A reoccurring question has been raised over the past few days: “What do you think of the new 'Dark Souls' game?” Every time someone throws this question at me, I feel myself wince and freeze. How much do they actually want to know? … Did they already tune me out?!
It’s especially difficult to answer such a question when the game hasn't been released on all available platforms. There is an entire group of people who have to wait for the game’s PC release. So what tidbits of spoilers do I feel comfortable giving away?
The only reasonable conclusion: The ones that kick you in the face (repeatedly) at the earliest points of the game.
In general, I’m wondering if I've lost that loving feeling with, “Dark Souls 2.” Released on March 11, for PS3 and Xbox360, I've only managed to put about 25 hours of gameplay in. There are some elements that I enjoy about the game, but others I loathe. However, I've found one major difference from the game’s predecessor that I can’t get past – how overwhelmingly populated the game is!
In “Dark Souls,” there was an incredibly feeling of loneliness. Enemies were difficult, Soul Signs were not guaranteed, and – if you chose to become human – invaders were imminent. Many players chose to stay Hollowed in order to avoid these invaders. They understood that this simultaneously made the game more difficult, as they could not call on friendly adventurers for assistance, and made them feel more vulnerable to tough enemies. In addition to possible confrontations with players, NPCs bring it home with surly comments, changes from passive to hostile demeanor, and eventual abandonment.
“Dark Souls 2”, however, seems to encourage players to indiscriminately interact with anyone and everyone as often as possible!
**Pst, this is the part where I’m going to try not to give TOO much away… You can skip to the end or go away now :D**
One of the first major differences from the previous games is that players are unable to farm souls the good-old-fashion-way – by killing shit to their hearts content. Now, many of the enemies stop spawning after they’ve been defeated a certain number of times. I realized this very early on when I stumbled into Heidi's Tower of Flame. It was the first zone that I’d entered, and I received 400 souls from the very first enemy. This giant jerk was standing right next to a bonfire, so it seemed logical to do some farming on him. Unfortunately, after only a few kills, he stopped spawning. This became true of nearly all enemies in other areas. So what’s the best way to grind out some levels? By grabbing your White Sign Soapstone, slapping down the ol’ Soul Sign, and waiting for someone to pull you into their game.
I can’t say that I’m completely against this revised feature. I do believe it has its pros and cons. So let’s start with the pros!
It’s incredibly easy to find help! There are other people out there trying to grind souls, just as you are. Players can help throughout an area, or just place their Soul Signs in front of the boss room. Bosses are the best place to get a large number of souls in a short period of time. If a summoned individual dies in a boss fight, there is no consequence, other than the HORRENDOUS load times – which is a completely new form of torture in “Dark Souls 2.” So, the worst thing that can happen is you waste your time trying to farm in some ill-prepared newbie’s game.
Unfortunately, I feel that the encouraged interaction with others’ also takes a lot away from what has made “Demon's Souls” and “Dark Souls” good games. In the previous games, the world was meticulously constructed in a way that made players feel lonely, alienated, and scared. The crushing vulnerability is one of the things that I felt made the game so good! It added to the stress and fear of the game. It made people feel!
In “Dark Souls 2” you can use and find Soul Signs anywhere, even in an area that you’ve already beaten. There’s a constant sense of help surrounding players.
There is also another kind of new feature of gaining Humanity after assisting with other people’s games. FromSoftware announced that this feature was actually a glitch and that they were investigating why it was happening. However, since it still continues to happen, I will cite it as an example of the game encouraging adventurers to help other players. The game seems to randomly give individuals their Humanity back after they’ve gained a certain number of souls, helped defeat a boss, or shot another player with a giant ballista (seriously… I’m not sure why it gave me Humanity, but the host was begging for a bolt to the face).
What I’m trying to say is that nothing in the game really feels as difficult as a “Dark Souls” game is supposed to because the key elements of fear and stress are lacking. Yes, there is still overwhelming anger over how bullshit an enemy’s attack is – but, in a few short minutes, you can come back with your bigger, stronger friend to get your souls back and kick that guys ass!
As I mentioned, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about, “Dark Souls 2.” Though I haven’t had difficulty progressing, I’ve had a very hard time WANTING to progress. I have a number of complaints – including what you’ve just read – that make it feel like I’m just dredging through the game. I’m not saying “Dark Souls 2” is a complete bummer, but I'm certainly waiting for my flustered "Top Gun" moment with it.
That being said, I’m only about 25-hours into the game. I’m giving a lot of the new features the benefit of the doubt. Maybe I don’t like some of the game’s new structures, but there is a chance that I’ll find them beneficial during the end-game content. We’ll see! Until then, I’ll keep my PC release pre-order, just in case!
If you have any questions or comment, please let me know! I’m very happy and willing chat a little more about my feelings towards the game. I know that I’ve refrained from including specifics in order to eliminate as many spoilers as possible, so please feel free to use the comments to let me know what you think about the game! This means that if you don’t want spoilers; steer clear of the comments section… Unless you’re a rebel!