Dark Souls 2 review

Dark Souls 2 review

Dark Souls 2 review

by April 24, 2014

Updated 4/24/14 – scroll to bottom for full PC impressions. 

During my 54 hours with Dark Souls 2, I died 226 times. I know this courtesy of a worldwide death counter. But every time I took an axe to the face, or got murdered by somersaulting zombies, or mistakenly cartwheeled off a cliff, I learned something of value: that patience, as always, yields the greatest rewards. That bipedal hippos are really fucking deadly. That circle-strafing is not a one-size-fits-all tactic. But most importantly, that death is a great teacher.

As a newly branded undead in the kingdom of Drangleic, your goal is simple: gather as many souls as possible in the hopes of breaking your curse. In practice, this means exploring every bit of the vast world and fighting its many enemies and bosses. This process is a battle of inches, as enemy encounters are frequent and difficult, and the setting itself is no less threatening. Learning the attack patterns of foes, the locations of cleverly hidden traps, whether or not that gaping hole in the ground leads to treasure or will simply kill you should you step in it–all of this is accomplished through trial and error.

This difficult-by-necessity methodology, which rewards players for patience and internalizing lessons learned from past mistakes, is the crux of Dark Souls 2. It’s a game that has no interest in hand-holding, instead opting to push you into the wild with little more than a butter knife and tasking you with figuring things out for yourself. Your heart will pound once you’ve stockpiled thousands of precious souls, a crucial form of currency, knowing that if you can just get a little bit further, you might find a temporary zone of safety. Or maybe you’ll die and lose everything you’ve worked so hard to get–but next time, you’ll know better. The adrenaline rush and sense of elation and empowerment you get from overcoming a particularly difficult enemy or obstacle is something no other series has replicated to this degree.

Dark Souls 2’s world is an extremely dangerous place, one that forces you to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Because the environment plays an incredibly active role, it feels eerily real, like a character all its own. It pushes back in an attempt to halt your progress time and time again with thin pathways and other tricky obstacles. Some Dark Souls vets might feel put off by the fact that Drangleic is more of a central hub with many intricate, branching dead-end paths than it is a sprawling interconnected world, but each of these pathways offer tons of environmental variety, challenge, and self-contained secrets.