Did I Actually Just Finish Dark Souls II?
Yes. Yes, I did.
Dark Souls II is one of those games that is a little divisive among fans of the series. It’s a little less free-form and a little more linear than the original Dark Souls, and there are some systems (like weapon durability and reduced health while hollow) that feel less like being challenged and more like the game just wants to annoy you a little. It also adds a ton of not-terribly-well-explained character stats and forces you to go back to the game’s hub zone every time you want to spend souls to level up.
On the other hand, it’s absolutely gorgeous by comparison (and I played the original DX9 release, not the Scholar of the First Sin re-release with the upgraded graphics), HAS a hub zone that you can always go back to without having half of the NPCs mysteriously killed, drastically simplified armor and weapon upgrading, and keeps the same general sense of progression from feeling like a complete loser to an unstoppable bad-ass.
…not that “unstoppable” is ever an adjective you want to break out for a Souls game. Pretty much every single boss managed to make me stoppable AND vincible at least once.
The biggest change for me was getting into the game’s co-op multiplayer (and, just at the surface level, the PVP components as well). I barely even used NPC phantoms in the first Dark Souls, but I found myself frequently summoning co-op partners and putting down my “hey, I’m available for jolly co-operation!” sign in this game. It’s not perfect (DS2’s “Soul Memory” system for determining who you can group with is pretty dumb), but it worked really really well to help me learn zones and boss fights.
I did get invaded five times (in 50-odd hours) by other PCs, and lost three of the fights, but I think that’s a pretty good ratio when you consider that someone who is invading is someone who has prepared their equipment and their spec for PVP and I don’t get the same luxury.
More to the point – and this is ENTIRELY subjective – stumbling into the Souls series came at a very good time for me. I work for a company that is going through some very uncertain times and I don’t really feel in control of my life as a result. When I play a Souls game, I know that I CAN beat everything trying to kill me, even if it does manage to kill me a few times first, and that whether I win or lose is entirely up to my ability to adapt to the game. I’m in control, and that is a really comforting feeling.
Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy.