Dark Souls fans looking for a new challenge will be very happy with Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin.
I took a short break from the Souls world after marathoning through Bloodborne, but Bandai Namco smartly timed its Dark Souls 2 remix to Bloodborne's release. The moment credits were rolling on Axiom Verge, I decided to head back to the endlessly shiny Majula.
For the first few hours, Scholar of the First Sin didn't feel very different. You quickly learn the game has altered enemy placements, mostly involving nasty things from later in the game showing up much earlier. This keeps you on your toes and results in some humorous deaths, but it's not a big deal. You learn how to avoid the turtle enemies from stomping you. Or you don't.
I suspect it's going to be shocking for newcomers, though. There's no doubt that Scholar of the First Sin has been changed for the benefit of hardcore fans, as this is a significantly harder version of the game. I found myself running through sections far more than I originally did.
As I dug deeper and deeper into the game, though, it became clear just how badly the game wants to mess with you, especially if you come to the game with expectations.
One of the game's most infamous bosses is The Pursuer. You can unlock this nasty piece of business fairly early on, and it's common to run away screaming and properly fight him later. That's exactly what I did, but when I returned to The Pursuer, I was ready. My dual maces, locked into a deadly power stance, made quick work of the floating demon who'd tormented me.
Thing is, defeating The Pursuer doesn't mean The Pursuer disappears. No, no, no. He becomes just another enemy type for Dark Souls 2 that shows up, seemingly at random.
When I was fighting some dogs, there was The Pursuer.
When I opened a chest, there was The Pursuer.
He's different every time you find him, too. One version of The Pursuer has learned magic that immediately curses you. Even though I'd soundly defeated The Pursuer in boss form, I haven't been able to do anything about this new version.
It makes journeys through otherwise safe, known areas really exciting. You hear a familiar woosh, and you know The Pursuer is nearby.
In fact, this trick seems to be one of the more reliable ones in Scholar of the First Sin. On my way to one of the game's nastier bosses, The Lost Sinner, I heard some very loud footsteps...
Yep, that's Flexile Entry. Yep, he's just a regular enemy. No, he doesn't disappear when you kill them. Why? Because Scholar of the First Sin doesn't care if you beat him once. Beat him again!
(In my case, I just ran past him. See ya!)
At the very least, it's making my return to Dark Souls 2 a little more exciting. I'm rushing through the game as fast as possible to unlock the downloadable content, and it's nice to know there are some surprises around every corner. By surprises, of course, I mean certain death.