Dark Souls II Review

Like the game that preceded it, Dark Souls II offers an indelible experience that’s will remain in my memory for years to come.

How far are you willing to go to become human again? Would you die over and over again until you crush the obstacles that block your path to salvation? Would you face the gargantuan bosses that punctuate your dark journey? Would you explore the somber environments until you reach the warm light of a bonfire? Seeking the answers to those questions is what kept me hooked to Dark Souls II for dozens of hours, an adventure plagued with disheartening moments, but also incredibly rewarding ones. Like the game that preceded it, Dark Souls II offers an indelible experience that’s will remain in my memory for years to come.

Despite being set in the same universe, Dark Souls II isn’t a direct continuation from the first game. Set in the world of Drangleic, Dark Souls II puts you in the shoes of of a hollow character that needs to explore this bleak world to regain his or her humanity. To break this powerful curse, you need to travel this fallen kingdom and obtain the great souls from gigantic creatures that punctuate this arduous and difficult journey.

Regardless of what you might have heard, Dark Souls II isn’t easier than its predecessor. This sequels makes some smart changes that make your journey less painful (more on this later,) but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it easy. Although I never encountered anything as frustrating as Dragon Slayer Ornstein and Executioner Smough or an area as maddening as the vertical city of Blighttown, this sequel still has its own challenges and rewards that make it worthy of its name.

So about those changes? Dark Souls II puts you in the shoes of a character who has lost his or her humanity as is therefore known as a hollow. This means that your life decreases each time you die. There are ways to revert this state with some rare items, but if you want to maximize your chances of defeating the bosses that separate one section from the next, the game indirectly encourages you to use a Human Effigy to completely restore your health bar. But you know that whenever you die not only do you become hollow again, but your health decreases each time until it reaches that 50% or until you use a Human Effigy again.

Something else that differentiates this sequel from the first Dark Souls is that this time around, there are many more boss fights and some of them are entirely optional (and were it not for the fact that I peeked at a walkthrough from time to time, I would have missed some of these entirely.) I have no idea how the developers managed to create so many bosses without making them feel similar to each other, but they don’t and not only aesthetically, but they also need you to use different strategies to defeat them. Being able to approach an enemy however you want and still succeed is important. You can use a melee or ranged characters, you can lure bosses into chasms for an instant death, you can exploit weaknesses and you can summon NPCs or other human players to help you bring down these creatures.

There are some exciting changes, but other parts of this game remain the same, such as the multiplayer. For those unfamiliar, Dark Souls multiplayer component is different to that of any other game: you can summon other players to help you fight bosses, you can read or leave messages to warn others of the dangers ahead and you can invade other players. To be honest, I’ve never seen anything like this before and playing online completely transforms your experience, making it more cooperative than you might think. Whenever I read a message on the ground warning me that the chest in front of me was a mimic or whenever a stranger encouraged me to keep pushing forward even if I kept dying over and over, the lonely experience that usually characterizes single-player role-playing games turned into an exercise of cooperation where you establish bonds with complete strangers.

And I could go on and on about this game, but let’s end with this: in a world where most games are designed so that you can finish them effortlessly and move on to something else, Dark Souls II feels strangely out of place, but also shines like the true gem that it is. This is an immensely rewarding title that’s filled with memorable moments that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Dark Souls II can be unforgiving, bleak, inaccessible and repetitive. It’s also one of the best role-playing games of all time.