After the first 10 minutes of Dark Souls 2, it was clear to me that developer FromSoftware and publisher Namco Bandai hasn’t touched the difficulty level of its predecessor. In fact, fighting my first enemy made me think they have made it even tougher. Dark Souls 2 remains the same gameplay wise, a pure bred role playing game aimed at the hardcore players who live for the challenge. After creating your character utilizing an impressively deep creation system, you find yourself cursed as an Undead who is destined to be a Hollow which is nothing more than a soulless lifeless wanderer. You travel to the majestic land of Drangleic in search of souls including the 4 Grand Souls that will help diminish the curse of which you are in possession of. The story is slight and vague and doesn’t really come into its own. The cutscenes are nicely acted and narrated but they are few and far between to keep to grips with the story although saying that, I always knew what my mission was when I was playing. The entire world carries a creepy atmosphere and friendly NPC’s speak in a silenced tone which kept the tension at a high even when things were quiet.
The gameplay is identical to its predecessor, your character chooses a class each with its strengths and weaknesses and special starting items and then after a brief cutscene, you’re left to your own devices. You have a normal attack and a strong attack, block and parry; you can also wield any weapon with two hands which increases its power at the expense of speed. You can use any item you possess or any spells at any time, items are scattered all over Drangleic identifiable by a silver mist. The combat feels responsive and tight, defeating every enemy requires some form of tactics and preplanning as Dark Souls 2 is punishingly tough, fail to do so and you will soon find yourself dead and once you die, you spawn at your last visited bonfire with all non-boss enemies revived, oh and if that’s not hard enough, a small percentage of your maximum health gets taken away. Bonfires are your checkpoints, they allow you to level up, burn found Effigy’s and new to the series, fast travel to another previously lit bonfire. Another improvement is after enemies are defeated a set number of times due to repeated battling after the player dies so often, they stay permanently dead making the game that tiny bit easier to proceed. Like before, Dark Souls 2 heavily incorporates multiplayer. You can read messages left by other players which may help or hinder your progress and you can leave message yourself. You can also touch a bloodstain which manifest an apparition of a human player and replays their actions from that point. You can now join covenants which requires you to defend areas being attacked by human players, success rewards your with special items, I actually found the PvP combat easier than fighting the CPU.
Dark Souls 2 looks stunning; Drangleic is full of beautiful countryside, ancient ruins, secret passages, dark and dingy forests and more. There is plenty to see here which is more than a reward for putting up with the unforgiving difficulty especially when you first step foot into the town of Majula; you’ll see what I mean.
Dark Souls 2 keeps up its unrelenting gameplay and continues to punish those for dieing over and over. Persevere though and you’re rewarded beautiful views of the scenery and some badass weapons and armour. Dark Souls 2 is for the RPG veterans and beginners should steer clear as the difficulty will be too much.
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Dark Souls 2
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Release Date: 14th March 2014
Story – 3/5
Graphics – 5/5
Gameplay – 4/5
Overall – 4/5