Dark Souls II launched March 11th of this year, but it went unnoticed by me at the time. The first title was still collecting dust on the shelf, and it would be another month before I picked it up. Having run through the original title two full times with Ken and completing all the achievements, we started making arrangements to move onto the sequel. It would be several more weeks before we finally got some time devoted to it, but we did eventually get there.
Visually the game is very much like the previous game, but you can see the two years of graphical improvements made to the game engine. The bodies of dead enemies no longer get stuck to you as you walk by to be dragged along like a weightless rag doll. Ken informs me many “pure” Dark Souls enthusiasts don’t like the change. I think their a bunch of knob gobbling neck beards.
The game manages to maintain the same look and feel of the last game, and the combat system, while slightly tweaked, feels very much the same. Having come straight off of the first title right into the second, it does feel very much like the same game for me. However, some improvements over the original are quite welcome. The first such change is the soul items in the game can be used all at once instead of one at a time which saves a lot of menu switching. Next, the warp feature in the game is unlocked from the start instead of two thirds of the way through. This is by far my favorite change.
The servers that handle both co-op and invasions are now dedicated instead of P2P which makes it much more stable. The addition of a special ring we can equip that makes our summon sign only appear to other players using the same deity is also a welcome change to constantly being summoned by the wrong group and then having to disband and try again in a more remote location.
While the game still allows us to drop a lot of items through co-op, it has restricted some of them like the titanite pieces used to upgrade weapons and armor. This has been somewhat frustrating as it makes farming the materials a longer process. Add to this fact that now enemies will only respawn 10-15 times instead of infinitely, and you start to realize that you have to be very specific and meticulous in your upgrade planning so you don’t come up short.
The games story remains as vague as it’s predecessor, though II does provide a least a little more info on what is going on. It appears to be thousands of years since the last game, and there is no mention of your previous character. You once again take the role of a chosen Undead who is tasked with lighting the eternal bonfire to break the undead curse. As you can learn throughout the last game and this one however, lighting the bonfire is only a temporary fix, and sooner or later the curse will return making your sacrifice only a temporary solution. While the last game left you at the end with a choice of lighting the bonfire or not, this game leaves you with a much more vague ending. The scene shows you walking into the room of the eternal bonfire, then the credits roll, leaving you with know idea as to whether it was lit or not. Ken hopes that upcoming DLC being released later this month will shed more light on it. In fact after completing the first playthrough and collecting everything I could, we have put a temporary hold on game plus replays for that last few achievements until the DLC comes out so we don’t have to play through the new content with harder enemies. The downside however is that I have to find something else to play in the mean time.
The draw of the game much like is predecessor is to be extremely difficult until you level up, gear up, and learn the enemies strengths and weaknesses. I am shielded from a lot of this by having Ken with me the whole time. A second player who knows what they are doing makes a huge difference, and many of the areas as long as we played smart were relatively easy. Some parts and bosses however were still quite frustrating, and we ended up blowing almost 15 humanities on one boss with all of our failed attempts.
We played much of the original title with Matt as well, and had intended to do so again. However due to some real life stuff Matt had going on, he missed out a day or two and ended up being too far behind to be summoned. I was hoping that Ken would catch him up while my wife and I were in California, but Matt never found the time to do it. We are hoping now that with us waiting for the DLC to move onto new game plus, he will catch up.
Overall I have found the game to be fairly enjoyable, even so far as to say I would consider picking up a third title at launch. However just like the previous game, I find the strengths of the game to be found in co-op, not single player. Without it I likely wouldn’t give much consideration to play this series. But as long as they keep giving me the option, I’ll keep playing their games.