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Dark Souls 2 Review: Death Has a Name

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Written by: Communicator StaffApril 28, 2014

The majority of that praise comes from the game’s world. While the first Dark Souls felt like a journey in which the character constantly pushes forward, DS2 uses a hub town system that makes the game feel more like a mission. You level up, buy gear and upgrade equipment all in one place. Over time, more characters move into the town, making it feel like you’re meeting people and gaining new allies throughout your quest. This gives DS2 a less lonely atmosphere than the first game.

That less lonely feeling comes at a price, however. While the environments in DS2 are definitely beautiful and diverse, they feel less tied together than those in the first game. The first Dark Souls had a kind of moody cohesion in which the entire world seemed to be connected. DS2 seems more like a series of levels that don’t always click. This really hit me when I rode an elevator to the top of a poison-themed tower and somehow ended up in a volcano.

The advantage to this mash-up of environments is the game’s refreshingly diverse range of enemies. Everything I encountered felt like it had a unique personality, from basic, lance-wielding zombies to laser-breathing spider bosses. It helps that FromSoftware obviously put work into filling every zone with clever encounters.

Some of those traps inevitably led to death. The difficulty of the Souls games didn’t go anywhere in this installment, and thanks to a worldwide death counter, I know exactly how many times it kicked my ass in my 61-hour quest (Hint: it was well over 100). But just like in the first game, every death was worth it, teaching me more about what my enemies had in store for me. The elating feeling of finally conquering a tough boss is still a worthy reward for all the effort it takes.

Unfortunately, the boss difficulty tends to be hit-or-miss. Some bosses took me six or seven attempts to defeat, but half a dozen bosses only took one quick try. This was usually disappointing, but the easy bosses sometimes boosted my confidence after fighting through an especially tough gauntlet. However, many of the bosses gain new mechanics in New Game+, including one or two that make use of multiplayer to add a unique challenge.

Fortunately, I never encountered a situation in which another player unfairly halted my progress. DS2 includes a new system that prevents players who are far separated in levels from entering each other’s worlds, ensuring there is always a relatively fair fight in invasions. I was able to feel confident trekking across the lands of Drangleic without worrying about some pink-haired, bikini-wearing invader mauling me with a divine claymore +15.

Beyond that, all of DS2’s player versus player and cooperative multiplayer elements have been changed and polished. Covenants are better explained in-game and have a much larger impact on multiplayer interactions than in the first Dark Souls, from having an ally to back you up if you get invaded to pulling people into your world to catch them in your own deadly traps. There’s even a PvP dueling arena for people who really want to test their abilities.

DS2 is a worthy sequel to one of the smartest action-RPGs in existence. Its polished gameplay systems and diverse environments constantly made me push myself to the limit and challenged my abilities as a gamer. I wanted to jump in again the instant the credits started rolling. While it does have some downsides, each of them is balanced out by a corresponding advantage, creating a well-rounded experience that anyone who enjoys a challenge will love.

Review by: Zach Schwaiger