Review: Dark Souls II (Xbox One)

Dark_Souls_II_coverDeveloper: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: Action RPG
ESRB: T

 

 

 

Dark Souls 2 places us back in the world of Drangleic. You are the bearer of the curse which has turned you hollow. Face epic boss battles and collect souls on your way to break the curse.

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Story

Dark Souls 2 starts out in a similar way to its predecessor. You begin the game as a hollow looking for answers. You come across a building that houses a group of elderly women who used to be fire keepers. They explain to you that you are cursed and that the kingdom of Drangleic is in decay which caused them to flee to this location. The land has become full of hollows who spend their days harvesting souls, which has now become your fate.
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You then head out to Majula and find the Emerald Herald who asks if you are the next monarch or just another pawn. She tells you that you need to seek the four endowed with immense souls and seek the king.
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Unlike other games, Dark Souls doesn’t hand you the story on a plate, the developers instead throw the plate at you and expect you to find the story through lore and exploration. The main objective is to gather four ancient souls. Only once these four souls are gathered are you able to enter the throne room and become the next monarch and hopefully lift the curse.

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If you have the Scholar of the First Sin edition, making certain choices throughout the game grants you an alternate, and more dark ending.

Content

Language: Surprisingly for a game as dark as the Souls series, the language is really tame. There is no foul language worth noting.
Sexual Content: There is a boss named Scorpioness Najka that is topless, but her breasts are covered with her hair, similar to Queelag in the first Dark Souls. The hair never moves, so you never actually see anything.
Drugs/Alcohol: None
Spiritual: You encounter and fight demons, zombies and reincarnations. There are also mentions of multiple deities.
Violence: As expected, there is a lot of killing, but there’s not a lot of blood. The only gory scene I can recall is when you fight the Baneful Queen Mytha who carries her head around.

Gameplay

Dark Souls 2 plays very similar to the first Dark Souls albeit a bit smoother. However, unlike the first Dark Souls, you have to rely on a central hub in the game called Majula to do things like leveling up and upgrading your estus flask. You also rely on bonfires to get you back and forth to places whereas the previous title relied on shortcuts.

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You start out like most other RPG’s in character creation. While the creation isn’t as fantastical as that of the Elder Scrolls for example, there is still a good variety of options that you can choose to make your character look as you see fit. There are also a bunch of classes you can choose from to suit the type of player you are. Be wary though, sorcerers are not as powerful as they were in Dark Souls and practically useless in the DLC.

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Once your character is created, you are ready to face your ultimate doom….I mean start the game. Make your way through areas by killing enemies and collecting their souls. Souls are the currency in the Souls series, and are used for leveling up and purchasing items or abilities. To level up, you have to travel back to the game’s hub, Majula, and talk to the Emerald Herald.

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Leveling up allows you to add attributes to your character and tune him/her to how you want them to be. As you level up, the attributes cost more souls to increase so I recommend focusing on your character’s main attributes in the beginning. You can also talk to the  to upgrade your Estus Flask if you have an estus shard which are found mostly through exploration.
Once the area is cleared, you’ll typically come to a fog gate which either opens a new area or has a boss behind it. It is a good idea to travel back to Majula and spend your souls before entering a fog gate. If you die in this game, you lose all of your souls and have only one chance to claim them. If you die en route to claim your already lost souls, they are gone permanently.
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“I’m going to need a bigger sword.”

If you need help facing a boss or even just clearing an area, you can always summon the help of area NPC’s or friends in the form of a Shade or a Phantom. The difference between the two is, Shades will help you out until a certain amount of souls are collected. Phantoms will help you until the area boss is killed. However, you can summon a shade to help defeat an area boss, but make sure the area is clear so the soul count does not run out before you get there.
In order to summon help, you must be human. There are a few ways you can do this, one of which is using a human effigy. You can usually find these scattered throughout the realm and they stack in your inventory. Another way you can become human is by helping another player defeat a boss. You do not have to be human to be summoned.

Presentation

The Souls games have always been beautiful games and Dark Souls 2 isn’t different in that regard. The atmosphere is very dark and gloomy at times, but can also be colorful and light at other times. The graphics are absolutely amazing and the opening cutscene looked almost photo-realistic.
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Opening Cutscene

Dark Souls 2 wasn’t directed by the same guy who directed the first Dark Souls so the layout is a bit different. Instead of one giant dungeon that you rely on unlocking all sorts of shortcuts around the seldom bonfire, this game relies on you traveling back and forth between multiple bonfires in areas. Think of the bonfires in this games as checkpoint. This doesn’t necessarily take away from the game, but I definitely prefer the layout in the first Dark Souls because you don’t have to keep traveling back and forth over and over again..
The Scholar of the First Sin edition of Dark Souls 2 adds more items and NPCs to the base game for a more rich experience. It also adds a lot more enemies to areas, thus making the game even more challenging. If you haven’t played a Souls game before, I do not recommend starting with the Scholar of the First Sin edition; there is no option to choose the regular game in this edition.

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As mentioned throughout this review, the story isn’t laid out for you. You know your main objective and what you must do to get there, but you don’t know why you have to do it. You don’t know the background of the bosses you have to kill or why their souls are so special. You have to do a lot of digging, exploration and reading to figure out the lore. It is worth looking into because it gives you emotional ties to the game. You might find yourself feeling bad for killing a certain boss or even feel good about killing a certain NPC. It is up to you if you want to solve the mini mysteries in the Souls world or if you want to leave it be.
There are also three additional DLC’s known as The Lost Crowns. The DLC’s add three new areas for the player to explore. You will venture through caverns, ruins, and frozen landscapes in search of the three crowns. Once they are collected and you have defeated the King in the main story, you can turn them in for a special item. To prevent any spoilers, I will not explain what this item does but I recommend not waiting until the end of the game to find it.
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The Lost Crowns DLC brings you more areas to die in…..er…explore.

Conclusion

While the story isn’t revolutionary or anything, it is made that way on purpose. The game wants you to go and explore and find things out on your own and make it simple to do so by only giving you one overall objective. The combat system is a big improvement from the first Dark Souls and makes killing bosses much more satisfying. The Scholar of the First Sin edition has enough to bring you back to the main story again and also adds three more DLCs to torture you even more.

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The Bottom Line

Overall, the Dark Souls games never fail to impress. If you are looking for a beautiful, enjoyable yet challenging game, this game is perfect for you. If you are a casual gamer or are not up to be tortured, frustrated and beaten down, then stay away from these games, but I will say this to you it's the challenge of the game that makes beating it so much more satisfying. Prepare to die again.

 

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Robert Dever Jr.

Born and raised in New Jersey. Currently attending school to pursue a career in the medical field. When not working or in school, I enjoy gaming and anything involving sports, dogs, nature or cars.

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