Prepare to die… again

‘Dark Souls’ outdoes itself with awesome sequel

By Adam Tatelman, Columnist


I love Dark Souls’ robust RPG elements, tense dungeon-crawling, hundreds of hidden secrets, and brobdingnagian bosses. It balances with style between challenge and frustration, transforming rage into exhilaration with every victory. Despite Dark Souls’ reputation as a time-sink for depressed masochists, Dark Souls II may change some minds.

The game is no easier than the first, but the mechanics are more adequately explained, new items make multi-classing viable, and checkpoints allow fast-travel. This accessibility is complimented by mobile archery, more varied enemy types, an overhauled weapon crafting system, and most impressive of all a world over twice the size of the first game’s one that’s rendered without loading screens from area to area.

You, an eternally reincarnating Undead, have come to the long-fallen kingdom of Drangleic in search of a way to lift the Curse upon you, waylaid at every turn by eldritch horrors. Story-wise, that’s all the direction you get apart from muted myths told by abandoned architecture and the curious descriptions of items you acquire. Drangleic’s hubris played out eons ago; whether the tale matters is up to you. Some bemoan this indirect narrative, but I feel it allows the story to be naturally flexible. Whether you’re looking for exploration and lore or contextless challenge, the Dark Souls series lets you get as invested as you like without spoon-feeding you the plot. Though both games involve similar themes, the stories and worlds are self-contained—newcomers need apply.

Weapons and armour degrade faster than before and some of the bosses rely on irritating gradual damage effects, but this just means the player has to get more creative. Though your resources are limited and the path endless, there’s always a way through. Your every choice is risk-versus-reward. Forge ahead through perils unknown, or resupply at the bonfire as your enemies regroup? There’s no right or wrong answer. The game won’t hold your hand, so every impossible victory belongs to you alone.

For me, a game becomes art when it’s no longer about epic loot but about man’s indomitable will. Give it a go and you may discover the depth of your own determination.