friendly, covenant in the starting area.

      • Gpig says:

        I just brushed aside the extra question “are you sure?” as a way to prevent you from accidentally joining a covenant since it’s such a big deal (although looking back at it, this was obviously stupid of me considering the game doesn’t protect you from accidentally hitting npcs). I took “arduous journey” as the standard boiler plate they use to describe what you do in the game in general. Like, it’s an “arduous journey” to level up in any covenant. I think a problem with using phrasing (and advertising) like that is it becomes a bit like crying wolf. I got used to everything being described as a long, difficult adventure in the game that it would really have to show rather than tell for me to understand it’s going to be difficult. For instance I just got to the bottom of the pit in the starting area. That would have been a good place to put the increased difficulty covenant because I would just assume, oh this was a difficult area to get to. Similarly, they often put good gear and tough enemies in those areas.

        It’s just a bit strange to find the increased difficulty covenant in the starting area, with no enemies around it, right by the 3 houses. Doesn’t exactly scream difficulty to me.

        • webs1 says:

          Hehe, I think for a Souls game the warning was quite obvious.
          I do agree about the odd placement of the shrine, however.
          Maybe they wanted what is essentially a higher-difficulty-option to be easily accessible at the beginning of the game?

          • damoqles says:

            Doesn’t Shalquoir warn you about that covenant as well? I believe she does.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      And that boss is a just a skillcheck really.

      You “simply” have to parry it in front a ballista, that will stun him and make you able to shoot him, which kills 95% of it’s health in one go. Thinking outside of the box is still a feature in DS2 aswell!

      If you want it easier, use the Buckler shield that you can find in some rubble outside near the bonfire where you find the hag, it has a little larger parry window, which makes sense as the other stats are garbage.

      And yeah, sadly the champion covenant is probably the crappiest one if you’re not interested in fist fighting or higher difficulty in general, even that great ring you get after a lot of work is quickly surpassed by it’s +1 version which can be found halfway in the game, with the +2 later on.

      • GROM says:

        I thought the ballistas were for co op :o

        I fought him multiple times until i learned his pattern, put down a summon sign so to help someone else, killed him, regained humanity, and solo’d him, really satisfying.

        I have to remember to use parry more :D

        • Volcanu says:

          My experience of the Ballista in co-op was summoning two people to help me defeat the boss, having him firmly on the ropes, then watching in dismay as some klutz sent a huge bolt tearing through the air, missing the 20ft tall floating armoured behemoth completely and go thudding into my soft, fleshy body, insta-killing me.

          I was not amused.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Yep, the above post sums up my fears about that feature!

          But yeah, it’s definitely possible to kill it “normally”, and it’s something you’ll also do in NG+ and stuff where you’ll keep finding him around, with no ballistas anymore, the issue with the first encounter is that it’s so early on that a slow starting build might suck at it.

      • Gpig says:

        It honestly didn’t occur to me to parry it. I just figured the sword was too big to so. Good to know. It becomes stunned after just a few hits regardless, but one hit and I died. It felt like phase 2 of the Ornstein and Smough fight where I couldn’t make a mistake or I died, except their attacks were more telegraphed and easier to dodge. It just seemed strange to have a “skill check” so early when Dark Souls had such easy beginner bosses. But like I said, it was super easy once I left that covenant.

        I really hate that the overhead slash of one of 3 strike combos tracks you if you try to roll around to the back. I feel like rolling around to the back was such a reliable staple for me in the first game. Against that enemy if I tried to roll around when it put the sword over its head, it would spin to target me.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Yeah, i actually got the parry idea from a mark left by someone, but it might not be obvious especially as it’s hard to imagine being able to deflect such a monster thing!

          Mostly, the problem about that boss is that it’s found on a pretty obvious starting area, and as you reach him you might still have an overall crappy character that still doesn’t have enough all around progression, aside from “skills”.

          His horribly hateful attacks would likely be easier with a couple more invulnerability frames in your roll, which is a feature you might not even know existed at that point, while simply trying to randomly roll as much as you can.

  41. sushibandit says:

    Longtime lurker, registered to reply.

    I feel that allowing travel to and from every single bonfire in every single map was massive overkill on their part and significantly detracts from the oppressively tense atmosphere that a ‘Souls game should have. A better solution (while still allowing for more flexibility than DS1) would have been allowing a single bonfire toward the middle of each “zone” to serve as a fast travel beacon. That would still cut down on “grindy” amounts of travel time, without making every single bonfire a “get out of jail free” card like they are now.

    That said, I have very few other complaints about the game. PC master race, indeed. Online play that actually works (extremely well) is enough of a reason alone for anyone to jump ship from DS1 to DS2.

  42. GROM says:

    As someone who finished DS the day before DSII released, I feel I can honestly say I prefer number two a lot more. Sure you don’t have another nailbiting descent into the depths and blighttown and the euforia of getting out again (wich sucks I agree) but you have an overall more balanced game. And people seem to easily forget that DS was only connected until you got to sen’s fortress, because it’s all linear after that ending with bonfires for wich the warping was essential to get out.

    They just smoothed the experience but made a lot of stuff harder. Something I see a lot of people complaining about is he multiple enemy packs wich I personally love, it’s even clearly stated in the the tutorial how you can smoothly move between targets yet a lot of people just call it a cheap tactic. Solo Belfry gargoyles was one of the most satisfying bossfights I had between both games because it made you really be aware of you targets and evirnoment.

    Gone is the glue in wich your DS character moved and it gives you ample opportunity to counter tracking enemies, I love the fact that just endless circle strafing for a backstab is gone. People seem to be stuck in the previous episode, refusing to adapt to the new rules that have been set in the game. And dark souls is very much a game game. It shows in in every mechanic that you are in control, no hand holding, no free passes. If you really hate the changes so much just do yourself a favor and spend your money on something that makes you happy.

    • Christo4 says:

      I agree in part. Not really sure if it’s necessarely better, but it’s definitely just as good.
      I think people forget that basically DS1 was only good until anor londo, after that it became quite mediocre and also the PvP was complete crap imo, especially since you could wear the heaviest armor and still flip-roll.
      I also agree on the strafe-backstab. The enemies locking on i find it a feature, now a downside since they aren’t dumb anymore. It makes fights better imo, not just cheap strafe to backstab.
      And regarding the multiple bonfires, if you think about it a bit it makes sense. I mean you have more enemies, which lok-on, your health drops if you die and you can get invaded even while hollow. If they weren’t close enough to each other and to the bosses then it’d be pretty damn annoying.
      Also, i think people forget that the taurus demon has been reused, the capra demon as well, the area before lost izalith sucks ass, Pinwheel also was reused before Nito with several spawns and the asylum demon was reused 3 times!!! albeit with more aoe attacks, but still almost the same overall.
      Most people who say DS1 was such a masterpiece should really REALLY play through it again with a critical view. If you really look at it, it’s pretty clear that it really wasn’t that great. Also, it isn’t that hard either since now you know how to play it, which is why you hear many say that DS2 is easy, it’s not, imo if anything it’s harder, especially at the beginning since you can’t strafe around the hollows anymore.

  43. Bobtree says:

    As a twice-platinumed Souls series veteran, I’m halfway or so through DS2, and I both like the improvements (much simpler upgrading) and agree with many of the complaints (weaker characters, drab world).

    It has all the recycled ideas, polish, and lack of highs and lows you expect from a three-quel. Still it plays very well, and is sometimes great, but with fewer rough edges overcoming the challenges feels less triumphant.

    I suspect the real Dark Souls 2 is awaiting me in NG+.

  44. jonahcutter says:

    I’ve found it pretty weak. From environment to graphics to mechanics, it’s a large step backward overall.

    I do like the slow weakening of the health bar as you die. I do like the Demon Souls-style inventory.

    I don’t like the disjointed world, the warp anywhere bonfires (without earning it), and having to go back to the hub to level up.

    The animations are stiffer and a bit cartoonish looking. Reminiscent of animations from an earlier generation of games. They lack the graceful weight and momentum they had in the previous game.

    The enemies track you through their animations more, which is a cheap way of increasing “difficulty”. As well as looking silly and breaking immersion when they spin around like tops. This happened somewhat in the earlier games when enemies jump attacked. And it felt out of place there as well, though perhaps a limitation of the game engine. Here it happens far more often in basic attacks.

    The hitboxes are suspiciously large at times. Perhaps another corner cut to increase “difficulty”.

    I find the pvp in the Souls games pretty weak and poorly integrated. Generally unbalanced and too favorable to min/maxing builds and gear, and big-hit backstabs. And that’s when it’s not outright laggy and/or hacked. I like the idea of invasions (I just find the implementation poor) but Souls pvp always felt like a chore to me. I wish I could experience the exhilaration others get out of it. But it typically just comes across as cheap, tedious and immersion- breaking. It’s a good whiteboard idea that has never been manifested very well.

    And the new iteration is worsened by forcing it on players. I despise the forcing of players into pvp. It smacks of being unable to create a system that many players would engage in otherwise. So they link it to the fun and very popular co-op, messaging and bloodstain systems. It should not require a necessary-to-farm item to temporarily shut off (an item also necessary to increase your humanity and health bar) the pvp a lot of players would immediately opt out of if given the chance.

    It’s ironic that the calling card of the Souls series has been “tough but fair”. And while that itself was at times a questionable assertion (the first Capra Demon encounter in Dark Souls is as cheap as they come), it did hold up far more than it didn’t. But its pvp is the opposite and based around being as unfair as possible. It’s schizophrenic.

    Overall the whole experience feels cheap, rehashed and lacking the inspiration of the previous two Souls games. It wears its difficulty on it’s sleeve. Even having the witches go a bit meta and brag about it, which ends up feeling like used car salesmanship. The previous games didn’t brag in game (the out-of-game marketing of course did) about being difficult, they just were by the nature of the world and mechanics.

    It has some high points, and will click at times and remind me of the older experiences. But it’s almost about nostalgia more than outright, intense fun on it’s own. It probably would be a good game on it’s own. But it’s not on it’s own. It sells itself under the name of it’s predecessors, so can be judged against them. And it suffers greatly from the comparison.

    • tormos says:

      So, because the PvP that was in Dark Souls exists again, this game is worse than Dark Souls? Logical.

      • Gpig says:

        That’s an oversimplification, tormos. He made several other points both for (inventory and health mechanics), and against (stiffer animations, disjointed world). As for pvp, he specifically states: “And the new iteration is worsened by forcing it on players.” In the original game you couldn’t be invaded unless you were a human. I’m only replying because I also tend to oversimplify arguments, games, and ideas, but nobody ever corrects me when I do it (presumably because they figure what’s the use), and I would greatly appreciate it if people did.

        • webs1 says:

          The problem with his complaints is that they’re not really true.
          DS1 also forced PvP on players, in an arguably worse way than DS2 does. As many people here have stated, you aren’t likely to get invaded a lot before NG+ in DS2.
          In DS1 this, sadly, wasn’t the case. There were areas where you were invaded as soon as you became whole again (which you had to unless you wanted to face most bosses alone).

      • jonahcutter says:

        That’s not at all what I said. What I said was that the pvp is forced by tying it to the highly popular messages and co-op in DS2. That makes what I already considered poor pvp, worse.

    • sushibandit says:

      I despise the forcing of players into pvp. It smacks of being unable to create a system that many players would engage in otherwise. So they link it to the fun and very popular co-op, messaging and bloodstain systems. It should not require a necessary-to-farm item to temporarily shut off (an item also necessary to increase your humanity and health bar) the pvp a lot of players would immediately opt out of if given the chance.

      If you don’t want to pvp, play offline. Why should you be able to reap the benefits of other player soul messages and the possibility of summoning in help if you aren’t willing to take the risk of an unfriendly invader interfering?

      The belltower and rat covenant pvp mechanics are amazingly well done, and adds a not-insignificant threat to otherwise linear and predictable areas of the world. As far as “regular” player invasions go, I’ve got over 1.5m soul memory on one of my characters, still in NG, and I have yet to be invaded. From what I hear, “regular” invasions don’t start until NG+, where you should be competent enough (skill, stat, and gearwise) to fight other people.

      • jonahcutter says:

        And I think that is a deeply flawed approach. And the designers know it on some level. Which is why they tie what is very popular to many (messages and co-op) to something far less popular and deeply flawed (the pvp).

        I don’t find the pvp adds much of value to the game. It’s fun as an immersion-breaking lark. But that is also a massive negative, as I’d argue that the atmosphere and the immersion in it is far more important to the success of the game than the poorly integrated pvp. And being as the pvp is about exploiting unfair advantage as much as possible, I also find that is in opposition to the supposed core of the series: “tough but fair”.

        I understand what they’re going for with it. I don’t think it comes close to achieving it.

      • kyrieee says:

        I think the invasion mechanics are a regression from the first game. Instead of adding an element of tension (invasions happened in all areas and you didn’t know where the invader was) they add an element of tedium. When I enter Belfry Luna I’m going to get 2vs1ed instantly and I might as well suicide on the black phantoms and get it over with because when I respawn I won’t get invaded for another 10 minutes or so.

  45. Nate says:

    I think you (Mr. Smith) touched a little on some differences in story, but like so many of the changes between DS1 and 2, they feel neutral to me.

    In DS1, the story was about you, the protagonist. You were the “chosen undead.” There was a heroic journey for you. (Well, ostensibly at least, because to me, the game ended up feeling very nihilist and very buddhist– I came to the eventual conclusion that the only winning move was to stop playing, reject the journey, let all these actors live with their own ambitions, let Sif mourn. The only way to end the cycle of death and rebirth.)

    In DS2, there’s very little about you. It’s about the stories of everyone you meet. DS1 has been compared to Purgatory, but DS2 is really where that comparison becomes appropriate. It’s a collection of vignettes about death and grief, both for the loss of others, and the loss of one’s self, and so a focus on you– on a single character– doesn’t work for what it’s doing.

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