So, how is Dark Souls 2? Well, it’s not a bad game. … which is quite a catastrophe compared to the legendary Dark Souls 1.
Dark Souls 2 takes all the recipes which the new designers have been fond of in Dark Souls 1 and added and tweaked some details here and there. Notably, on character death, your maximum HP lowers down to at least 50% (but there are ways to get around this). And the number of enemy re-spawn has been limited to 12 or 15 (it seems to depend on the area). Due to some more heal options (Life Gems) it seemed to be a bit easier. I got the impression that the normal game is far easier than Dark Souls 1 has been. It really felt like being made for the casual gamer. Then again, the three DLCs are even more difficult than the Dark Souls 1 DLC has been. At least for me.
A difficulty which for me was beyond the barrier of acceptance with the Fume Knight. This was just boring frustrating (if you should have known in advance, you should have spared some smelter sticks to block the self-healing ability of the knight, but you don’t. Maybe I missed to read the small print on some item, alas, no-one told me in advance).
I once read the limited amount of enemy re-spawn is to prevent people from grinding. Funny, because for me, it *gave* me the reason to grind: kill all enemies until nothing re-spawns. I did this for about 95% of all areas and reached level 222(!) with this approach. Yes, a total grinding campaign. Bad design decision. Backfired for me.
Then the designers thought, that PvP is the real extra something to Dark Souls. And they made it non-consensual everywhere in the world. In Dark Souls 1 this was sort of ok since when you have been hallowed no-one could have invaded your realm and forced a PvP on you. This is different to DS2, because here in order to limit the probability to be invaded you have the burn those highly valuable human effigies (humanity in DS1 terms). Or play offline.
But when playing offline you won’t get any achievements.
Another bad design decision. I like Dark Souls combat style and world immersion, but I am greatly loathing doing PvP.
As I discovered this, I started to make my own save games and whenever I got invaded I CTRL-ALT-DEL and kicked DS2 from the process table and loaded my old save game. Some people got annoyed by this and flamed on Steam. Well, read my comment before flaming. I clearly stated that I *will* do this. There are areas in DS2 for PvP. Go for this, but f*** o** while I’m playing. This idea with the Blue Sentinels trying to protect you when invaded never worked for me (another bad design decision?).
As a result, I finished the whole game *without dying even once a single time!* and hardly used any human effigy ever … since I reloaded my save game all the time I died. :P
Then there is the universe. DS1 and DS2 have a huge amount of lore to tell. It is a fascinating world. Yet, From Software still hasn’t managed to tell a story. It is all in the item descriptions and in those mystic dialogues. But DS2 keeps on the virtue of DS1 in: “unable to tell a story”. You have to read the item descriptions on these tons of things (weapons, armors, keys, blah, …) and make some logical deduction. I come to the conclusion, that they thought this is some DS1 thing they should keep up doing. Well, I would like to have seen some story telling. I think From Software isn’t just capable of doing it.
And, while I’m at it: DS2 has no cohesive world. In one level you are in bright daylight, two stages beyond that it’s dark night and the moon is shining. The world in DS1 has been somehow “organic”, each level, each stage carefully designed and interlinked. DS2 is more like platform runner: now “Water Level”, then “Wood World”, then “Castle Run”,… Some levels are great (Dragon Aeire), some are just not (well, The Gutter, anyone?).
Another aspect is, that in between DS2 and “DS2 Scholar of the first Sin”, they added more enemies and rearranged them quite heavily. Whereas in DS1 it seemed that every opponent has been placed there really carefully. In DS2 they just threw more obstacles in your way, mistakenly thinking that’s what you want. For some enemies there seems no real reasoning but just that the designer simply had to the power to do so. This is not a good level design.
If there hasn’t been a DS1 this game is would have been quite nice. But given that there is this legendary masterpiece of DS1 (with respect to all its flaws), DS2 is more a setback to the series. Yet, it still “isn’t a bad game”. But clearly didn’t live up to the expectations.
Sadly, I reward 7 out of 10.