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It's not just incredibly hard, it's really quite pretty: Dark Souls II

Jump into a bonfire, see the world

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Regional variations

The open world aspect of Dark Souls II allows the rules to change from region to region, so I am always on my guard. Accessing areas from different directions may mean I stumble upon enemies who are of too high a level. Meeting a boss swooping down on a Griffin four hours in was thrilling but perilous.

Dark Souls II knight shield

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Dark Souls II isn’t just about dying and learning a little from each death. In its complexity it's quite different from anything else I have played lately. Discovery and exploration play a large part in the immersive experience, just becoming familiar with the systems and mechanics of the game requires a level of concentration only found alone, late at night.

I find myself longing for the safety of the bonfire or at least a torch some respite from the dark. Still, it’s important to leave no dark corridor unsearched and no hunched character ignored or you risk missing large parts of the storyline.

Paving the way

Paving the way

Combat in Dark Souls II has undergone some significant changes. I must never forget my stamina. I can’t dodge without it and when there’s Giant swinging his ripped-off arm at me, I'm dead if my stamina bar is depleted. A little goes a long way; every move needs to be calculated and weighed up even in the midst of combat. Button bash and I die.

I spend a fair amount of time rolling and blocking for all the good it does me. There’s a rhythm to these adversaries and I must join them in this waltz of fatality. Everything is shrewdly balanced; I plundered some ironclad armour that turned me into a proper Ned Kelly, allowing me to take three times the beating I could without it – but it slowed me to the pace of a snail.

Outnumbered

Outnumbered

Dark Souls II’s narrative let’s my imagination run wild, too wild in fact, my nightmares are a medieval Ringu as my enemies crawl out of the screen to kill me. The Japanese do spooky so well. This immersion in the game’s narrative is achieved with real nuance. So subtle is the storytelling that there’s a real feeling of revelation to main events. Dialogue is ambiguous and prosaic, yet it’s the intricacy of the lore that binds this astonishing work of art together.

Part of me is suspicious that Dark Souls II is lauded by critics only for its difficulty. I would say that this trivialises the overarching experience of the game and how its developers put enough faith in me to believe I can find my way through their beautiful creation and lose myself within its impenetrability. Just don’t get distracted by a ferret while walking along a cliff - this game is unforgiving.

Playing solo heightens the atmosphere

Playing solo heightens the atmosphere

The Reg Verdict

I have yet to experience any multiplayer content but can see that it could be beneficial, especially summoning others to assist with bosses. But who needs a home invasion when this game is hard enough already? There’s something about Dark Souls II that lends itself to the single player experience and the presence of others might break my dark meditative reverie.

New Game + is a great idea and gives me the option of playing again without having to start from level 11 again, though at this point I can't conceive surviving the conclusive battle.

I had loads of fun on the Titanfall beta. The fast and frenetic pace is thrilling and engaging, like falling in lust, but Dark Souls II is like meeting the love of your life. South Park: Stick of Truth was a hilarious distraction and Destiny is calling, but FromSoftware’s Dark Souls II – a homage to hardcore gaming – has carved a bleeding niche in my heart. ®

Score 5.0/5.0

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