Why I Think Dark Souls II Is Better Than The Original

It’ll take a great deal of analysis to figure out how exactly Dark Souls III [official site] fits into the wider mythology of the series in terms of its tremendous, cryptic lore, and it might take even longer for critical opinion to decide where it ranks in the pantheon of Souls games. But we can all agree on one thing, right? Dark Souls is superior to its first sequel in almost every way.

Not Michael Johnson. Here, he argues that Dark Souls II changes and improves on the formula set by its predecessor and that it has the greatest expansions in all of gaming.

There’s a popular notion that Dark Souls is a modern masterpiece, yet it’s sequel – though well received initially – isn’t even close to reaching the same soaring critical heights as its predecessor. If you’re examining the two games based on the cohesion of its assorted places, the way they’re connected and the wondrous sights along the way then that notion would be correct. Dark Souls feels like you’ve been dropped in a queasy, vicious nightmare, while Dark Souls 2 feels like you’re in a ‘gameworld’ – a collection of levels strung together in an altogether more linear fashion.

Similarly, the Bell-ringing and ‘Four Grand Souls’ design of Dark Souls means that the boss fights are tied more deeply to the central goals of the game – there is a feeling of an event in one part of the world being attached to a grand design. In Dark Souls 2 you merely have to kill enough dudes to pass a gate, so you can go and kill some bigger dudes in a castle and the lands beyond it.

But the secret of Dark Souls is that actually once that grand journey is over, a second begins – the path of mastery – and Dark Souls 2 is far far better at this. For many who play Souls games, that first adventure is enough, they play to exhaustion, dragging themselves over the finish line and reflect on what they’ve been through. For others, that’s merely the start, returning to new game plus, repeating the game with a new focus, forewarned and pre-armed with knowledge.

Dark Souls has all of this yet it works far better as a first-time experience. Dark Souls 2’s Drangleic is meant to be lived in beyond that with an expanded scope, re-mixed enemy placements and a deeper focus on the Covenants where you can become invader or saviour (and PvP that actually works).

In his Wot I Think of Dark Souls 3, Adam touched upon the idea that as you die and die and die in an area you learn the nuance, transforming from a tip-toeing, shield raised scaredy-cat into a pseudo-psychic bringer of doom. Yet Dark Souls, in contrast to its sequel, is chock full of cheap tricks where your knowledge of the game can’t really help you. Instead, at times you rely on luck, the AI making terrible decisions, or worse yet your ability to complete a dangerous jump. These moments are well-known by veteran players, but can still cause intense frustration. Key offenders are the entirety of Blight Town, the arrow-bastards of Anor Londo and the Bed of twatting Chaos (as you can see I am highly creative at giving my primary antagonists appropriate nicknames).

Bed of Chaos is a brilliant conceit for a boss – a tiny enfeebled creature guarded by a living tree (tree-bastard), punching into recurring concepts of smoke and mirrors and withering decay. To defeat the Bed of Chaos you simply need to destroy two roots at either side of the chamber, and jump over a newly formed chasm to reach the feeble pygmy encased within the oak. But ‘that’ jump. Oh man ‘that’ jump. I once failed ‘that’ jump 16 times in a row and I very nearly graduated from the light thigh slap I usually resort to in moments of Souls’ annoyance to full on controller dismantling apoplectic rage.

When Dark Souls asks you to step away from the wonderful combat and engage in some light platforming the whole experience damn near falls apart. After 16 attempts I could feel my blood pumping furiously through newly protruding veins, knowing that once more I must endure the arduous journey through the lava and back to the fight. There’s no moment of jaw-gnashing frustration like this in Dark Souls 2, and it means I know going into a play-through that the only roadblocks are skill-based ones. If I can ‘git gud’, in the popular souls parlance, then luck doesn’t enter the equation. Of course it’s arguable that timing a jump is a skill too – but it’s essentially an unrewarding one, successfully completing a dangerous jump brings a sense of relief rather than any real achievement.

Let’s talk about equipment. Fashion Souls is obviously a thing, tapping up the true hardcore Souls player’s desire to dress up little dolls to make them look pretty. But one of the key elements that separates the two Souls games is choice.

The variety of ways in which you can build and equip your character in the second Dark Souls, without having to hamstring yourself, greatly outnumbers your options in the first. Duel-wielding in particular is a delight for veterans, boiling down the risk-reward essence of Dark Souls into a single mechanic – removing your shield is like taking off the training wheels. Dark Souls on the other hand has gear that is objectively superior and in some cases horribly overpowered. Havel’s set – an ugly heavy suit of armour – essentially turns parts of the game into easy mode, with three relatively challenging encounters (Four Kings, Gwyn and Seath) transformed into a walk in the terribly decayed park. Souls veterans will also be well aware of the crutch and new-player trap known as the Drake Sword.

In Dark Souls it is of course possible to complete the game with terrible weapons and in your pants, but it always feels as though you’re being pushed into making suboptimal choices if you want to express yourself through your character. In Dark Souls 2, there are more mechanics and more viable ways to play and fight, thanks to powerstance and with magic firmly broadened and rebalanced to support your choices.

The Souls games outright have the best DLC in games as far as I’m concerned. In the first Dark Souls we got an additional adventure, tacked on to the main game, where we delve into the story of Knight Artorias and descend the abyss for some of the best battles of the series. It’s brilliant, but it is essentially a side-quest and all the complaints about Dark Souls 2’s world building and lack of interconnectivity apply here too.

In Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, the DLC makes the very best use of that more modular approach with three distinct environments that reflect the creatures who inhabit them and vice-versa. They are masterworks of level design, packed full of traps, stunning sights, shortcuts and new enemies with the capacity to surprise and sunder. In terms of mastery the challenge routes of Dark Souls 2’s DLC offer the ultimate test, with devious enemy placements, amped up boss fights and terrifying stealthy reindeer (reindeer-basta… you get the picture).

I love Dark Souls, it’s everything those million think-pieces say it is – the product of a genius auteur, a beautiful decaying world of hardship, self-improvement and eventual triumph. But I love Dark Souls 2 just as much, because it takes the combat and it takes the skills I’ve learned and earned and it pushes them to the limit, while giving me the agency of choosing where I go and how I want to fight. My choices feel like my choices so much more. In Dark Souls 2 – I’m not just a Chosen Undead, I’m the Chosen Undead.

There is one final caveat though that almost tears my argument down – Dark Souls 2’s boss battles, pre-DLC, are mediocre, almost without exception mediocre. While Dark Souls had its own clunkers such as Ceaseless Discharge, it had moments of brilliance that its sequel was unable to match.

From this site

129 Comments

  1. Ansob says:

    Co-signed.

    Dark Souls 2 is a massive improvement over the first one as a game (i.e. from a mechanics point of view), even though it’s nowhere near as memorable or as good as an experience, since the world-building is so much weaker. And gosh, the DLC areas really are ludicrously pretty.

    Just about the only mechanic that changed for the worst (weapon durability bug aside) is that they went too far in toning down Endurance (which did need a nerf) – thankfully, Dark Souls 3 goes back and does it properly.

    • Ansob says:

      Oh, and definitely agreed on the bosses. Just about the only truly enjoyable boss fight for me was the Royal Rat Authority, which I felt was designed as a Sif homage. The only time I actually died to a boss more than once was Freja, and having replayed DS2 twice since, I feel like it was some kind of fluke, because I’ve never had her AI be anywhere near as aggressive as when I fought her the first time in the non-GOTY version.

      That, and the Pursuer was an ace early boss.

      • Verniy says:

        the DLC bosses too were nothing but cheap tricks, fume knight: huge swing radius with an outrageous damage output, sanctum 3v1 boss is a literal gank fest with havel in the front of it, ivory king is a 5v1 if you dont get any of the loyce knights via back tracking, twin tiger fight was just literal BS. The only memorable DLC fights for me were sir Alonne and sihn the dragon.

        • Drakolth says:

          Two of the bosses you are complaining about are co-op bosses, they are meant to be done with friends, and the complaining that you had to backtrack is a bit weird since your trying to defend dark souls 1

          • Verniy says:

            How are you supposed to do those bosses if you’re in the cov of champions? Also backtracking isnt bad, but the basis around the ivory king boss is bad, I didnt know i had to back track until after i died maybe 4 times then looked for a guide.

          • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

            Well, you can. Aren’t you a real champion? Hah!

        • PikaBot says:

          The gank squad boss was one of the best parts of the DLC. I mean, sure, the boss itself wasn’t exactly the peak of creativity, but the arena you fight them in is super great. You can play hit and run and whittle down this gank squad piece by piece by rolling into the trench and hoofing it. It’s an absolutely thrilling experience.

  2. The Algerian says:

    Errr what?

    The core gameplay mechanics in DS2 are terrible and horribly butchered, so… Agree to disagree.

    In DS1, I could mostly only blame myself when I died.
    Not in DS2, not by a long shot, the roll is pretty much useless until you level up your “adaptability” stat to like 35. And even then, not that much useful since you have to wait until your enemy is completely done with his attack (because he can track you mid-windup now), and even then, once you attacked, you can’t move for 1-2 full seconds, so you have to wait there like an idiot, hoping the enemy doesn’t attack during that time.

    • LacSlyer says:

      While you’re correct in what the differences are in DS2, you’re seriously over exaggerating and actually lining out why DS2 can be an improvement. Allowing the player to invest into a stat that can make their animations faster is a good thing. Further, having some – not all – enemy abilities have a homing like effect as well is good as it emphasizes roll timing rather than simple side stepping that was easily abused in the first game.

      Everything you complain about is something you can change and adapt to. Just because you dislike the changes, which is fine and a perfectly acceptable opinion, doesn’t necessarily mean the game is flawed to the point of your deaths being caused by it.

      • Arkayjiya says:

        “Allowing the player to invest into a stat that can make their animations faster is a good thing”

        God it’s not, no it’s not. Even fans of the second Dark Souls on the sub-reddit are horrified by adaptability, the stat that makes you unable to know if you’re actually in time for the invulnerability frame or not until you’ve settled on a specific level for long enough.

        It’s not a good thing, it’s one of the most horrendous aspect of the combat system and nearly everyone is incredibly happy to see it gone.

        I do think that overall DS2 combat was a little better though.

        • jhk655 says:

          Just being able to roll in more than 4 directions was a huge improvement by itself. I used to think like you, that the first one was better in certain ways than the second too, until i went back and played the first. the controls are much stiffer/clunkier in the first game. About the only way the first one was better was in the various aspects of art design. Game mechanics wise it’s mostly inferior.

          • thebigJ_A says:

            That’s got nothing to do with adaptability, which was being discussed as one way 2 was absolutely inferior to 1

            Also “wise” isn’t a word. Not the way you’re using it.

          • jsizzle says:

            clunkier maybe but it was still fine for the enemies and environments you are put up against. if ds1 had 8 directional rolling i think it would be a joke to play ;p

          • jhk655 says:

            ok you little prick. That snotty horseshit was totally unwarranted. I wasn’t even really arguing with you, just adding to the topic. Game mechanics was part of the general topic that the OP was writing about, even if didn’t directly apply to you whatever you said about adaptability. And second, unless you’re an absolute moron, you knew what I was saying. It’s a popular colloquialism. Would it have been better if I’d typed it as “game mechanics-wise” with a hyphen you fucking pedant?

      • jsizzle says:

        i registered here just to disagree with you. never in a souls game do i want to see iframes again. such a design flaw because their engine made the difficulty rise to an sacrificial level with enemies that turn on a dime and give off a constant health depletion whether t be magic damage or fire. demon’s souls and dark souls were way more about exploration and lore digging than difficulty. dark souls 2 forgot what itself in the most literal sense and became a giant meme for the internet becoming that stupidly hard game everyone thinks dark souls was. after you beat dark souls for the first time you realize it wasn’t so bad, it’s not about the difficulty.. it’s about the world building and dark souls 2 had NONE of it. as another poster said the combat in some aspects were definitely better like being able to freely sprint in lock-on and the 8 directional rolling was smart, hence both of their returns.

        • jsizzle says:

          rise to an artificial level*

          • jsizzle says:

            this comment medium really does suck and i think rock, paper, shotgun are all hacks. just let me edit my stupid mistakes in the comments lol.

      • The Algerian says:

        There’s nothing to adapt to. I know a death resulting from the game’s own design mistakes when I see one.

        I get hit because I can’t move at all for 1-2 full seconds after a successful hit with the fastest weapon in the game? It’s on the game, not on me.

        Especially if I can’t just evade the attack early because it can track you mid windup.

        Making a new version of the game mostly for people who beat the vanilla version and not even giving a warning about this to people who never played the initial release is also incredibly stupid, and shows very well that the sequel has been handled by people who don’t know what they’re doing.

  3. ButtonDownMind says:

    I thought I was the only one. Well, really. I’ve seen small pockets of others who prefer DSII over the original but we’re a tiny bunch. The world design of the original DS carries it a good distance but only so far and, in my eyes, that’s its only major advantage over DSII. The refined mechanics and the much greater number of viable builds in DSII have made going back to the original feel constricting. It’s still a masterpiece but I’ve replayed DSII several times and I only made it through Dark Souls fully once.

    • The Great Wayne says:

      Don’t be fooled. We are numerous, but far less vocal.

      DS1 is good but so overrated. Some part of its community won’t ever admit some souls or souls-y game is better than it, so DS2 was fighting a lost battle from the get-go.
      Some people who played demon souls got the same reaction to dark souls. Go figure.

      It’s mostly BS. DS1 got its share of tedium for the sake of it, and also bad design decisions. DS2 isn’t free from those either, but it’s more of a game.

      I wonder what would have happened if DS2 came first. Pretty sure the players then would have loathed the bad gameplay decisions of DS1.

      I think there’s a lot more to say about the sacralization phenomenon of DS1 than the actual game. Myself I put this on the timing it came out, when the oversimplification era was well established, and a whole new generation of gamers who didn’t knew 80’s gaming catalogue was starving for a challenge.

      For a lot of those younger players Dark Souls came out with a bang. For those of us who learned to play back in ghost’n goblins era, at a time where Internet and walkthroughs were unheard of, not as much.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Also Miyazaki, his absence was enough to have people decide DS2 was a failure even before it released. A lost battle from the get go indeed

        I loved DS1, but i also like good games.

      • Atrak says:

        Ah good ole Ghost’n’Goblins, it continues to haunt me to this day, I love it so much but I was so terrible at it, actually I am still terrible at it to be honest.

        I always imagined it sitting there laughing at me saying something like “Hahaha You suck, now put another coin in so I can humiliate you all over again”.

  4. Geebs says:

    I like a Dark Souls 2, but I think you’re making the Bioshock 2 mistake here – it’s a slightly off-kilter riff on the original with sub-par level design and a couple of irritating bits sanded off. It’s what you get when your game designer doesn’t understand Metal Gear Solid 2.

    DS2 suffers from a serious case of cheese in the combat. Huge dudes turning on a dime in a way which would have them sloshing about in their armour as a thin paste don’t mesh well with Souls gameplay. Conversely, a lot of bosses in DS2 demand that you bring summons along for crowd control – and they have to be human summons because the AI is terrible. To top things off, even the re-jiggered enemy placement in SOTFS was nonsensical.

    Finally, while the DLC was plentiful in DS2, none of it hit the level-design high notes of Artorias. The undergo run pyramid was decent, but the fire level was an annoying case of very slowly applying poison arrows to huge mobs of big skinny dudes, and the ice level was bland on a stick.

    • Synesthesia says:

      1000% agreed. More often than not I found myself fighting against bosses that instead of offering me a challenge, just threw me a bunch of enemies at once. Many combat mechanics were thoroughly refined, which made for excellent pvp, but DS1 remains the more interesting game, for their bosses, level design, lore, and so, so much more.

      Finding the story of new londo through archeology was much, much deeper than going up an elevator through a volcano.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Bioshock 2 was also far better in every combat department, instead of having the aforementioned problems of Dark Souls II did in group enemy ambushes. (As well as Bioshock 2 was far more consistently good than the first was, the less spoken about that last third the better).
      The level design wasn’t backing up the improvements in mechanics. At least in Bioshock 2, even though that also threw more enemies around, you were equipped to deal with them, including have defensive traps. Dark Souls II still was an uphill struggle against multiple foes, and you were forced into more of those situations.

  5. Dekion says:

    I agree that ds2’s dlc were awesome. Each with it’s own unique nightmare sections. Soloing the final dlc’s challenge area nearly broke me.

    • SnowCrash says:

      The thing i dislike about the DS2 DLC is the massive fuck you if your character was not a “Dude with a sword with no split damage” because if you were not that you got fucked

      • thebigJ_A says:

        so much this.
        It’s the reason I still haven’t gotten thru the dlc. My first SOTFS character was a blue-flame spellsword and the first dlc (the poison one) I just hit a wall. It wasn’t I couldn’t continue, I’m good at these games, it was just so annoying. A google told me the reason, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my desired build and respec just because the devs decided to give the enemies specific resistances that screwed magic and split damage. It wasn’t fun.

        • SnowCrash says:

          Oh good god do not go anyplace close to the ash DLC thats like specifically “Fuck your arcane build”

  6. glenfiddich says:

    Same here. I enjoyed ds2 much more than ds1.

  7. Rogerio Martins says:

    Nope.

    • klo3 says:

      Read the article. Pondered. Reflected on my newly started SL1 playthrough (a first) of the original vs. SoTFS which I completed a week back. Prepared for constructive counter arguments.

      However, as Rogerio already says all there is to say I’ll just +1 his comment.

      • klo3 says:

        Also considering the hype surrounding DkS this seems like a much too calculated title (a title which argument the article never really answered), especially coming from an author who’s first(!) article on this is on RPS. Not something I’ve come to expect of RPS.

        For a great comparison of the two games check out March Davies’ Fail Forward on this very site, if you have not yet.

        • Dare_Wreck says:

          klo3, I don’t understand your criticism. This is an opinion piece, and Michael does a fine job explaining his argument. You don’t need to agree with it (in fact, you obviously don’t), but that doesn’t invalidate his stand or make this an unworthy article for RPS.

  8. LacSlyer says:

    I actually feel the same and agree that the one defining thing about DS2 that really hurts it is the boss battles. One or two stand out, but the rest were extremely unimpressive.

    It’s actually the reason I’m so hyped for DS3 after hearing how well designed the majority of them are.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Agree here, I vividly remember capra demon teaching me fear I haven’t felt in a video game anymore for an age. Gaping dragon was ugly or that spider girl. I also did all of them by myself.
      In DS2 it’s easy to cheese the way through the game with the summons. Even without bosses like the slumbering sinner are just a bunch of blocking then wait for the moment to strike same with flexile guardian etc.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      Yes. And there are still some DS2 boss battles I can’t beat without summons (especially in the DLC). I’ve beat all of DS1’s bosses alone many times over, though.

      • Juan Carlo says:

        DS2 just has way too many of the “repeat the same tedious action, over and over, for 10 minutes straight….and die if you make one mistake” boss battles.

  9. yogibbear says:

    I agree that DSII DLC is AWESOME (and more integrated SOTFS). But vanilla Dark Souls experience and atmosphere and world building and level design is still better than vanilla DSII. I think this article actually touches on a broader issue… that with some games today enjoying DLCs that don’t just extend the life of a game, but actual out match it in terms of appeal, mechanics, and just the general gamification loop, that we don’t have more love for when this happens. They almost need their own shrine of remembrance. For example, I absolutely expect NO ONE to mention Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen PC release in any GOTY article for 2016. But that game (having never been able to play the original) has to be one of the best games ever, and the Dark Arisen DLC (in a similar vein to Dark Souls 2) absolutely changes the game for the better. In both instances the DLC adds better variety to gear, and better boss designs, and more nuanced challenge v reward gameplay. So yeah saying Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin is a great game is always going to be a thing that people agree with. But saying that Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin is better than Dark Souls? Yeah it’s got better graphics, better covenants, better networking, runs at 60fps without mods, blah blah blah. But the vanilla game still has the most pathetic first try destroy bosses and disconnected world that you just can’t give it the leg up over vanilla Dark Souls. I will say that they’re both excellent games, but it’s a flawed argument. Having said that Scholar of the First Sin actually fixes so many crap areas in the vanilla game, for example the Dragon Shrine is so cool now with the gold guys all bowing and spectating your fights being totally awesome.

  10. banana says:

    You don’t actually need to jump over the chasm at the Bed of Chaos fight, you can just drop off the edge and land on the root which leads up to the creature. There’s a small protrusion on the right side marking the spot where you can safely walk over…

    • Michael Johnson says:

      I’m going to pretend I never read this, because it causes me a tremendous amount of emotional pain.

    • jonahcutter says:

      Yep. Happens to most of us. Getting tunnel-visioned and then starting to rage because the game or encounter is “poorly designed”. Most of the time I’ve fallen into that trap, it’s turned out I missed some hint the game was giving me. Or I was insisting on using a bad or random strat, instead of observing and trying something different.

      There are badly designed games and encounters. There are also players who insist on playing badly, and refuse to learn when things go poorly.

    • fish99 says:

      Even dropping off is not certain. You can miss or be killed trying to get there, and the 2nd phase is just as bad as the 3rd. And the run back is quite long when you fail. Let’s be honest here, it’s the worst boss in a Souls game by a country mile, more luck than skill or judgement.

  11. Klarden says:

    This is when I remember why I stopped looking at games even in the same series with “better” or “worse” right about the release of Resident Evil 3. Because no matter how I tried to think about it, i loved all 3 RE games exactly strong, but in slightly different ways.
    Same thing for DkS II. I honestly can’t say I liked DkS II better or worse than DkS, because I loved both for same and very different reasons. I enjoyed playing with combat/exploration mix in DkS 2 more, as an action RPG more. Yet I enjoyed playing DkS 1 more as a story exploration game. Can’t say one is simply “better” than the other, really :D

  12. Coar says:

    Blasphemy…! Get him!

    No, thank you. I could not have said it any better. I love DS2 despite its faults. I can see what DS did better but it was never the same experience for me.

    Let me add another 2 things I felt DS2: They introduced new elements that generally improved the game ( Pharros Lockstones, certain Covenants) and I loved Vendrick as a tragic figure, as well as Alanna taking the story somewhere else entirely just before the end. A lot of it was very inspired.

    But all you ever hear is DS is better because worldbuilding!!!1!

  13. Fnord73 says:

    Midways in my first DkS 1 playthrough. I just played Demon Souls before. Its actually pretty good, innit?

  14. theslap says:

    Wouldn’t Demon’s Souls technically be “the original”?

    • jonahcutter says:

      Actually, I believe King’s Field might be considered the original by some. I’ve never played them myself so I couldn’t say, but I have seen this claim made.

      • theslap says:

        Interesting. I’ve never heard that before. I’ve played the original King’s Field and King’s Field II and while I can see the similarities, they feel very different from Dark Souls. Demon’s Souls on the other hand is virtually the same game.

  15. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I can’t speak to the original Dark Souls 2 but Scholar of the First Sin is an objectively terrible, miserable little game and contrasts deeply with the original Dark Souls.

    • Assirra says:

      You cannot make an opinion objective.

      • SnowCrash says:

        He is a 13 year old on the internet he can do what ever he wants, or he will cry

    • CptPlanet says:

      Haven’t played the third yet but I’ll say SotFS is my favourite experience so far.

  16. laotze says:

    “There is one final caveat though that almost tears my argument down – Dark Souls 2’s boss battles, pre-DLC, are mediocre, almost without exception mediocre. While Dark Souls had its own clunkers such as Ceaseless Discharge, it had moments of brilliance that its sequel was unable to match.”

    I mean, I realize this is just an aside for you, but this alone is enough to elevate Dark Souls above DS2 for me. The very best moments in this series are the boss battles, and DS1 has all the best of them by a mile. Beyond the fact that DS1’s area design is just more interesting on the whole (nothing in DS2 even comes close to the Undead Burg in my mind), everything feels like it crescendos up to these incredible boss moments, and all the most euphoric moments in DS1 are in finally taking down those things.

    DS2’s bosses are either lazy as hell – half of them just put you up against a bunch of buffed humanoids – or just such a cakewalk there’s no real sense of satisfaction in mastering them, which you can usually do on the first try. I still love DS2 for all the other reasons you give, but it shocked me when I started my second game just a year later that I couldn’t remember a single one of the non-DLC boss fights they were so uniformly uninteresting. Whereas all but one or two of DS1’s battles burned into my brain seemingly permanently.

  17. Stardog says:

    DS2 was just a rush job. Doesn’t even compare to the original. Even the new game engine looked ugly because of the shaders they used.

    Did you also think Bioshock 2 and Dragon Age 2 were better than the originals? Have fun living in bad taste land.

    • laotze says:

      He gives good reasons, even if I prefer DS1 personally. I would add that, while DS2 may not have the same cohesive design or memorable boss fights as DS1, you can’t deny it’s a huge improvement in the multiplayer departments, and there’s certainly more variety to the number of viable “classes” and playstyles. DS2 may not be the timeless masterpiece I imagine Dark Souls will turn out to be, but it’s still head and shoulders above just about any other action RPGs out there.

      • PikaBot says:

        you can’t deny it’s a huge improvement in the multiplayer departments

        I can definitely deny that. DkS2’s PVP covenants are some of the most incredibly broken pieces of game design I’ve seen in a while.

        • laotze says:

          How do you mean? In PVP terms? Admittedly I haven’t really done much invasion since my first or second DS1 playthrough, but having played all the co-op covenants in both over numerous playthrough I can tell you DS2 is a night and day improvement in jolly cooperation.

          • PikaBot says:

            There were four main PVP covenants in DkSII: The bloodbros, the bluebros, the bellbros, and the rats.

            Right on the face of it, the rats were an idiotic covenant: instead of invading other people’s worlds, people walking around specific areas could be involuntarily summoned to your world, and you get a reward for killing them. The problem is, because you don’t lose anything for dying as a phantom, there’s absolutely no motivation for your victims to even fight back. They aren’t set back if they die, they just get kicked back to their own world. All you’re doing is moderately inconveniencing them.

            The bellbros are better, and definitely the best of the four PVP covenants. If you were a member of the bellbros, you could be summoned to one of the two belltowers to serve as a kind of miniboss. And the rewards – rare upgrade items for every single victory – were crazy lucrative. The problem with this is that it’s only in those two specific optional areas; not only did this make it kind of boring after a while, it also made those areas a huge pain to get through without facing a huge gank squad of grey phantoms, because EVERYONE is a bellbro.

            Then we come to the bluebros and the blood bros. These are the covenants focused around traditional Souls series invasions. The bloodbros are supposed to invade people’s worlds, and the bluebros are supposed to be summoned to the worlds of people who are part of a DIFFERENT blue covenant to defend them against invaders. On the face of it, this seems fine. The problems are threefold.

            The first is that there are no infinite invasion items in this game. In order to actually do an invasion, you had to consume a cracked red eye orb. And there are a limited number of these in the game; both do drop from certain enemies, but enemies in Dark Souls II despawn eventually. The only way to keep invading infinitely is to never lose a duel in the arena (see below).

            The second is that neither covenant actually has you level up by successfully invading. In both cases, the way you gain rank with your covenant is by winning duels in their respective PVP arena. Win a duel, gain a point. Lose a duel, lose a point. And you need a LOT of points to level up – 50 points to reach the first rank of the covenant and get an actual reward. In order to access the arena at all, you need to spend a token or the appropriate color, which you gain by successfully invading somebody (bloodbros) or helping someone in co-op (bluebros).

            And the third and final one: The bluebros covenant is basically non-functional. It sounds really cool in theory – being summoned up to defend the weak against bloodthirsty invaders, yeah! – but in practice you will never, ever actually be summoned. Even if you spend the whole game with the bluebro summoning ring on, you will be lucky to get summoned once. The reason for this is that with every player available for invasion, rather than just those who are in human form, and with the Way of Blue being a pretty lame covenant, the odds that any given invader will wind up hitting someone in the Way of Blue, who is within your soul memory range, is in your region, and who still has connection slots available for you to be summoned in, are pretty low. The covenant’s basic mechanic doesn’t work.

            So of the four PVP covenants, you have one that’s obviously stupid, one that just doesn’t work, one that works but requires a lot of tedious grind to get anywhere, and one that’s actually pretty functional.

          • laotze says:

            That’s interesting, thanks for describing. I always encounter just as many if not more invaders in DS2 than in DS1, so I guess I always assumed DS2’s PVP options were as robust as its PVE co-op (which works like a charm compared to the ever-unreliable DS1 summon system).

          • PikaBot says:

            You definitely did see more invasions because you were always available to be invaded. It also made it way more likely for you to actually find someone to invade. I actually do think that that was a big improvement over DkS1. It’s just the covenants overlaying the basic invasion system were really badly designed.

          • Helmic says:

            And don’t forget Soul Memory. It made me stop playing after my first playthrough, I couldn’t handle it. By the time a ring came to freeze your Soul Memory in place (but still matches you based on it, so your SM will still rise as you need to pay for repairs, consumables, and upgrades for new weapons and armor), it had been so long and then the PC community got split between two versions.

            As a dedicated Blue Sentinel / Blade of the Darkmoon, I wanted that covenant to work so badly. But on the rare occasion I was summoned, it was obvious I was just being involuntarily drafted into a gank. I couldn’t use the arena but a handful of times because doing co-op would massively increase my Soul Memory. It was just a mess, I just went back to DS1 for PvP and dealt with the long wait times.

            DS3 looks like it has matchmaking right for once, so hopefully all will work out.

  18. Hawke says:

    The Bed of Chaos was probably the easiest boss in the game (Enter=>Hit the root=>Quit via menu=>Repeat=>Roll around a bit=>Drop on the root=>Run forward=>Victory achieved), except for its fire AoE. And the difficulty of the game was caused mostly by awful controls and lack of quick save function (and map, and quest journal, and on-screen keyboard prompts).

    I’ve just started DSII and so far it feels better than DS1. Haven’t seen much so won’t compare them.

  19. PikaBot says:

    Yet Dark Souls, in contrast to its sequel, is chock full of cheap tricks where your knowledge of the game can’t really help you. Instead, at times you rely on luck, the AI making terrible decisions, or worse yet your ability to complete a dangerous jump. These moments are well-known by veteran players, but can still cause intense frustration. Key offenders are the entirety of Blight Town, the arrow-bastards of Anor Londo and the Bed of twatting Chaos (as you can see I am highly creative at giving my primary antagonists appropriate nicknames).

    Bed of Chaos aside, what on earth are you talking about? I don’t think you need to do a single jump to get to the bottom of Blighttown, and while the arrow bastards are difficult, they’re not luck-or-bad-AI based. You just need to roll at the right time and know where the buildings block their lines of fire.

    Also, I suppose you could say that DkS1’s DLC was as unconnected as the areas in DkS2…if you completely ignore that the entire area is Darkroot Garden of the past.

    • Tim James says:

      I think he should’ve said “bullshit” instead of “luck.” There is a lot of bullshit in Dark Souls, especially the heinous boss runs. The great Miyazaki-san agrees, since he toned down a lot of bullshit in Bloodborne and supposedly in Dark Souls 3, to the dismay of some confused Dark Souls fans.

      • PikaBot says:

        Bloodborne’s actually substantially worse in terms of boss runs – there are way more places where there’s no practical way to just leg it to the boss door (whereas you can do this for almost every Dark Souls boss), and blood vials instead of estus means repeated boss runs require breaks for farming up healing items.

        • adwodon says:

          I can’t think of a single boss in BB where this is the case, you can quite easily run to every boss, there is a pretty consistent pattern of 2 shortcuts to unlock per area and while there are sometimes enemies they can always be dodged.

          • PikaBot says:

            I can think of two off the top of my head: Father Gascoigne (you at the very least need to bait out the fireball bridge) and Vicar Amelia (where one of the bridges is straight up blocked by a dude, you can’t even roll past him).

        • Tim James says:

          The blood vials are a separate level of stupidity from Miyazaki-san, but the shortcuts and boss runs are generally fair. That’s why so many misguided people complained about the “checkpoint” feel of bonfires in recent games, including Dark Souls 3.

          Of course there are some crappy ones, especially for bosses that are difficult. Nothing is perfect. But Dark Souls was consistently awful about this. Just look at the boss list.

      • fish99 says:

        Some of the boss runs are long but none of them are especially hard.

    • Oranje says:

      I’d like to add that since the ‘arrow-bastards’ are not luck based, i.e. they operate predictably every time, they become one of the most memorable passages in the game. It’s a section that genuinely fills me with dread despite the fact that I’ve overcome it dozens of times. And each time still feels incredible – that sense of triumph is preserved. Plus, it’s classic Dark Souls: you have to run up from a far away bonfire, fight several big Knights that could easily kill you, and then battle the gargoyle-type enemies before you’re even given the chance to fail this section. I think it’s a wonderfully designed challenge.

      • BernadoC says:

        It was that moment that caused me to quit Dark Souls and never return. Not because of the difficulty of the arrow-bastard, but because every time I went for another attempt I had to tediously pick my way past the golems and the gargoyles, enemies that I’d fought so frequently they posed no real challenge or threat, just another drawn out fight. The game, to my mind at least, went from ‘carefully teaching me mastery’ to ‘throwing busywork at me’ on that rooftop in Anor Londo, and I decided I had better things to do with my time.

  20. Monggerel says:

    To be entirely fair to DS II, I think the only game in the series with good bosses is Bloodborne. In general, a good Sauce boss is the exception, not the rule. It’s just that Rusty Ornstein was the laziest fucking thing FromSoft has ever done.

    • laotze says:

      Artorias? Manus? Quelaag? Asylum Demon? Gargoyles? Ornstein and Smough? Priscilla? Kalahmeet?

      Out of curiosity what constitutes a good boss fight in your book?

    • ZippyLemon says:

      Are you out for your own blood?

  21. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I’m only 40 hours into DS2 and still hope to see the glorified DLC but while not even a very good DS player I found Anor Londo and Blighttown entirely fair while demanding strict concentration. Also yeah DS has the integrated world space.
    Still DS2 rage is usually grotesquely exagerated – still a 95% game at heart, no need for all the hate.

  22. trilogique says:

    DS2 is better than the original in a few ways. There are a lot of small improvements that make life more convenient, more weapons and armor and of course the variety of playstyles. But as a whole package it doesn’t even come close.

    Drangleic is vastly inferior to Lordran because the level design is so bad. Most bosses range from forgettable and average to downright dreadful. There are far too many ‘git gud’ moments where the devs swarm you with enemies, turning the hard-but-fair gameplay of the series into a sadistic meatgrinder. The combat is mechanically a step down because the hitboxes are worse and enemies can pivot 360 degrees while winding up their attacks – attacks that have far better lock on/tracking than the original. This is probably the worst thing about DS2. The cornerstone of the Souls gameplay has been the strength of its combat and fairness of its difficulty. But there are so many moments in DS2 where you feel cheated by the AI. Everything about DS2 screams difficulty for the sake of it.

    DS2 completely misses the spirit of what the series is about. It eschews the effortless sense of wonder and mystery of its predecessor in favor of something very game-y. If you just want to smash a bunch of dude’s skulls in then DS2 is clearly the better game. It has more of just about everything. But as a complete package I don’t think it’s even close. Some good DLC doesn’t make up for what is a very lackluster base game – even if that base is still pretty solid overall.

    • Replikant says:

      Couldn’t have said is as well, but fully agree.

      One further thing: I don’t like the despawning mobs of DSII. To be honest, I progessed in some areas by out-dying my enemies. At some point they stopped standing up again while I still did. So, that did help me to progress. But it robbed me of the sense of achievement I had in DS1 when, returning to Firelink Shrine, I was effortlessly flinging enemies left an right which I had previously had a hard time disposing.
      Maybe I just sucked at DS2 (SotfS edition, btw). But I ran into some enemies and phantoms that I had a real hard time disposing (Dennis the armourer was the first, I believe, hidden behind the turtle knight brigade, no less).

  23. Rezeak says:

    While Dark souls 2 is a good game some of the things in that game are just bad…

    For example all the extra stats the only thing that really does is mean certain melee builds need an extra 30-60 levels vs say Dark souls
    Soul memory while I hated I understood why it was there …. then they added a ring so that people could bypass it making the soul memory just a way so people can’t co-op together…..
    Certain spells being locked behide 500 points in convents, wanna build a master pryo just invest a week-month of game time then (that’s no mastery that just having a lot of time).

    Like a said Dark Souls 2 is a good game and it’s really big content wise so why make it so you need to grind so much…

    In Dark souls 1 a decent player can do anything they want within a day because they mastered the game.

    In Dark souls 2 you need to have a month off work to do anything you want reguardless of skill.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      I wanted a crescent sickle for my very first character (pure sorcery) soooo bad

      Then I found it was locked behind the most broken covenant and as such was virtually impossible to get.

      And the fact that Wellager sells it…, but not until ng++ (TWO plusses!) AND ascetics don’t work on him…, was like a slap in the face. They didn’t even change it for SotFS, in which they made several other items less impossible to get (but then again, a few MORE difficult to get, so)

  24. GameCat says:

    ” Dark Souls on the other hand has gear that is objectively superior and in some cases horribly overpowered.”

    What? No, no, no. Even class starting weapons can be a viable choice in DS1. It’s DS2 where there are weapons you MUST eventually change for some better ones.
    And DS1 you can get almost all fun weapons early in the game, where in DS2 they’re often locked until you beat almost the whole game.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Dark Souls dropped both the Black Knight Sword and Shield in Undead Burg for me on my playthrough. I had absolutely no reason to use other weapons for almost the entire game.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Huh, didn’t have either drop for me, so might be that…but I am inclined to agree with GameCat. For the most part you always want to use equipment which requires as much of your stats as possible, but aside from a few exceptions (gargoyle helm) I don’t think any equipment was a flat upgrade over others.

      • GameCat says:

        I’ve also got BK Greatsword early on my very first playthrough and I’ve never changed it to another weapon on that char.
        But you can use almost any other weapon to make a good and fun build.
        In DS2 most of early weapons will be eventually surpassed by later ones. :(

        • Dare_Wreck says:

          Is that really a problem, though, that you get equipment later on that is better than what you have? That’s how just about every other game with loot works. I know Dark Souls is definitely not “every other game,” but I enjoy getting more powerful gear as I progress. I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

  25. horrorgasm says:

    Eh. It’s a very fun game once you get used to the differences, but the bland boss fights keep it from being truly great.

  26. Chillicothe says:

    Retorts:

    1. Hitboxes are consistantly worse than the other 3(4?) to the point of a stat cleanly partially devoted to fixing said hitbox.

    2. II relies upon the game punishing us for attacking when we SHOULDNT, not when we couldn’t GET AWAY WITH IT. When you attack “out of turn” the game summarily punishes you for it to the point of using the binocular trick against you (ie, enemies speed-dashing like the binocular trick once allowed us as their attack has priority, damn the distance). No Artorious. No Flamelurker. No Father Gasoline. No none of that under this system.

    This completely changes and channelizes the PVE. No longer are you dealing with crafty duelists and rampaging monsters, you are often up against a *thing* that rewards you for rote stepping/riposting/rolling and raps your knuckles for avoiding that outcome like a very over-rehearsed dance scene. Surprise, surprise, the best bosses avoid this.

    3. Too much Safe ‘n Sane PvP areas, with the Safe ‘n Sane PvP areas outside of the Colloseum being very much in favor of the ganker

    4. Soul Memory was a joke that made community-based PvE and PvP exceedingly difficult outside of max-stat behemoth vs max-stat behemoth as you could never stop “leveling” as far as player interaction was concerned. You’d throw your sign down in front of the 3 Stooges of the Keep and…nothing unless you were a SunBro. You’d go ganking in an area and…nothing unless your sign was red (which even at the Iron Keep was “Havels…nope, Havel’s…nope, Havel’s…nope…”

    4. Disjointed areas that felt like DeS levels stitched into a DaS1 form. You don’t make those kind of decisions mid-stream and so lightly.

    5. Bad marketing and some early balancing in the form of dual item healing forms, stat reseting, etc but also random gang-bang ambushes, disappearing respawn, etc giving a mood whiplash that it both demands you succeed and also wants nothing of the sort. Telling people the former was (and always is) a disaster for some’s player psychology as well.

    6. Bad sound design. Your character is FREAKING LOUD. *CLANK CLANK CLANK* *SWOOSH SWOOSH SWOOSH* while your enemies are stone-cold silent in comparison. 10-foot tall enemies in full plate on a dead run shouldn’t be able to be unheard until they’re within swing range. This was a hallmark of the first two and the latter game/two games: being observant of your surroundings to get an edge. Now you might as well have Spotify going up to 11 for all the good it’ll do.

    7. Repetitive enemy design (which goes along with 2 in showing off how narrowing the game is to play for one with all those neat new character build options): 10 foot tall, sky-high Poise, loooooooooooooooooooong weapon, monster armor, near or INFINITE stamina, auto-tracking vertical hits, big sweeping 3-hit horizontal combo, and a power hit. *snooooooooze*

    This all came together to wash out all the good/neutral stuff of the game to the point of what I like to call “A Game At War With Itself”. It’s completely self-sabotaged by its flaws neutralizing its strengths so as to be unavoidable.

  27. Oranje says:

    Despite strongly disagreeing, I liked this article – very well-reasoned argument. The biggest issue I had, however, was this bit:

    To me, that goes completely against the design of Dark Souls. The overwhelming emotion I felt while playing was one of helplessness and insignificance. The story, atmosphere, game mechanics, and online connectivity all reinforced the notion that I am not special, there are an infinite amount of other ‘chosen undeads’ who are all struggling to be the chosen undead. It’s only until the last battle with Lord Gywn do you actually fulfill the prophesy and become the chosen undead. Even when you meet the primordial serpents, they’re still manipulating you as a pawn for their own agenda.

    I didn’t feel that way in Dark Souls II. There, it felt pre-ordained that I was to do great things. Like the world was created for me to conquer. I think that’s a failure of the design team to capture what, to me, is the true essence of Dark Souls.

    • Oranje says:

      I botched the block quote. My comment should read:

      My choices feel like my choices so much more. In Dark Souls 2 – I’m not just a Chosen Undead, I’m the Chosen Undead.

      To me, that goes completely against the design of Dark Souls. The overwhelming emotion I felt while playing was one of helplessness and insignificance. The story, atmosphere, game mechanics, and online connectivity all reinforced the notion that I am not special, there are an infinite amount of other ‘chosen undeads’ who are all struggling to be the chosen undead. It’s only until the last battle with Lord Gywn do you actually fulfill the prophesy and become the chosen undead. Even when you meet the primordial serpents, they’re still manipulating you as a pawn for their own agenda.

      I didn’t feel that way in Dark Souls II. There, it felt pre-ordained that I was to do great things. Like the world was created for me to conquer. I think that’s a failure of the design team to capture what, to me, is the true essence of Dark Souls.

      • Rackam says:

        Interesting. I think I prefer the hero power fantasy of Dark Souls 2. There was a lot about Dark Souls I enjoyed, the character progression, art style, weighty balanced combat that made me feel like a true martial proficient, but I don’t enjoy the opressive feel or horror game vibe. To me that was more Demon’s Souls and I was happy to leave that behind as we switched to a new title. I guess at core I liked the game more than the feel.

      • Kitsunin says:

        Totally with you, it really fits with the difficulty the game gives you and its themes and atmosphere much more than being a regular Chosen One. And said theming and atmosphere is really unique and lovely (though perhaps that’s because Demon Souls never came to PC). The idea that the hollows are likely chosen undead who ran out of determination, almost like the player who quits playing the game, is another really interesting concept.

        If anything, I feel like this all gives the player more power: Yes, you are only a chosen undead, but if you keep going, you will make yourself the chosen undead.

  28. t0ntanman says:

    DS2 is like the “Bioshock 2” of the souls series. It’s just not as good and won’t be as good as the other games.

  29. Rackam says:

    I also agree. Dark Souls has an amazing feel. And I enjoyed my play through of it but I’ve only beaten it once. It’s a masterpiece.

    Dark Soul’s 2 though feels like a game. One I beat numerous times as well as the countless new characters I created for the fun of trying out varied builds.

    I wonder if it’s the difference between Grand Theft Auto and Planescape: Torment. They’re both incredible, wonderful games. And both replayable in their own ways. One is more game-y if you’ll allow it however.

    I think both sides here can allow a bit less hostility towards each other, they’re both great games and we’re about to get a third one that’ll ideally combine the best parts of each.

  30. ComradeSnarky says:

    Counterpoint: No.

    DS2 is a very good game (I played it twice), but has fundamental flaws that overshadow the few areas in which it was able to improve upon DS1.

    Copy-paste boss design, ridiculous hitboxes and enemy tracking, the bizarre decision to have invincibility frames tied to a character stat, and noticeably poorer world cohesion and attention to detail overall.

    Take Earthen Peak, for example. The transition to the next area, Iron Keep, is infamous–somehow a lava-filled crater is reached by taking an elevator up from the top of a windmill on a mountain(?), but how about the shockingly bad tiled textures in this area, which were not even fixed in the Scholar of the First Sin re-release of the game?

    link to reddit.com

    Or how about the fact that you spend most of the game collecting the souls of four of the most powerful beings in existence…when you could have just stepped over small pile of rubble instead?

    link to steamcommunity.com?

    The designers of DS2 were obviously very skilled, and from what we have heard of the tumultuous development process it is a wonder that the game was finished at all, but the game does not come close to DS1.

  31. thebigJ_A says:

    A week ago I decided to play thru DKS2 one more time (and finally do the dlc) in preparation for 3…

    I can’t. I just can’t. I’ve gotten as far as getting the King’s Ring and I can’t bring myself to play anymore. And that’s funny ‘cuz I was building specifically for the Defender Greatsword, which I was just about to have gotten.

    There are some great bits, and the mechanics of the combat are generally better (fuck Adaptability, though), but it’s such a drudge. The level design runs from ok to garbage, with too many bonfires that are meaningless with warping and a thousand crap bosses. There’s little real lore in the way that there was in the first, where every item and enemy placement was meaningful (to the point where they just jumbled it up for flavor in SotFS). You never get the sense of being in a real world, never feel lost or afraid to go on.

    I enjoyed it originally. Hell I’ve put more than a hundred hours by Steam count. But I can’t get through it again, even though I really want to see all the dlc stuff. There’s hints of the game they intended, before they had to scrap the plan and glue what they had back together. It’s genuinely impressive they did so well considering that. But it’s just not the masterpiece the original was, not the game I can still pick up and play thru beginning to end and love.

    I tried.

  32. Bobtree says:

    I can deal with a less interesting world and less compelling boss fights, but too much of DS2 is built around just being nasty to the player. When you squeeze all the wiggle room out of the combat mechanics, what’s left is not as much fun.

  33. jgthespy says:

    You said “duel-wield” and then I died.

  34. popej says:

    Agree and I know this tends to be a popular opinion in more PVP focused communities which value mechanics and of course fashion. Dark Souls 2 despite its faults is the more complete game.

    It’s really only timing (DS came first obviously) and respect for it as an achievement that stays my belief that DS2 is outright the better of the two. It is the better game but perhaps it isn’t the better experience (if you get me).

    Great article.

  35. judy20 says:

    I just, got. funded $6864 working off my notebook this-month,, and if you think that’s cool, my ex-wife has twin toddlers and made over 7985 bucks her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less …K0006

    SEE M0RE —> http://www.CashPay60.com

  36. FreshHands says:

    Well, what can I say. Played part 2 for 400 hours, easily one of my most beloved games of all time. Somehow the balance of bleak frustration and glorious achievement were perfect for me.

    Can’t say that much about part 1 because I rage-quit at that sodding dog with the sword. Level design was vastly superior though.

    I’d agree on calling One a better piece of art, while Two is the better game (while being more game-y of course).

  37. Thunderhaz says:

    Okay, I think someone has to say it. I’m a PC guy, and 1 area DS 2 absolutely destroys DS1 is in terms of its PC port, even with DSFix installed, DS2 still runs far better. With DSFix, I could only ever get the game to run at around 40 fps, where as DS 2 ran at a consistent 60. For this reason alone, whilst I still consider DS1 a better game experience, for me DS2 is the more enjoyable one.

  38. Overdriven says:

    While you make some good points I respectfully disagree.

    There are 3 big differences that made me dislike DS2 as a game. First, you are fighting the areas, not the bosses. In DS2 you are mobbed by enemies, the areas are challenging, you finally make it to the boss, and… it’s dead in 2 minutes. Bar maybe 2 bosses in the entire game, most are uninteresting, or just plain rinse and repeats (here’s a knight with a halberd, here’s a knight with a mirror shield, here’s a knight with a hammer ect). Boss battles are the single most critical thing in a Dark Souls game. If they suck and are unimaginative and uninteresting then the whole game fails.

    Second is lore. I always say, the gameplay made me like DS, but the lore made me love it. Countless people have finished DS1 not knowing what the hell they just did, but once you investigate the lore you see an incredibly in-depth world with back stories for every single NPC and boss, largely compiled by the community, but that is what is so great about the first, the depth is there. In DS2 the lore can be summed up in a few sentences. There’s no back stories for the fast majority of bosses and NPCs, there’s no real feeling that there’s something else there.

    Third, DLC. I completely disagree with you when it comes to this one. Artorias and Mannus are possibly 2 of the best boss fights in the entire series in my eyes, as well as the level design and depth added in. DS2 was unimaginative once again. It felt like they designed the areas to fill a quota rather than using their creativity. Not to mention the bosses just aren’t very exciting.

    There are a number of other points I can address but it will turn into a full blown essay. Regardless, I will always think DS1 is a vastly superior game. DS2 has positives. Such as fashion souls which were much better in DS2. But as an overall game DS1 blows it out of the water.

    • FreshHands says:

      Personally I am not so sure about the bosses.

      I really liked the kind of Arthurian lore and story of Part Two, so I was pretty ok with all the knights. They may be less outré lore/strategywise than those of Part One but fit very well into the whole medieval setting and sword-fighting.

      As mentioned before I didn’t get past the dog, so I never experienced many of those legendary fights first-hand. And if that one serves as an example for great boss-battles – a dog with a sword between his teeth, spasmodically prancing about? Way too anime for me, personally.

      Apart from that I tend to agree with you on most of Part Two’s bosses. All of them have a (vague) backstory, though like the stages they do not really form a meaningful whole. I mean to this day I don’t know why I killed that snake woman and her blob, the scorpion lady or the last giant – just a bunch of guys that happen to be in my way I guess.

      Probably the devs surprised themselves in creating a (niche) masterpiece and were then hoping to make it more accessible to the masses for example by reducing the frustration factor. Worked for me at least.

    • Josh W says:

      The DLC point is transparently wrong, I’ll quote it here again for emphasis:
      The Souls games outright have the best DLC in games as far as I’m concerned. In the first Dark Souls we got an additional adventure, tacked on to the main game, where we delve into the story of Knight Artorias and descend the abyss for some of the best battles of the series. It’s brilliant, but it is essentially a side-quest and all the complaints about Dark Souls 2’s world building and lack of interconnectivity apply here too.

      Artorius DLC, where you can go back and forth between the two time zones and work out exactly where you are, and what used to be there? When the “chasm of the abyss” lines up almost perfectly to the “valley of the drakes”, with the manus cavern being somewhere overlooking your future fight with the four kings?

      And that arrangement has interesting gameplay, a variety of different enemies, and interesting interconnections between spaces.

      The only small problem is trying to determine the timeline of new londo relative to the era of artorius and co. but that problem exists because the rest of the worldbuilding works so well.

      Not only is it innacurate, it’s precisely backwards; Artorius DLC primes you for observing the shape of levels and how they interlock, because of the way it provides that activity with a lore comprehension payoff, and makes it particuarly jarring when you play DSII and that doesn’t happen.

      • Josh W says:

        Aha, quote tags failed, trying again:

        The DLC point is transparently wrong, I’ll quote it here again for emphasis:

        In the first Dark Souls we got an additional adventure, tacked on to the main game, where we delve into the story of Knight Artorias and descend the abyss for some of the best battles of the series. It’s brilliant, but it is essentially a side-quest and all the complaints about Dark Souls 2’s world building and lack of interconnectivity apply here too.

        Artorius DLC, where you can go back and forth between the two time zones and work out exactly where you are, and what used to be there? When the “chasm of the abyss” lines up almost perfectly to the “valley of the drakes”, with the manus cavern being somewhere overlooking your future fight with the four kings?

        And that arrangement has interesting gameplay, a variety of different enemies, and interesting interconnections between spaces.

        The only small problem is trying to determine the timeline of new londo relative to the era of artorius and co. but that problem exists because the rest of the worldbuilding works so well.

        Not only is it innacurate, it’s precisely backwards; Artorius DLC primes you for observing the shape of levels and how they interlock, because of the way it provides that activity with a lore comprehension payoff, and makes it particuarly jarring when you play DSII and that doesn’t happen.

  39. michelangelo says:

    Not for me. Not at all for me. There is one Dark Souls worth playing. It’s compact, complex and complete work achieved at the first one. Took Demons Souls principles and made them all perfect. There is nothing that DOESNT HAVE to be there. There is struggle, achievement and exploration at its best from series. Motivation to play it again, is to see story lines, which you couldnt see for decisions made at first fight through.

    DS2, DS3 is full of such “added stuff”, “easier to understand approach stuff”, yet brings nothing really significant to the concept. Enemy behavior didn’t improve at all (it is something, what I expected from DSII media marketing statements like “some enemies will track you and hunt you on your journey through levels”. Didn’t noticed that… It’s just recycle of everything possible (commercial business plan blueprint “?”). DS3 is hodgepodge between Bloodborne and Demons Souls, with DS1 assets.

    Bloodborne(!). That was on the other hand at bit of fresh air. But, yet it is good—it’s still far behind its potencial. No accurate technical reflection of pistols and rifles time period(?). When I was playing it, I just couldn’t hold back my imagination diving in PUZZLE possibilities, devices and game design mechanics builded around them. Imagination—not at all the game I was playing. Wonderful theme, chained in corridors, fast traveling killing all travelers struggles, impossibility to fall from ledges, because there was railings everywhere. And those houses with windows from outside and clean walls from inside (please give them some gamedesign awards ☻).

    PS—Now excuse me, my “game of this year, right after 2nd XCOM” Talos Principle is waiting for my curiousity.

    PPS—Please, stop writing articles which forces me to log in and write such a long comments(!) ☻

  40. Manafish says:

    Interesting article, its not often you see someone who prefers 2 over the original. However, there is one bit that confused me where you talked about the parts of Dark Souls 1 where you were at the mercy of bad game design, or bad ai.
    ” Key offenders are the entirety of Blight Town, the arrow-bastards of Anor Londo and the Bed of twatting Chaos”
    This seems unfair, as all of these moments are fair and easy to get past. Blighttown is actually a very well designed area,(apart from the framerate drops on consoles) and no part of it is really “unfair” or luck based. The Anor Londo archers are also easily avoided,simply by rolling past the arrows. As for the Bed of Chaos, while that is a spot of bad game design, there are various easy to carry out strategies that make it easy.

  41. fish99 says:

    The DS2 DLCs are great, but they reuse bosses galore. We have a reskinned Nashandra who summons Velstadt. We have one cat, then fight two of them. We have reskinned Covetous Demon. We have a boss that’s just 3 NPCs. And Blue Smelter was just the laziest reskin ever. The main game also has a reused Ornstein from DS.

    Artorias of the Abyss on the other hand, is probably the best area in any Souls game and has 3 exquisite boss fights, including the best bosses in the series, Manus and Artorias. On NG+ in particular, Manus is just a bitch.

    Yes DS2 plays better most of the time, but it can get very cheap at times with bosses that track during attacks, and that can grab you unfairly (Rotten). There’s also too many NPC invaders in SotFS.

    DS2 also asks you to waste time clearing the path to some bosses by killing everything 10 times, whereas in DS the levels have been designed with running through in mind.

    DS2 also had some of the best builds (esp Lightning) nerfed to hell to satisfy PVPers, which was a huge shame.

    The clincher though is DS2s lack of a cohesive world, and in particular that elevator up into the sky, which arrives at a castle sunk in lava. And the ‘kill four huge bosses to avoid climbing over a 1 foot high pile a stones’ crap was unforgivable.

    They’re both awesome though.

    • fish99 says:

      Oh yeah, the DS Gargoyles were reused in DS2 too.

    • PikaBot says:

      Lightning needed a nerd, PVP or no PVP. It made most bosses who weren’t Darklurker absolutely trivial.

      • fish99 says:

        Sure, but they nerfed it so hard it became useless. There was a patch (after the first lightning nerf) where the patch notes said they reduced lighting damage but increased the number of casts, but what they actually did was reduce the casts as well, and they still didn’t fix that.

    • Josh W says:

      I wasn’t actually much of a fan of Manus, too much HP (and so too much mental endurance required) for my liking, but Artorius was so fun. His timing and movement meant you could fight him with a variety of strategies and have a great time of it. His animations were also extremely cool.

  42. remake says:

    I’ve put a thousand hours into both games and here’s what I think.

    I disagree. I disagree with everything you said. I disagreed so much I had to register so I can write this post. I could write the next great American novel about how wrong everything you said was. Sadly, I don’t care enough to spend that amount of energy into disagreeing, so this post will have to do. I was cringing so hard reading this post I think I fractured a tooth. I never thought someone’s opinion could make me so angry. I hate you

    TL;DR: I disagree so much I believe you have to be a gamer of questionable character and preferences to have such opinions.

  43. FrankJaegar says:

    I have an opinion I wish I saw more… I love them both equally. This article touches on why, though I would NOT say I like DkSII more than the original– I like them both, a TREMENDOUS amount. Dark Souls has FLAWLESS level design and world building, some of the best bosses EVER, and very satisfying combat. It’s like Metroid Prime turned up to 11. DkSII has even tighter combat, WAY more builds and Fashion Souls, and a TON of PvE and PvP replay value, and slightly better DLC (Artorias is amazing, I’m not saying it isn’t!). They are both AWESOME, just in different ways. It makes me sad that DkSII is so reviled, it has some really cool things about it. I don’t agree with this article completely, but I’m super glad it exists.

    Afterthought: I wish Dark Souls mixed up loot and enemies in NG+ like DkSII. Then I would never look away.

  44. pedrovay2003 says:

    I absolutely agree with this. Aesthetically, yes, the first game was more memorable, but I honestly believe the second was an improvement in nearly every way.

  45. happycakes says:

    OP, I aren’t think that

    dark souls 2 trash game

  46. Haborym says:

    There’s actually a little spot off to the right during the bed of chaos fight where you can just roll off onto the root instead of making a leap of faith.

  47. clara20 says:

    My last payment was $8474 working 11 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 16k for months now and she works about 19 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do…N29

    ++++++> http://www.MaxWage10.com

  48. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    I can maybe, maybe just about understand why some would think 2 is better than 1 if they’ve played 1 to death and can see through all its mystery. Combat is better and your character has better animations and item choice. If you’re in it for the PvP those dedicated areas are great.

    DS2 is great but really, come on, DS1 is such a better construction. The thing it boils down to for me is DS1 feels like a strange world you have been transported to. Somebody above mentioned Metroid Prime in the same sentence, which is spot on. DS2, instead, feels like a game. The developers hand is too prominent and it keeps shattering the illusion.

    Bonfires are one clear example: in DS1 they made sense because they revive your character but also everything else in the world. In DS2 that fundamental link is broken because after 7 or 8 deaths stuff stops resurrecting. That doesn’t feel weird and soulsy, that feels like a game design decision to stop soul farming. The rehashing of bosses links to this as well, they just feel like reused assets in DS2, not inhabitants of a world.

    Some of this obviously then comes from having played DS1 first, and maybe just maybe DS2 would have been equally hailed if they were released the other way round, but I doubt it. There’s just too many inconsistencies, and it ignores the fact that a lot of the best bits about DS2 are how it plays with your expectations built up in the first game: Bosses that no longer have that safe little nook behind their heels; Turtle enemies that fall backwards just when you thought you’d got into the best attack zone; even the level placements felt suprising, if jarring. It’s quite a comical game, often at the player’s expense, and I say that as praise.

    So, as games, yes they are both great and in some of the gamier respects 2 is an improvement, but in doing so the developer’s hand is too clearly shown and the illusion of another world in a puzzle box is lost. DS1 is a masterpiece. DS2 is just a good game.

  49. Sharky70 says:

    You can say why you think Dark Souls II is better, but you’d still be wrong.

  50. Draffut says:

    I’ve never read something so fundamentally wrong.

    You deserve a medal.