The consensus on Dark Souls II seems to be that it’s the weakest of the three games in the tenuously linked Souls series, so perhaps I’m unusual in finding it more immediately engaging than its direct predecessor. I admittedly lack the patience to go all that far and sample their full depth, so the “immediately” part may be where a connoisseur could tell me I’m wrong.
Honestly, I feel like a bit of a dilettante discussing it when there are so many writers who can be far more authoritative on these games, so I’ll just say that I had a blast with it. I’m safe with my complaint that it’s another of those games that suffered from pushing ageing hardware too far, this time to a controversial extent that makes the inevitable PS4/XB1 upgrade seem more cynical than usual. But beyond that I enjoyed the bleak world, the minimalist storytelling, and the creative bosses.
If this is Souls without its soul, the series director Hidetaka Miyazaki having been reduced to a mere supervisor by his role on the upcoming Bloodborne, I can’t wait to see how that game turns out. I’ll reserve a spot in next year’s list, shall I?
Did you hear that the Souls games are quite hard, by the way? I think I’ve seen it mentioned.
Because seemingly nobody else can, I’m going to give my opinion on Dark Souls without mentioning the fact that it’s really hard. Apart from that time. And to say that it’s not as hard as some drama queens have made out.
Putting aside this fact-that-must-not-be-named, when this generation is over I’m confident that Dark Souls will be remembered as both one of a handful of Japanese games that didn’t disappoint – along with its spiritual predecessor there – and a truly great sequel that was an improvement on the original game in almost all areas. In fact, the only area where I definitively prefer Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls is in the first game’s setting and atmosphere, but the follow-up is no slouch there either.
I admired Dark Souls’ approach to an open world. Although it lacks the sense of unrestricted freedom of a game like Skyrim, putting barriers between the player and the highest peaks and deepest dungeons in favour of a few branching routes, it walks a nice middle ground of being open-ended and at the same time somewhat directed. Different but not worse. A very Western genre through the prism of Japanese design sensibilities. Rather than mediocre attempts at cover shooters, this is the blueprint for Japanese studios struggling to find the best of both worlds.