13
Apr
14

Dark Souls II

Dark Souls 2

Having recently completed Dark Souls II with my wife, my feelings on the game are mainly positive with undercurrents of doubt.  Dark Souls II has all the flavor of a Dark Souls, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s been a bit of the experience from the firsts game that’s missing from the sequel.  The mechanics of the game are solid (but I’ve got a gripe with the targeting system) and the process of building your character then throwing them to the wolves is familiar and satisfying.  The environment and monster designs are detailed and unnerving (even if they didn’t end up being what From Software aspired to be.)  But I felt that there was a diminished sense of discovery to this game as opposed to Dark Souls II.

I would like to argue that the real staying power of Dark Souls is drawn from the risk/reward contrast.  There are plain examples of this in risking your accumulated souls to obtain an item in a precarious area of the dungeon.  But there are also indirect examples that lead from this.  Dark Souls does indeed have a story, albeit one that you’ve stumbled upon after the fact.  The items you collect throughout the game include a series of pieces to the story’s puzzle, and alongside the NPCs you meet and assist throughout the game, it’s possible to put it all together.  The story isn’t handed to you, and it goes without saying that it can be ignored altogether.  But doing that means denying yourself a more interesting experience, and one that is shared with the Dark Souls community.

Dark Souls II, in contrast, felt more like the story was a box to check off a list.  Don’t get me wrong, there are interesting things going on, and you’ve got to work to uncover it, but vast sections of the game offer little to further your understanding of that story.  It’s very possible that this is the result of having already completed Dark Souls, and am playing through Dark Souls II expecting the unexpected.  I was waiting for lightning to strike the same place twice, and it just wasn’t going to happen like that.  There’s only so much From Software could do to mitigate that.  But I also felt that the game was actively avoiding it in places as well.  You’re told, early on, that you will find yourself in front of the Drangleic Castle, and not really know why.  The undead that wind up in the world of Dark Souls II all suffer from memory loss, but I also felt that this statement was also meant to be taken literally.  You really have no idea why you’re doing this.  And perhaps the first game had, to its benefit, your curiosity at just what the heck was going on.

There is one area of Dark Souls II that I’ve neglected in almost its entirety: online multiplayer.  Our first play through was on a Live account that did not have gold access.  My impression is that From Software chose to focus more on the series unique multiplayer experience at the expense of the game’s lore.  This is totally fine in my eyes.  The online multiplayer component is indeed interesting and worth playing the game just for that aspect alone.  But it’s not what we chose to play the game for.  I expect that players that elect to continue through “new game plus” and further will be doing so to continue to enhance their player and compete with others at higher levels.  There seems to be less incentive to do so otherwise.  There are fewer choices to be made with NPCs, less lore to each of the locations, and less to be dug up in the process of playing. It’s a fine game, just maybe a game that’s worth playing once, which is not a bad thing by any means.

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