Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dark Souls II is the best Souls game ever made, and I'll tell you why.

Dark Souls II has for years been criticized as the worst of the Souls games. It's been described by disappointed game critics (reliable ones at that) as the worst Souls game, but still better than most other games.. What does that mean?

For this reason, and after watching some of its gameplay, I refrained from buying it for years. Even after playing Demon Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls III, I still had reservations about it. I was aching for more Souls, but I couldn't get past all the bad reviews. What if it was so bad it just ruined my entire image of the Souls franchise?? Even after the PS4 remaster came out, I was still a bit weary.

That was until a few weeks ago. I was in a real game drought - Destiny was basically recycling its old content (again!), Overwatch had become a bit stale after the Year of the Rooster event, and I was just sitting around, meandering in the world of Lumo, mildly amused.

Then I saw that the remastered Dark Souls II version was on sale at the PlayStation Store for like $12 (don't quote me on that, I just know it was real cheap!). So I took a cautious plunge, and bought it.

I was instantly enchanted by it. It retains the soul (pun!) of a Souls game, while cultivating its own style, tone, and sense of humor. It doesn't take itself as seriously as other Souls games, which I really appreciated! I particularly liked the randomly hilarious NPCs you sometimes encounter, like the running guy in Huntsman's Copse (watch out for him! He'll just run in circles around the map for no reason), or the Undead that laugh at you, and continuously rub the ground as you walk by:

Watchadoin, buddy?

I also really enjoyed the sex-change box at the beginning of the game. When I got a pretty dress, I could just switch Bob to Boberina and play as her for a while. I wish they'd kept this mechanic in Dark Souls III... it really injected some fun into the gameplay. 

I never got bored. The enemies were varied and original, from that Jabba-the-Hutt boss who gobbles you up and eats all of your equipment in Earthen Peak (my favorite board! Don't worry, it will be in your inventory after the fight. I know, I freaked out too), to the evil Queen at the very end.

I never felt overpowered by enemies. I've heard this was mostly fixed in the remaster. Enemies are tough, don't get me wrong, but unlike with other Souls games (I'm looking at you, Bloodborne!), I never felt like I didn't stand a chance. I think lifegems had a lot to do with this. 

Up until the very last minute, I was engaged, excited, terrified and thoroughly entertained. This can be said about all Souls games, of course. But I feel like Dark Souls II has its own unique way of achieving this. It's the weird cousin of the Souls games... he's always wearing strange outfits and telling weird jokes at family parties, and he's my favorite. 

But don't listen to me.. listen to this very eloquent and well researched video. Hbomberguy says everything I wanted to say, but in a very smart and accessible way: 

-The official name of the remastered version is Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. I very very highly recommend it. Forget everything you know about Dark Souls, and jump in!

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