Demon’s Souls was, for me—and many others—a surprise. Tales told of a strange, masochistic PlayStation 3 diversion entrance from Japanese developer From Software, a diversion usually brought to North America after Atlus picked adult edition rights from a strange publisher, Sony Computer Entertainment (who clearly had tiny faith in a Western release).
By a time Dark Souls came around, things had changed. Hundreds of thousands of players on a shores had embraced a thought of a diversion that rewarded those who pushed to file their skills—and punished those who, even for a moment, showed signs of hubris. We energetically approaching From’s follow-up, and what we perceived took many of a core concepts of Demon’s Souls and crafted around them a larger, some-more open-world tour that was extraordinary in operation and abyss from commencement to end.
When a supplement was announced, we cheered—but also felt trepidation. A current-gen follow-up would have some enormous boots to fill, generally given a expectations a some-more hardcore fanbase would bring. And for me, on a personal level, there was an even bigger fear. I’d desired Dark Souls so many that it competence be tough to tip it—and even if a supplement pulled off all it attempted to do, it still competence not be enough.
Well, Dark Souls II isn’t what we was expecting. we had insincere I’d find some-more of a predecessor, ornate with an additional turn of gloss and a bigger altogether world. Instead, it roughly seems as if a group changed brazen by also looking to a past, bringing behind aspects from Demon’s Souls that had been formerly lost.
One instance of this is clear right from a start. After completing a initial educational area, we arrive in a tiny coastal encampment of Majula. Whereas Dark Souls’ initial location, Firelink Shrine, was a finish though not a home base, Majula serves as a vital heart for your swell and development. Leveling is finished here, as opposite to any sold bonfire; merchants and trainers will accumulate in Majula as we find them, many as they did in Demon’s Souls’ Nexus.
To assistance promote that change, Dark Souls II offers a ability to diverge from bonfire to bonfire right from a start, and a outcome of that preference is major. Dark Souls was about a tour with no one indicate of safety, with Lordran designed to be one large, companion sandbox where players were approaching to constantly leg it from one place to another. Here, a diversion knows we can now lapse to past locations during any time, and as a result, a locations mostly come off some-more as apart stages branching off in their possess directions (instead of ceaselessly weaving by one another). The change also affects how we proceed progress. In Dark Souls, there was mostly some-more of a concentration on creation your approach by one sold territory unless we found yourself generally stuck. This time around, it’s unequivocally common to burst from bonfire to bonfire, conquering areas in smaller pieces to wand off dullness or frustration.
I hated a opposite take on universe traversal during first. It pennyless one of a things we desired about Dark Souls, and afterwards some-more changes came along—some of them clearly from a betrothed pull to make a diversion “friendlier” for a wider operation of players—and they pennyless other things we loved. Weapons and armor reduce during a faster gait now, though they’re now bound whenever resting during a bonfire. You’ll constantly have your Estus Flask and a batch of recovering items, ones that can be used to some grade while moving. (Sure, we could bake Humanity to reanimate yourself in Dark Souls, though it mostly done distant some-more clarity not to.)
The serve we progressed, however, a some-more we came to terms with a quirks. Dark Souls II isn’t wrong—it’s different. The nods to Demon’s Souls at initial feel like they go opposite a vigilant of this new Souls authorization (such as a pierce from hub-based gameplay to an open world), though they assistance keep a diversion from entrance opposite as an enlargement container or CO duplicate of a initial Dark Souls, something we came to conclude some-more than I’d creatively expected. Maybe things needed to be broken, generally for a array that’s all about venturing off into a unexpected. In fact, late into a game, we felt myself wishing that From had been assured adequate to take bigger risks compared to what came before, as during times you’ll swear you’re treading informed ground.
One thing that didn’t need regulating was Dark Souls’ gameplay. There’s always a possibility that a developer can divert an thought too many too soon, though for now, we only can’t get adequate of a deliberate, skill-driven fight and storytelling that doesn’t puke exposition. Even better, a diversion sees some large improvements in control and user interface. Little touches abound, such as a ability to mount ladders faster, simply swap between opposite arrow forms mid-aim, or perform jumps around a symbol other than Run/Roll. Meanwhile, accessing register and changing out apparatus has been done many some-more user friendly. It’s infrequently tough to conclude some of these smaller revisions unless we go behind and play a prior games—but, if we do, it becomes fast apparent how many softened Dark Souls II handles these aspects.
A many bigger change that we also unequivocally enjoyed (in a masochistic way) is that, after going Hollow, unbroken deaths will means your limit health to continue to drop—up to a limit of 50 percent of your strange health. (This chastisement is reset if we use a Human Effigy to lapse to tellurian form.) This hearkens behind to a chastisement for being in essence form in a original Demon’s Souls; in Dark Souls, a penalties for going Hollow were intensely minimal, to a indicate where it wasn’t surprising to run around in that form for a infancy of a game. It’s a good, intelligent change, one that feels some-more correct to a suggestion of a series.
Dark Souls II sees improvements on a technical turn as well, with altogether engine opening noticeably softened on consoles. Playing a PS3 chronicle of a diversion and afterwards spending a tiny time going behind to Dark Souls’ recover on a same console, I’d lost how severe a original’s framerate could be even in a quieter moments. This feels like a some-more solid, unchanging experience, with no standout severe rags like Dark Souls’ mythological Blighttown. There’s a extraordinary footnote to all of this, however: a game’s lighting engine. Having had entrance to several snippets of Dark Souls II at prior Namco Bandai events, a portions we played don’t feel as boldly illuminated as they did before. This is many important with torches, one of a vital new gimmicks added. The idea—so distant as we always accepted it—was that some locations would be so dim that torches would be needed, and players would be during a disadvantage, given that a palm that once hold an additional arms or defense would instead be bustling holding aloft a source of light. At Tokyo Game Show final year, we played a specific shred where we had to do only that; in a final build, that accurate same territory was now well-lit adequate that doing so was no longer necessary. In fact, as they mount now in terms of their outcome on gameplay, torches in Dark Souls II feel like a extraordinary underline that was once meant to be partial of some many incomparable gameplay concept, though now mostly lay as tiny some-more than a memory of what could have been.
If there’s one partial of a array that fans hoped wouldn’t be mucked around with too much, it would be a mythological difficulty. Well, fear not—Dark Souls II is as tough as ever, once again charity From Software’s sold character of formidable-but-fulfilling challenge. Sure, those friendlier elements we mentioned above really palliate a tour in spots, though From creates no concessions when it comes to a universe full of monsters and bosses prepared and watchful to finish you. Despite being my third Souls outing, we still died. Plenty of times. Deaths that were due to foes that during initial seemed impossible, and deaths from times when we got conceited or foolish or should have famous better. That rush from finally violence a trainer you’ve battled so many times before is still there. The clarity of fulfilment from meaningful you’ve progressed since you’ve softened as a player—not since of new powers or unlockables like in other games—still exists in spades. From’s array has prisoner a cult following that it now has due to that core gameplay experience, and it continues to bake as splendid as Drangleic’s bonfires.
And yet, as good as Dark Souls II is—and as many as we came to conclude a mix of Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls—I didn’t like it as many as a precursor. Its characters and account are strong, though not as clever as a luminosity of what came before. Drangleic is a fun to explore, though Lordran still sits higher in terms of pattern and atmosphere. In my early hours with a game, feelings like those had me meditative Dark Souls II would finish adult a beating on mixed levels. Now, so many hours, deaths, levels, and slain bosses later, I’ve been means to strew many of a personal disposition we primarily hold opposite it. While it isn’t all that I’d like it to be—and we continue to doubt some of a pattern decisions From made—a not-quite-what-I-wanted Dark Souls II still sits on a turn prominently above many other games.
Note: Dark Souls II was played regulating a pre-release duplicate of a diversion before a central launch date. Due to this, we were incompetent to scrupulously exam a game’s online and village functionality adequate to embody contention of them in this review, or in a care of a final score.
[Review content was updated to enhance on a changes done to Dark Souls II‘s penalties for death.]