Aight what up my sons and doggs. Sheppy already reviewed this game so you shouldn't need me to review it too, but I know some people still be wantin' me to do it in the name of tradition or whatever since I handled the first two games, so well, hell, maybe just this once. Cain't nobody say Renegade never did nothing for da peoples.
Shortly after this game was announced, the developer said that they were looking to make this entry more accessible to the mainstream. Of course, this sent us all into a raving panic. Was it over? Was From finally selling out? Nothing good could possibly come from catering to the unwashed masses. But welp. Turns out we had absolutely nothing to fear. Apparently in this case "accessibility" was just a code word for "better designed" instead of "HWAHWUAH we're destroying the franchise for a quick buck!!" as it usually is.
It's no secret that the souls series has a history of questionable design philosophy. Things whose entire purpose is just to be a huge fucking asshole for no reason other than to have idiots proclaim that it makes the game "hard". I was never fooled by this shit. Just because I'm walking and suddenly the floor crumbles or a boulder falls on my head or I get shot in the face by something I can't see or whatever the fuck doesn't mean it's hard. It means I got trolled and then won't fall for that ever again because it was some stupid bullshit to begin with. By the same token, just because something is annoying and a huge pain in the ass doesn't mean it's hard either. It's things like this that were prevalent in these games and in a lot of cases they added nothing positive to the game. They were annoying simply to be annoying. And in spite of this misguided design these were still great games. But what's amazing to me is how much of the changes in Dark Souls II fix these problems while preserving the integrity of the game. It's so common for developers to have no idea what things need fixing in their games and to just generally be hugely incompetent that seeing this sort of thing is pretty crazy.
And ultimately what this results in is a game that manages to be better than its already great predecessors. That's right, I fucking said it. This game is better than Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, and I'ma tell you fucking why so listen up.
But let's start from the top. Firstly, this game is massively similar to the previous ones. It's been 5 years since Demon's Souls came out and the visual evolution from then to now has been largely nonexistent. Of course, who actually cares about that? It looked good 5 years ago, do we really need it to look better? No we don't. This is actually a good thing because not having to worry about upgrading the graphics allows them to focus more of their energy and resources into shit that matters, like content. And oh my grash gals. They do not disappoint when it comes to this. Somehow Dark Souls II manages to be significantly longer than the previous game and NOT in a bullshit padding kind of way. This game just plain has more honest and good content. And that's awesome.
In the music department there is still zero improvement. Still nothing but ambient noises 80% of the time, and shitty forgettable music the other 20%. Wanna know something crazy? The music in this game was composed by the great Motoi Sakuraba himself. That's right, the same god damn master responsible for the awesome music in the Star Ocean series. Not saying From is getting gypped but lemme tell you right now, if I paid Motoi fucking Sakuraba to make music for my game and he came to me with the Dark Souls soundtrack I would be SO fucking pissed. You give me this kind of bullshit after you make those amazing songs for those other guys? THIS is a proper fucking dungeon song. And THIS is a proper fucking fight song. Fuck outta heah with this Souls shit.
As I've said before, the best part of these games is the excellent level design, and Dark Souls II continues this. While other fucking idiots continue pushing their "vast open world" bullshit giving us more and more useless fucking space, From knows that bigger isn't necessarily better. I mean, just look at what the morons at Nintendo showed at E3 for the new Zelda. What's the first thing they show? A big fucking field. Oh yeah, real fuckin' exciting, dipshits. "OMGZORZ, you can go ANYWHERE! You can even go up to those mountains way out in the distance if you walk for long enough!!" Am I supposed to be impressed by this shit? Fuck you. Don't come to me with this bullshit like it's a good thing. I don't CARE how big your stupid field is. Actually, I do care. Because the bigger it is, the larger the empty land to actual stuff ratio. And that field seemed to stretch out for miles in every direction. I don't wanna walk over to that mountain, how about that? See, what these Nintendo idiots don't get is that it's not about the sheer size of the world. It's what you DO with it. Your game could take place in a single fucking building. In a single fucking house. In a single fucking TRAIN. It's all about the content you put in there. And you know what? The size of that train won't limit it. Only your creativity and imagination will. That train will probably be more interesting than your precious god damn field. "Ohh we always wanted to do that sort of open world but never could realize our vision because of technical limitations." Hey. Guess what. YOUR VISION SUCKED. Besides, it's 6 years late anyway. It's already been done to death. It sucked then and it sucks now. You're just late to the party AS USUAL. Or maybe in this case the funeral. But anyway. Thankfully there's still developers like From and games like Dark Souls II. This is what I love about the Souls games. The levels are compact, contained, hardly any superfluous area. And there's so much stuff to find if you explore. Now these are games where every single area, nook and cranny feels special and important.
Since Dark Souls II is mechanically practically the same as the others ones, I ain't gonna get into the general gameplay. It's the same. If you wanna know about that maybe you can read my previous reviews. Or better yet, y'know, fuckin' play the games. It's been 5 years man, come ON. Ok, fine, I will say that there are some... I'm not going to call them improvements, I'ma call them fixes. Combat controls and whatnot are more responsive and less buggy than before. The infamous Dark Souls killer bug of pressing a button and the game not responding until 5 seconds later is nowhere to be found (thank god). There are no more instances of pressing a button and getting no response, or getting a different command than what you wanted, and also no more instances of your character rolling in a completely different direction than you specified and getting you killed. I saw none of that anymore in this game. Zero. Shepton mentions hitboxes on attacks having become erratic, but they haven't become erratic, they have always been this way. And it's not just in terms of things being wider and longer than they look, but also the opposite: attacks missing when they should have hit. But honestly, it's really not a big deal. It might happen every now and again and you'll be like "the fuck?" but certainly not with "alarming regularity" as Shepton puts it. Or maybe it does and he simply has put himself in more situations where it can happen. Who knows, maybe he did the butt dance in front of a demon's horns a bunch of times. I didn't. Know why? 'cause I know better than to expect this game to have amazing combat. It's decent, and that's it.
As Shep correctly pointed out in his review, don't buy into the hype that this is a balls hard game. It absolutely isn't. If you go in expecting it to be a big challenge you're going to be sorely disappointed. What this is is a game that encourages you to take things very slowly, to play carefully and plan things out. This is a good thing, but it is not the same thing as the game being hard. If you play this way you'll find that the game is actually very easy. If you play like a reckless idiot, then yeah, you're probably gonna get fucked. But Shepton is wrong in saying that the same could be said for any game. I dare you to play DMD mode in DMC3 slowly and carefully, or however you want, look me in the eye, and tell me it was actually really easy. I'll kick you in the dick. Because you're lying. Here is the important distinction: on one side, you have a game that will fuck you up if you're playing incorrectly, but if you know how you're supposed to play it's not very challenging at all. On the other side, you have a game where, even if you know how you're supposed to play and what you're supposed to do, it's still challenging to actually do that. The Souls series is the former type of game. Now, you may be thinking, that former type of game sounds a lot like a puzzle, where once you know the answer, it's easy. And puzzles can be hard if getting to the answer was difficult, even if they become easy once you do know it. You're absolutely right. And that's also my point: getting to the answer in Souls games is easy as shit. You have to be retarded to find it difficult to figure out that the answer is "SLOW THE FUCK DOWN, ASSHOLE."
Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the bosses throughout the series, which have always been incredibly weak. Dark Souls II is no exception, and in fact, it even dispenses with any pretenses of difficulty it might've had by now more than doubling the amount of bosses in which it allows you to have NPC phantoms join in to help you. Not that it would have been difficult solo, but now you don't even have to bother cheaping the boss out yourself. With the ubiquitous availability of NPC helpers, it effectively cheaps itself out. Does this make the game worse? Yes. Does it make the game worse than its predecessors? No. And the reason for that is because bosses in the Souls series have ALWAYS been incredibly easy to cheap out and subsequently make the whole fight absolutely trivial. This is nothing new. It's how these games have always been. Shepton thinks the bosses and enemies in Demon's Souls were better designed, but this simply isn't true. The bosses in Demon's Souls are just as easy to trivialize as they are here. I mean let's look at the facts, people. No rose-tinted nostalgia glasses: The Phalanx boss. This fucking pussy moves slower than a snail, and so do his little bitches. You can run laps around him, stand behind one of the pillars, they can't do shit to you. Tower Knight. Just run up the stairs to the balcony and shoot him till he dies like a little bitch. He'll try to shoot spears at you but they just harmlessly explode on the wall. He can't do SHIT to you here. Adjudicator. You start the fucking fight up on the third floor for christs sake. Just don't drop down to where he is. Just shoot him from up there until he dies. He's too fat and stupid to do shit to you. All he can do is try to whip you with his tongue but all you have to do is step away from the edge after shooting him. You fuckin' telling me that's good design? Leechmonger. AGAIN you start on a ledge high up above him! Just stand still and shoot him until he dies. He can't do shit to you from down there. He cannot do shit to you. None of his things can hit you. Armor Spider. Just hide behind one of the pillars and shoot her till she dies. She can't do shit. Fool's Idol. Do I REALLY have to say this? PILLARS. Maneater. Run behind the stairs and sit there. They're so fucking stupid that they'll give up right then and there. Then just come out and throw a poison cloud on his ass. Now go back behind the stairs, sit down, and read a comic book for a few minutes until he dies. Having your hands on the controller? Optional. Then just have your way with the other one now that he let his buddy die like a bitch. Do the same thing, or fight him normally. Doesn't matter. Whatever. My point is, sure, hiding behind a pillar isn't as egregious (or funny) as hiding under his dick. But Demon's Souls bosses aren't exactly winning any fuckin' awards either. Now I know what you're saying. "But Renegade, what if I don't have any ranged attacks? You know range is OP maaaan!" Yeah, and so are shields, son. It's not my fault you're not using the tools the game gives you. If you wanna purposely gimp yourself to make the fights better, that's cool, but don't act like you couldn't have easily trivialized them if you wanted to.
No. The truth is, the bosses in Dark Souls II aren't worse designed than the ones in Demon's. They're more or less about the same. What we do have in Dark Souls II, however, is a lot MORE bosses. I guess part of the reason is simply due to the game just having a lot more content, but partly it's also just plain having a ton of fuckin' bosses. Much more than in the previous games it feels like 90% of fog doors hold a boss in them now. Generally speaking, it feels like there are more humanoid sized bosses than before, which is nice because they tend to be more fun than big monstrous bosses. And you know, can't get under their dick if they're not big enough for it, nam sayin'. There's also a lot more instances of dual bosses and even triple bosses compared to before, which is interesting. While none of the bosses are much of a challenge, as is to be expected in this game, if you choose not to trivialize them by using the NPC helper, some of them are actually pretty fun. See? I'm not unsympathetic to the idea of gimping yourself just for fun.
But anyway. So far I've said why Dark 2 isn't worse than Demon's. But I said it was better. Why is that? The reason is because Dark 2 improves on so many of my previous gripes with this series. First of all, checkpoint placement is now better than before. Bonfires are fucking everywhere now. It's even gotten to the point where every now and then I'll find a bonfire and be all like "What?! Another bonfire? But I just had one back there!" I ain't complaining. Gimme all dem bonfires. One of the shitty things in previous games, mainly in Demon's Souls, was that levels dragged on for way too long until you got to the next checkpoint. They were too few and far between. They'd go on for so long and you'd rack up such a huge soul count that you'd start getting scared of something going wrong and having to repeat the whole shit all over again, and possibly lose all of those god damn souls. Welp, not anymore. There are so many bonfires in Dark 2 that there's no point in which this happens anymore.
"Ohhh but it's not as hard anymore with so many checkpoints." WRONG, asshole. That's fake difficulty. Bad checkpoint placement is nothing but a cop-out and asshole design. "Ohhh but now there's no more tension anymore." GOOD. Awesome. I don't want the tension of potentially losing a bunch of progress to a random power outage or whatever the fuck. If I want some of that, next time I'm working on something I'm not gonna save it at all until I'm halfway done with it. Mmmm, feel that tension. Livin' on the edge, baby.
Furthermore, now in Dark Souls II dying and losing your souls/humanity practically isn't even a THING anymore. Not only because of the better checkpoint placement I just mentioned, but also because somewhat early on you can get a ring that prevents you from losing anything when you die. Of course, those rings already existed before, but now in Dark Souls II you don't even lose them when you die anymore. Now it simply breaks, and you can immediately repair it on the cheap and use it again as many times as you want.
And now it's easier than ever to use that ring due to another improvement in this game: now you can equip 4 rings and 6 weapons at the same time. This is so good and convenient. There's now significantly less having to go into the equipment screen and swapping rings and weapons around all the time which was a little annoying before.
Speaking of bonfires, another new thing is that you can now teleport to any bonfire you've found right from the very start of the game. To be honest I'm ambivalent about this. On the one hand it is incredibly convenient. I'm not gonna lie. It is. In fact, it makes the size of the game that much more impressive when you consider that it's so much longer than the previous ones despite not having to hoof around on foot to get to places anymore. But on the other hand I also understand Shepton's problem with it. I'm not gonna say it's a big problem, but it does make it feel less like one big interconnected world compared to Dark 1, which is kind of a shame.
Another new thing in this game is that enemies don't keep respawning forever now. Dark Souls II keeps an internal counter of how many times you've killed each enemy, and once you've killed something around ten or so times, they stop respawning. They're dead for good now. They're just gone. Nothing there anymore. I'm actually a big fan of this. It makes a lot of things a lot less annoying for people like me who don't like running past enemies and always gotta kill everything that's standing in their way. For example, if you're trying to make a particularly shitty jump, and my god there's a lot of those... in fact, can I bitch about how shitty the plaforming in these games is? God dammit. Super Mario 64 this ain't. I swear I died like 10 times in this game to one bullshit little jump that should have been incredibly easy, 100% hassle free, just a tiny fucking gap, but no. Don't ask me why, but I kept trying to make that jump from every fucking angle and even though it looked like I should easily make it I kept hitting some sort of invisible barrier and falling to my death because the platforming in this game is horrendous. It got so frustrating that I was about to give up and decide that item was not gettable. But then! I decided to clean the area of enemies so I could try over and over uninterrupted and then I was finally able to make it! Of course, turned out the item was totally fucking worthless junk but that's not the point of the story. The point is I might've given up in frustration if I hadn't been able to make the enemies stop respawning. And then I'd always have that nagging feeling like "what if that item was a crazy sick spell or weapon".
But AS I WAS SAYING. The nice thing about enemies eventually dying for good is that if you're continuously dying to something shitty like this you can at least rest assured that you won't be killing the enemies forever every attempt. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. If the jump is REALLY shitty you can even pre-emptively clear the area so that you can freely retry with no interruptions to your hearts content. Same deal with bosses. Enemies on the way to a boss being a bunch of cunts? Not for long. Exterminate them. Why not. Oh but what if you've exterminated some enemies but you actually want them back? Don't worry, that's covered too.
There are these new awesome little items called Bonfire Ascetics. When you use one, it respawns all of the items, bosses and enemies in an area, resets their death counters and makes them stronger. Actually what it really does is that it bumps that section of the game and everything in it to the new game+ version of it. So if you wanna kill some enemies again you can. You wanna fight a boss again without having to start over? Now you can. Or maybe you want to see what the NG+ version of him is? Maybe the NG++ version? Or 3rd or 4th etc? You can do ALLA that shit without actually having to do those many playthroughs.
Beyond this, bonfire ascetics are a fucking GODSEND for farming. One of the things I always hated about Demon's and Dark 1 is that, since the game is constantly saving and you can never go back to a previous point, it basically punished experimentation. If you used up that one-of-a-kind boss soul or upgrade material on something, but then later you found a better weapon that you want to use it on, or just change your mind and want to use it for something different? The previous games were all like "AHAHA you're shit outta luck son! You can only get one of those per game! Suck my dick and wait until the next playthrough, bitch!" Oh how dare you talk to me like that. Fuck you, game. But now in Dark Souls II this whole bullshit is FIXED. Firstly, not only are all materials now easily obtainable as regular drops, but even if they WEREN'T, you can just bonfire ascetic and redo any part of the game that has one-off things at your leisure. Used up that boss soul but now you wanna use it on something else? Just bonfire ascetic and kill that boss again. Killed those gem lizards that dropped those rare materials but you still want more? Bonfire ascetic and kill them again. And again. And again. Farming is so much better now and I love it.
This game is just all around WAY less of a huge fucking cunt compared to the previous ones. For example, this game does the classic "enemy faking being a corpse so that you pay it no mind and then he can get up and fuck you from behind when you least expect it" shenanigan. However, if you suspect that a corpse is in reality a live enemy waiting to fuck you, you can try hitting the corpse, and if it you were right, you will reverse the tables and get the jump on him. This is good. BUT. On the other hand, Demon's Souls was such a cunt of a game that there was no way to distinguish real corpses from fake ones. If you suspected a corpse to be a live enemy, you could hit it over and over as much as you wanted, and your attacks would just pass through him harmlessly. Eventually you'd be like "Oh, well, guess this must be a real corpse then." Then you'd continue on and WAZAM! That very same corpse now gets up right before your very eyes. Are you fucking kidding me? That's bullshit.
Or for example, let's take the Gutter. Dark Souls II's version of the "pitch dark level where you can't see shit" that originated in Dark 1. In Dark Souls 1 this level is an annoying piece of shit. But in Dark Souls II it's not. Why? Simply because it's not designed by a huge fucking asshole anymore: 1) In this game you start out with a torch which you can use whenever you want to see better. It's just there right from the start. 2) There are no bullshit enemies shooting massive arrows at you from miles away where you can't see them. This is important. 3) It's not even really THAT dark. You can still sort of see and make out stuff even with no light. 4) There are sconces throughout the level which you can light with your torch. Once you've lit them, they stay that way. So as you progress through the level, you're lighting up more and more of the place. 5) Bonfire travel. You're not stuck in there with no idea how to return to the surface until you explore the whole place like in Dark 1. So well WHADDYA KNOW. Just a few good decisions here and there and you too can turn a shitty level into a good one.
But of course, Dark Souls II isn't completely devoid of horse shit meant specifically to troll you. Nah. That would make way too much sense. So in this game, they give you a retarded area filled with white fog that not only prevents you from being able to see SHIT, but on top of that, they throw in INVISIBLE fucking enemies that can't be targetted. Of course. Here I am walking, minding my own business and then suddenly I eat shit and die instantly. What even just happened? Oh yeah, backstab by some invisible motherfucker! Now why in Satan's flaming cunt would you EVER think it's a good idea to put this piece of shit anti-fun level in your game? Not only does it make you strain your eyes trying to see, but the enemies are also specifically programmed to take as much advantage as possible, attacking you and then backing off and rolling and circling around to make you lose sight of where they are. It's like trying to kill a god damn mosquito, all they gotta do is fly around erratically for a bit and they disappear because they're so hard to see. Fuck that place. The only consolation is that at least it's small.
Oh well. In any case, here's the takeaway: get this fucking game. Dark Souls II has all the great things you'd expect from the series, somehow manages to be even bigger than the previous game (which was already much bigger than Demon's), and is generally improved by less asshole design.
Final Verdict: A-
Final Playtime: 148 hours