Dark Souls II (Xbox 360) Review
Posted by Doug Yates on 03.21.2014
Namco Bandai's highly-anticipated sequel to its acclaimed action RPG Dark Souls has finally been released! But does it live up to its predecessor or fall short? 411's Doug Yates checks in with his full review!
Title: Dark Souls 2 Publisher: Namco Bandai Developer: From Studios Players: 1
Death is not only the beginning: it is also the middle, end, prologue, epilogue and footnotes. Dark Souls 2 will kill you over and over again, but each death is a learning experience taking you one step closer to your goal.
Once again you start off the game as a hollow and must venture forth into danger in an attempt to rid yourself of the curse. Choosing a class and gift as well as designing your character are the first order of business. I chose a knight due to the higher HP, but ultimately you can level up whichever skills you like, so your initial choice is not overly important.
The guys at From Software have not pulled their punches in this highly anticipated sequel. The game is still just as hard as the original albeit in slightly different ways. One of these is the effects hollowing has on the player. Now when you are hollowed you will lose a portion of your health bar, each death hacking away at it a bit more, eventually halving your health.
The world of Dark Souls 2 is far more open than the previous game which is nice, but it can also be dangerous. Exploring the world of Dark Souls 2 is extremely rewarding, often offering up hidden areas and new loot. Being able to explore wherever you like is all well and good until you accidently wander into a location you ought not be in and loose all of your hard-earned souls.
Bonfires are still the lifeblood of the game acting as fast travel points as well as regenerating your flasks and health. Fast travel is now available from the beginning of the game and makes traversing the world a much more enjoyable experience overall.
Regaining humanity is done by using a human effigy, of which there are few in the early hours of the game. The effigies do not have to be used at a bonfire however, allowing you to regain humanity at any point, which is definitely a nice change.
Another change to the formula is the despawning of enemies. If you die too many times in a single area the game will begin to remove enemies from that area allowing you to traverse it a bit quicker. The downside to this is it becomes more difficult to farm souls for leveling up and purchasing items.
Leveling up and obtaining more estus flasks can now only be done through a character called the Emerald Herald. The Herald can be found in Majula—the hub town of Dark Souls 2. Having to travel back to the hub to level up is a slight inconvenience, but the fast travel makes it bearable.
Veterans of the series will feel right at home jumping into the game as the controls feel comfortable and familiar. The combat itself feels more fluid and responsive, making combat more enjoyable. Fighting is heavily reliant on timing for dodges and blocking. Since a single hit can halve your health, it’s good that the controls work so well.
Each area in the game has its own feel: from lush forests to dank miserable caves, there is no shortage of new scenery to be had. The lighting effects are also well done and play an important role in exploration as carrying a torch will help light dark areas and even keep some enemies at bay.
No conversation about dark souls would be complete without mention of boss fights, of which there are many in Dark Souls 2. Most of the fights are new but a couple are twists on previous encounters and nods to veteran players. Overall, the large assortment of enemy types keeps you wondering what lies around the next corner.
The unique multiplayer aspect from Dark Souls is still present. You can still invade another player’s world to either help or hinder. If that is not your cup of tea, you can simply use the messages and bloodstains to learn from other player’s mistakes, but be wary as not all notes are helpful.
The audio is an integral part of the game, often giving clues to enemy whereabouts or alerting the player when they have set off a trap. The musical score is orchestral and the music fits each area well, making each area appropriately thematic. The character voices are also very well done and have a surprising amount of dialogue.
• Challenging but rewarding gameplay.
• Varied areas and plenty of exploration.
• Excellent audio adds to the experience.
• World connectivity from previous game is gone
• Enemies despawning makes for frustrating soul farming
The sense of accomplishment felt while playing this game is incomparable to other games. It will make you work for every bit of progress that you make, but ultimately it is a highly enjoyable experience if you’re willing to stick it out.
Atmospheric areas and great lighting effects , textures could use some work.
Responsive controls and well tuned combat make for a great experience.
Brilliant use of sound as an indicator and a great orchestral soundtrack.
Finishing the game alone is a task, but with a new game + there is every reason to come back.
While the difficulty may be more than some can handle there is plenty here to enjoy for those who can take it.