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Hands On: Dark Souls 2

Posted by Eric Santana

The journey through Drangleic begins

With the original Dark Souls being such a polarising title, and the sequel due to hit the shelves in Europe on Friday, we thought we'd get Pure Xbox's Eric Santana to make his debut here by giving us a quick run down of his impressions of the title.

Whenever any of the Souls games are brought up in casual gamer conversation, the first thing mentioned is how hard they all are. While the difficulty of From Software's titles is something that seems to be at the forefront of people's minds, Dark Souls 2 bring lots of small improvements to an already great game in order to both enhance the other wonderful aspects of the product and make diving into the experience a little less daunting.

After my first few hours with Dark Souls 2, I could tell how much work was put into making this a game that is more welcoming to the person who is fearful of the reputation that proceeds it. Right at the character creation screen you get a clear and concise explanation of the classes in order to help you make your choice, for example. Even if you play a class and end up disliking how your statistics work out, the game has a built in character who can help your redistribute your points to help you get to your ideal build. Maybe you no longer want to be the male or female that you started the game as? You can go to the starting area and switch your gender in a special coffin - which is strange, but it works. Worried that you won't make it through the beginning without certain items? You can choose a starting gift that gives you a plethora of healing and status-curing consumables. Even later in game when you are having trouble fighting a boss you can summon in assistance in the form of other players if you are online, or NPC phantoms if you are playing offline. The network tests that were run before release seem to have ironed out some of the connectivity issues that plagued the first Dark Souls. The tutorial area rewards exploration and has helpful hints scattered around to make learning the controls easier, too.

Now after reading that, you might be assuming that the difficulty must have been toned down a ton to help allow those new players to join in. You would be mistaken. Remember those starting gifts I mentioned? You could choose none or maybe just one such as the Bonfire Ascetic which raises the strength of nearby foes. The flavour text in the item description even tells you that the item is "only for those who seek greater challenges." And this is where I fall in love all over again with how much thought goes into the Souls series. The game has built-in design choices that can help make your journey easier or ramp up the difficulty without requiring an option to switch the entire game from easy mode to hard mode. The developers have left the decisions up to you and allow both player types to enjoy the game they way they want. All this is without mentioning improved combat, beautiful locales, and a wonderful soundtrack.

Dark Souls 2 has taken the ground work laid down by Demon's Souls and Dark Souls and improved it beyond my personal expectations. I hope to see new players take the leap and join the exploration of Drangleic. Your Undead pilgrimage might become one of the most fond gaming trips you ever take.

So, have you taken the plunge yet? Are you planning on picking Dark Souls 2 up? Let us know in the comments!

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