Dark Souls II is a fantasy third person action RPG game, developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco, releasing worldwide on PC, 360 and PS3 in April 2014. The story takes place in the grim fantasy world from the original game, Lordran. This time around you visit different areas and play as a new character.
If you have been on the internet at all in the past few years you will already know what Dark Souls is known for, gruesomely hard unforgiving game play. The original game was probably one of the hardest games I have ever played which tested my skill not only as a gamer, but as a person. Whilst the game play mechanics in Dark Souls II are basically the same comparatively allowing the player in full control of building the character they want to play due to a different levelling system being incorporated. Of course the most important aspect of Dark Souls is the combat and again it is done very well. A lot of the regular mob fights are interesting and varied, you do come across a slight repetition issue when you find yourself being killed by the same monster over and over again but it gives you that little extra incentive to progress. Boss fights throughout the game are all extremely well-tuned and designed encounters – I’d say the boss fights here are more memorable than the original’s purely because the scale and size of them is gigantic in some cases.
Another really key element to Dark Souls game play would be the exploration of the game world which is essentially entirely open for you to explore right from the beginning of the game; whilst it may not be the wisest thing in the world to go exploring the later stages it is possible if you want to though. I was more inclined to go searching for treasure and loot this time around too; whether it was because I was completely enthralled with the armour and weapon designs that I wanted to keep finding more, or because of how well the maps are designed. The game does very little to aid you by telling you where to go which leaves you in a rut sometimes. I have to admit I did resort to using a walkthrough and wiki throughout my play through; I know I know, I’m such a wimp – I honestly don’t think I would have been able to beat the game without it though, so for the purpose of this review I’ll take one for the team here!
Graphically Dark Souls II has been improved over the original, I tried to find the official game engine being used online but even so long after its release I’ve not been able to find a reputable source of an answer but all you need to know is the game does look much better than the first. There are still a few textures which are low quality, but character models, animations and scenery all look gorgeous. The little voice acting that is available is done really well; almost too well – you can really feel the deprived thoughts of the characters in the game through their monotone and dull voices which I found to be quite an immersive factor. It was a little off putting when characters were quite obviously talking that their mouths weren’t moving through which was a shame to see from a game of this standard.
I have to say I found the original Dark Souls to be more of a challenging game compared to II – I think the main factor behind this is the fact that the PC port for this game wasn’t completely broken compared to the first. The controls work right off the back which is always a good sign. That being said boss fights are fundamentally easier though; with some mechanics more clearly than others on how to combat them, or maybe it’s because I finally “gitted gud” at Dark Souls. You can also tell how less of a challenge I found it, given that my first run through of Dark Souls II took almost half the amount of time than the original game, spanning just twenty one hours – remember that I had a wiki throughout the run so if you are going for a true experience you are easily going to be pushing the fifty hour mark. You’ll also get plenty of replay ability from this title due to a new game+ mode being introduced this time around.
There is also a much improved multiplayer side of the game too; one element of this is the ability to leave notes and hints around the game world for other players to see, as well as being able to see people’s recent deaths around you too which is always amusing to see someone run straight off a bridge; it never gets old regardless of how many times you watch it. You’ll also get other players invading your game world which is…well, a different experience to say the least.
Like I said above, this is a much better PC port of the game; there is already native controller support which is brilliant as the game is played waaaay better on a controller compared to a mouse and keyboard. Whilst there are limited graphical options, I was quite pleased to see that I was able to run the game at 4k resolution and on full graphics the whole time and I was able to remain at 60 FPS the whole time. This wasn’t even running SLI so it is an extremely well optimized release. I did find it slightly annoying that I wasn’t able to turn off the online though, you are able to opt out of it on console in the options menu, but it seems to be constantly online for PC – you can get round it by launching Steam in offline mode, but I still want to be online on Steam, just not in game as it does get annoying when someone ten times higher level than you keeps invading your world to poke you up your bum with his massive sword time and time again.
Right from the beginning of this game I actually found it to be a worse Dark Souls game compared to the original due to it not being overly challenging, but that being said I had more fun playing this game than the original; I know it probably doesn’t make sense but this felt more like a finished product that works off the shelf and I was able to finish the game to completion within a matter of a week and I enjoyed every minute of it. I would have like to see the price drop a little bit over the course of the past two years but you are still getting a game that is a joy to play from start to finish here. It is also worth noting that there is a different version of Dark Souls II, in the form of Dark Souls II Scholar of the First Sin – whilst this is an improved version of the game, both graphically and technically, the game’s worlds are also slightly different. This review is for the original Dark Souls II release.