Developer(s) – From Software
Publisher(s) – From Software & Namco Bandai
Director(s) – Tomohiro Shibuya & Yuka Kitamura
PEGI – 16
Dark Souls II has been one of the most talked about, publicized, commercially, and critically acclaimed games of 2014 so far. It’s been cited for its reportedly great gameplay, stunning visuals, and abundant replay value. However, after playing it, I’m struggling to understand what all the hype was about. It’s not because of how difficult a game it certainly is, but because I genuinely didn’t find anything that most critics have praised this game for so feverously.
Graphics – 6/10
The game is conceptually fair in terms of visuals. The game is set in a world very reminiscent of a typical fantasy RPG or fantasy film such as Lord of the Rings. But I can’t help but think that the graphics are severely outdated. To me, it looks like a game that ought to have been released when the seventh generation had not long begun. The graphics aren’t even on par with the likes of BioShock and Mass Effect, which were both released back in 2007. I had high expectations of the visuals in this game; especially after the opening FMV, which was very nicely done, in all fairness. But as far as in-game graphics are concerned, there just doesn’t seem to be a great deal that stands out, in my opinion. There are a few unique-looking bosses among a great number of bosses in the game, but the enemy and character designs leave a lot to be desired the way I see it. Looking closely, I believe the game also looks to be in a somewhat unpolished state as well, which especially given visuals as outdated as the ones found in this game, is unacceptable.
Gameplay – 5/10
There’s nothing overly outstanding about the visuals in the game, and in my opinion, the same can be said about how the game plays out too. Dark Souls II is a hack and slash RPG, comparable to games such as Fable and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Before I played it, I did expect that I would be deterred from playing it for any extended amount of time, due to how difficult I’d heard both this and the first game was. But whilst it is indeed pretty difficult, I just found myself growing very bored with it very quickly. Combat doesn’t feel very fluent at all in my opinion, and I can’t help but feel that the game must get overly repetitive for people who have played it for a while. But one of the biggest gripes I have with this game is how each boss plays out. Although a few of them do stand out in a conceptual sense, such as The Rotten or the Duke’s Dear Freja, a great many of them don’t. A great of them are simply knights in different sets of armor, who all attack extremely similarly, and by that token, require more or less the same strategy to take down. By all these faults I’ve been able to highlight, it just seems insane to me how so many people have taken such a liking to it.
Controls – 8/10
Although it was a technique used by developers in order to heighten the difficulty of the game, I found that the game’s controls were somewhat annoying. For the most part, it seemed that bigger enemies are more agile than the player character. I spent twenty minutes trying to kill an ogre, but it seemed like it was faster than me, which to me, just gave the game an extremely unnecessarily unrealistic feel to it. However, apart from this, there are no other problems, and more intrepid players must master a pretty intense learning curve in order to progress, which is one positive thing I can say about this game.
Lifespan – 10/10
Another positive that I can point out is that the game lasts a particularly long time. One playthrough can take up to 40 hours, but this game was designed to be played multiple times, which for gamers who may find it more enjoyable to play than I do, can get over 100 hours out of it. Personally, I couldn’t even play past 100 minutes of it without succumbing to boredom, but this game clearly does work better for others than it did for me. I think it depends if people are willing to step up to the game’s relentless difficulty and can look past flaws like the outdated visuals, but I can’t.
Storyline – 6/10
The story of Dark Souls II follows a customizable character on his/her journey to find a cure for an undead curse they are afflicted with. Though that is the basic premise of the story, it does unfold into something a little bit deeper, and it’s fairly well done as far as RPGs go. And although I won’t give away exactly what happens, there are a few small plot twists, and a decision to face at the end, which gives the game a small morality element. These few story features at least save this game from being a terrible game; even an average one.
Originality – 5/10
I didn’t find the game to stand out to any great extent from a gameplay perspective, having been able to draw many similarities with Fable, Kingdoms of Amalur, and Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. But what makes this game unique to a small extent is a level of challenge that is rarely seen in video games today, and other gamers with different tastes will welcome it with open arms.
In Summation, Dark Souls II is not an overly terrible game; it’s just not an RPG for everyone. It clearly works better for many other people than myself, but I really struggled to find what it is that so many other people see in it. Though it lasts a long time and provides a decent challenge, I think it really needed an extra push on top of what the game contains, and it’s not made obvious that the developers tried. I would describe it as just above average (taken into account that others will enjoy it more than I do), but that’s as far as I’d go.
6/10 (Above Average)
Written for Darkzero.co.uk