Community Review: Dark Souls II

Last week the two big hitters were clearly Titanfall and Dark Souls II, but since we already covered Titanfall's beta, let's cover off Dark Souls II first. How is everyone finding it?

I've been writing a Dark Souls II diary since last week and I've been enjoying the game a lot. New aspects of the game that I disliked to begin with are slowly beginning to make sense in the context of what is basically a brand new game. I worried over some of the changes: the teleportation, the losing of health when hollow, but Dark Souls II is its own design and these new features sense within that design. I just have to let go of my own expectations and enjoy Dark Souls II for what it is.

How are you all going? The best part about Dark Souls II is playing the game at the same time as everyone else. I already felt the strength of community when I played the original years after its release. Now it just feels more powerful. We're all huddled around this same, engaging experience and that just makes it all the more... engaging!

How are you all finding it? Let us know in the comments below.


    I am loving it to the point that my wife is noticing how much damn time I've spent with it and she often encourages me to chill with games. The discovery aspect is by far my favourite part. The anticipation of each new area and even what's coming around the corner is awesome. I have found the bosses weird though. Some I have beat on my first attempt whilst others have taken hours to beat. It may have to do with the order I am approaching this but its strange.

    Last edited 17/03/14 11:11 am

    I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to give it as I would have liked. I'm currently in a Warmachine League and spent the weekend playing that, but also there's bonus points for earning 15 hobby points in the first 2 weeks and worked at painting those models within the last week.

    As for Dark Souls 2, there were a few concerns I had when playing it. I want to play the game for awhile before I address them, but there were a couple that stood out.
    First off, I understood some of the reviews complaints about the "disconnect" between areas that Dark Souls was good at. Particularly with that first area with the giants. If you turn around from the start of where you enter from you can clearly see the skybox is a large distance away from the aquaducts which looks like it suddenly ends, despite the implication that you used it to travel through the mountain. Same thing at the end with that bandit hideout, standing from the outside the skybox is too far away to create the illusion of travel.

    Second concern, why do I have to travel and talk to that woman to level up each time? At first I thought that would be a new challenge, you can only level up here and would need to make the decision of risking a journey back with your souls to level up or push forward. Making you look out for shortcuts more often to reduce that travel time, up until the end of the game where you do get the ability to teleport. But you can teleport from the start of the game! Why not just remove her (not the character at least) and allow me to level up at any bonfire? It's just unneccessary busy work.

    Last edited 17/03/14 11:25 am

      I thought the same about travelling back system. I have changed a little though as it is always a good idea to check in with the folk that slowly start to populate the area.

      You know what's weird is that I thought exactly the same thing about the perspective of the distance, but it's... well. It actually kinda makes sense. Seriously, go run over to the Victor Stone behind the cat's house, and look over at how far away the Blue Covenant knight's shrine is. It looks actually kinda far away, but it's really just a couple minutes' jog through the town. I'm not sure if that's a neat trick that they're doing with perspective and coding, or if things really DO look farther away when mapped properly.

      When I looked over to the castle and how far you have to travel through the Forest of Fallen Giants, mapping out ever metre you traverse - including the long stairway and tunnels down underground to get to that open cavern with the chest, the creek, the little watch-tower, then that rampart before you finally hit what looks like the keep... there's actually a hell of a lot of distance there.

        Yes, it's an illusion that makes everything feel connected. Dark Souls did it perfectly, there were probably many loading screens in the game but you never noticed because they did a good job hiding everything with the foreground.

        The example I gave was too much. They could have easily added in a cliff to both sides of the area. It would have given the illusion that the town was right over that cliff, but in reality it's been deloaded.

          If you sprint fast enough through enough areas, you can actually sometimes catch the immediate vicinity being loaded/de-loaded, complete with texture pop-in over blank white.

    Having a great time. Have just been jolly co-opping rather than progressing, but it's crazy fun running through the Heide's Tower bosses, Ornstein-2 and Dragonrider, and farming all the souls along the way. Might... be overlevelled for whatever part of the game comes next. Am currently co-opping through Huntsman Copse. I'm learning about all these areas and their enemies as a risk-free summon, and then turn around and summon help of my own for these places :P

    Last edited 17/03/14 11:55 am

      That's my modus operandi.
      Scout while being summoned, then summon for my actual attempt. Seriously cuts down on the deaths :P

    Oh man, this Dark Souls game is pretty great! I just got up to this place called Anor Londo and... oh. Oh... Dark Souls '2'...

      You're up to Anor Londo now? Wow, you're ripping through this game! You might be able to finish it before me (though you'll have to get your skates on... I'm pretty sure I've stood outside the door of the final boss).

        PHWOARRRR! Final bosssss. Looking forward to this fellow. I've seen Artorias thrown about a bit, I'm assuming its him. I think I killed his dog.

          Nooooo. Artorias is a DLC boss that is optional (the whole area is).

            Ohh! Ohhhhhh. Wonder who then? I dunno I'm a bit out of the loop on this world, people are talking about things and I dont really know... I'm like yeah that's cool that you're with a lady going to do a mission, or something, but imma just go kill some more big stuff kay

              I just beat the Taurus Demon! And now I'm in this place called the Undead Parish but I keep getting skewered by spearmen and poisoned by the rats under the bridge, goddam! Might have to learn how to fight. In fact might have to learn how to play the game. When did this game come out? It's awesome!

              Praise the Sun!

              Have you found the Lordvessel yet? Kinda explains what your ultimate goal is when you do. Can't remember the order, but if you're not meant to go there now, then it'll be soon.

                I dont... think so? No? Most likely no, I think

                  Re: Lordvessel.
                  When you woke up the snake dude - Frampt - he'll have told you to go and get it. But he warned you that you'd need to pass through trap-infested Sen's Fortress to get to where the vessel's being held.

                  It's pretty boss when you do get it, though. It lets you teleport around between bonfires. Frickin' awesome.

    I've only just gotten past the first boss (or at least one of the bosses) so I'm not exactly far enough in to comment on everything but I've been watching someone else play it as well. The biggest thing that's stuck in my mind is that it looks a lot like From heard people saying they liked Demon's Souls and have basically made Demon's Souls with elements of Dark Souls for the sequel. You have a person that levels you up, there's teleportation to "areas", a central hub that leads to spokes, a diminishing health bar, healing items (other than the Estus Flask) and other elements.

    Some salient points for me would be:
    - It's lost the interconnected feeling of DaSo, opting instead for spokes on a hub
    - Stamina, stamina, stamina
    - From what I've heard, magic is severely nerfed, but greatweapons are more viable
    - I miss the clinking noise when I move (Might be my armour)
    - Torches have not yet been necessary
    - Timings are different but combat feels more like I need to fight to survive
    - Boss fights feel more mechanical than a challenge
    - Seems like SL1 runs aren't going to be the challenge this time round

    All in all, I'm enjoying it and being there at the start is enhancing my enjoyment.

    Last edited 17/03/14 11:34 am

      I think a OneBro run would be amazing to see, given that pyromancy won't be available to Onebros as a crutch...

        You'd also pretty much be just punching everything as the Deprived's starting strength and agility are rubbish.

          Which is why it would be so goddamned hardcore. Though the Deprived can wield shortswords and a few other minor weapons, which can all be upgraded.

          Edit: actually found this video by @junglist

          Last edited 17/03/14 1:44 pm

      From what PVP I have done; magic is really useful and interesting. Lots of variety and power now.

    Fantastic game so far.

    - Yes most boss fights seem easier. But I think that's more to do with the amount of hours I've put into both previous games. My mindset is very different now and I know how to play.

    - That being said, I do find the environments more difficult than dark souls.

    - I don't like the fast travel. Yes it's there, but it loses the connected feel dark souls had.

    - I love the feel of being on this journey with everyone else, feels good bro.

    - Graphically, it can be an eyesore. I will be buying this game on PC too, so I can enjoy it 60fps in full HD. With the lightning system that was orginally made for this game :)

    Absolutely loving it, the reason people aren't like the lady you level up at and a few other things must be because they never played the pre cursor to Dark Souls, Demon Souls the Emerald Lady (i think) is the same as the maiden in Black from Demon souls so is having to talk to her to level, I'm actually quite liking the almost mash up between Demon Souls and Dark Souls that resulted in Dark Souls 2

    Until such times as the pc version is released, we should abstain from reviewing! Eagerly awaiting placing grimy hands on pc version.

    The views expressed are solely the opinion of one disgruntled pc gamer. *

    Last edited 17/03/14 1:16 pm

    Copy/pasting from TAY:

    From seems to have taken the approach of "more is more good" here. More areas to explore, more bosses to deal with, more enemies on screen at a time. The problem is that most areas and bosses simply aren't memorable because of it. As for the enemies, I'm just finding it really irritating, especially in boss fights. There are multiple boss fights where they throw in trash mobs to make things more difficult but it feels like the wrong sort of difficulty. I'd much prefer less.

    Less areas so that I feel more like I'm exploring some world instead of patched together set pieces (paying attention to the geography makes it all stop making sense). Less bosses so that there's less "oh, another boss to deal with". I know that what I wanted out of Dark Souls 2 was more Dark Souls but I think I was more after more Dark Souls experience than more things from Dark Souls shoved into a game.

    I'm still very much enjoying the game.

    I'm loving it. I got Dark Souls and struggled to like it. I KNEW it was supposed to be good/great/amazing but at the time I played it in bits & pieces and kept forgetting the mechanics of how it worked and for some reason never got in to the enjoy dying frame of mind. This time, with Dark Souls 2 I have been able to play it solid and it is such a great experience. I'm actualy doing ok which I think is more to do with the fact I have played it solidly rather than it being easier (could be wrong). I'm really keen to go back and play Dark Souls (and Demon Souls) after this to see if it is more enjoyable/easier now that I am in sync with the mechanics of it. I'm really liking the hub & spoke layout so far though and the combat feels good.

    I'll also say I really like how enemies now don't swing, they'll keep walking forward until you're in range because you've most likely dodged backwards.

    I've been playing on and off the last few days while the wife is at work, so I'm about 20-30 hours in at this point. These are my thoughts and feelings on the game thus far, midway through the game.

    I should also point out that I've played a lot of both Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, and I am a big fan of the series. I actually imported my first copy of Demon's Souls from the US before it was out in Australia, and went on to buy a local copy on release because I'd lent it to a friend and wanted to play it again. I thoroughly enjoyed Demon's Souls.

    I also bought and finished both the PS3 and PC versions of Dark Souls. To me, Dark Souls took everything I loved about Demon's Souls and improved upon it immensely. The mechanics felt better, the flow of the game was great, the environments were enthralling. The bosses and enemies felt memorable, and the locations and environments were dark and intimidating, yet so awe-inspiring that you felt compelled to explore. It was easily my favourite game of the last 10 or so years.

    Brutally honest opinion on Dark Souls 2 so far: I'm a little bit disappointed.

    It's not that it's not a good game. It's not that I'm not enjoying myself and I certainly don't want to stop by any means. In truth the biggest issue to me is that it feels like I'm playing Demon's Souls 2, not Dark Souls 2. Don't get me wrong, I still love the original Demon's Souls and will happily take whatever I can get, but in many ways, this latest entry feels like a step back in several areas.

    While some people love the shrinking health bar that was present in Demon's Souls, I was never a fan. While I'm all for a challenge, this just felt like an unnecessary frustration, and I was glad to see it removed in Dark Souls. I understand the developers wanting to punish players for attempting to YOLO suicide through enemies to pick up items, but I still think bringing this mechanic back was a misstep. Given the rarity of human effigies (especially early on) I found myself getting frustrated more easily, as I fought my way through levels with half a health bar. It does get better once you pick up the Ring of Binding (you can only be reduced to 75% of max health rather than 50%) but I personally don't enjoy it, and hope we don't see it in future titles.

    Probably the most disappointing part of Dark Souls 2 to me is the actual world design itself. In Dark Souls the level design itself felt incredibly clever. The way you would see a tower or bridge above you and spend hours slowly making your way there really helped to sell the Lordran as a real and tangible place. Individual zones were intricately connected by numerous doors, ladders and tunnels, and there was a huge sense of satisfaction that came with opening up a new shortcut that allowed you quick access via an earlier part of the game.

    For the most part, I haven't seen these kinds of shorcuts available in Dark Souls 2. I'm not saying there aren't any, but in many cases the developers have just thrown in bonfires that simply serve as a new checkpoints to teleport out from. It's a lot like how the last few sections of Dark Souls felt more like linear, one-way paths with a boss and bonfire at the end, because you could just fast travel back at that point.

    I know some people love the whole fast-travel idea, because it's definitely faster and more convenient to zip around the map, but personally I feel it detracts from the game and results in sub-par level design and a less memorable experience overall. The best comparison I can really make here is that it feels like moving from Classic vanilla World of Warcraft to the Burning Crusade. The addition of flying mounts was met with a great huzzah from everyone, because getting around was so much faster and easier than ever before. At the same time though, it made the world feel smaller, and you didn't have much or any reason to return to areas after you finished all the quests. Again I think this is just a matter of personal preference.

    It's not all bad though. Some things have definitely been improved, particularly in regards to various parts of the interface. In particular, being able to use numerous use numerous items that grant souls from your inventory in one go is a welcome change.

    I could go on a lot more about boss, battles, graphics/the lighting engine, multiplayer etc. but this is already a long arse post, so I'll taper it off here.

    I'm not usually one to make snap judgements, and I'm still going to pick up the PC version of Dark Souls 2 when it comes out, so here's hoping it'll grow on me over time.

    As it stands though, Dark Souls 2 hasn't set my world on fire the same way the first 2 games did. In fact, the more I play, the more it makes me want to go play Dark Souls 1 on my PC.

    TLDR: Dark Souls 2 is a good game, but feels more like Demon's Souls 2, and your mileage will vary based on which of the first 2 games you enjoyed more.

    I'm loving it. Currently a level 101 sorcerer. Besides a few little frustrating moments (like killing cale by accident and not getting his mansion key) it's great fun. I'm surprised at how fun it is playing as a sorcerer, I thought without blocking id give up quickly but it's not as hard as I thought!

    My dark souls tip: make sure who you are about to attack is actually an enemy. I killed cale because I thought he was an enemy, and my mate killed the vendor in no man's wharf that you can sell to be him!

    Finished the last optional boss (I believe) today, the Souls games need time to sink in but I can't shake the feeling it's not quite the game Dark Souls was. A majority of the changes I either dislike and don't understand, or understand but still dislike/think it was the worst way to make the change. I could write essays on it, as I did with Dark Souls, but to be concise, it's an excellently put together game that has some design problems that stand out specifically BECAUSE of its predecessor, which is never a good thing.

    Also my obsession and concern with the lore was not unfounded, while I understand most of the playerbase won't care, I personally do, and it progressively became more clear that there wasn't nearly as much care put into item placement/world building/background/etc etc. (Eg. There's a well hidden door that requires a well hidden key that leads to 2 [unrelated] spells, but there's no real context to why they're there, contrast that to say the occult club in the basement of Anor Londo, or the location of the miracle beyond Gwyndolin.)

    The elusiveness of Dark Souls felt intentional and carefully crafted, the vagueness here feels like they used the original as a way of not needing to flesh out the lore entirely. Also there's few things worse than when a writer says "Oh no, this one is set in world X, it's just changed so much that none of the stuff that would actually identify it as world X are present, but it's the same! Please like me! Granted I'll need to go over the descriptions and the like a few hundred times to confirm said feelings.

    Oops, I got started on a Souls games, should stop now, either way it's a great game and honestly better than I was worried it'd be when they shafted Miyazaki. (But it'd still have been better with him <_<)

    Is it just me or do the bosses feel much easier? I haven't had to play them more than 3 times, and usually it's because of clumsiness on my part than the bosses being overwhelming. for reference, I've beaten the first 5 bosses.

    Also I went on Youtube and found a lot of people fought The Last Giant first. I fought Dragonrider first. Anyone else do the same?

    The only thing I truly don't like so far is the sound design for talking to characters. It feels really slow between each line read. And also for some reason you have to exhaust the same little bits of dialogue before you can get to the menu to level up or other things. Why? That really annoys me.

    Last edited 17/03/14 5:38 pm

      I feel you on the slow conversations. It can feel like they drag for ages sometimes. There's also no need to have people like the emerald herald giving you 4 lines of dialogue every time you talk to her.

      As for the bosses, they start off pretty simple imo. Dragonrider was barely worth calling a boss since you could pretty much just circle strafe him the whole time. I found the more difficult part to be getting to him, since I had nothing to pull the knights out from their groups individually until I found a bow.

      I started off with the Last Giant. He took me a couple of tries to get the attack patterns sorted, but once you know his attacks he's pretty simple. Just a tad tricky at first if you have a really low health pool because he can one-shot you with a foot stomp.

    I'm loving it so far. Upto the Royal Rat Authority but having a bitch of a time trying to kill the small rats fast enough and not becoming Toxic. Gotta summon someone but can never find anyone's summon signs when I'm human.

    Took me a while to get used to the changes from Dark Souls but once I got the hang of it it started to really take off.

    Loving it every bit as much as the first two. The 'Soul' series has that rare magic that makes me drop whatever else I am doing compulsively pick up the controller.I am lucky enough to be on leave so I have been playing from dawn till dusk. It invades my dreams like a phantom...

    The limited souls does make me play like a genocidal maniac systematically wiping enemies off the map for fear of loosing precious souls. I love how refined the combat feels and the quicker leveling makes the farming for souls more enjoyable. If this game was the first in the series it would be blowing our pretty little minds. I am only 6 bosses and unless something goes radically wrong I can tell this will be occupying my time on and off all year. My only complaint so far besides how dodgey the cliffs look off 'Heide Tower off flame' are the loading times when you die.

    I'm too caught up in work for the next few weeks to be able to get into it!
    Save a few hundred deaths for me, guys...

    I've managed to finish the game using a ultra great sword build and currently playing through NG+ and playing though as a magic user. The combat felt really sold and i like that you aren't as heavy penalised if you wear heavy amour which mean i was able to actually rock my ultra greatsword and some decent amour while still being able to roll (Granted i did need the royal soldiers ring). I didn't really have many problems on bosses on my first play through well except the Royal Rat Authority because the rats would make me toxic and almost kill be before the fight started but once I dealt with the rats the boss was simple enough.

    With my current sorcerer i just cleared the ruin sentinels which went down quickly thanks the helpful NPC and a player. Only real issue i've had with the sorc is clearing the tower of flame, i almost ran out of spells before i hit the boss and didn't have any leafs on me. My advice to anyone playing a sorc is to go to dead man wharf as soon as you can get there to get better spells. Also being able to cancel spells mid cast is makes the whole no shield thing viable.

    What i am loving so much is the NG+. It's not just a case of enemies have more HP and hit harder. They act differently and different enemies spawn. Currently I am stuck on the lost sinner because at about 1/2 HP 2 red pyromancer phantoms join the fray and sling fireballs at you which mess me up everytime and the NPC doesn't last long enough to be effective.

    My only gripe with the game is lag in multi-player so many times I've been back stabbed when i was no where near the other player. But that isnt really the games problem just Australia's shitty internet.

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