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The Independent

Review: Dark Souls IIFrom The Ashes

Luis Badillo

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For an aging population of video game players, sentiments like “They don’t make them like they used to,” or “what happened to games that let you figure things out instead of holding your hand,” are increasingly more common.

Those gamers, however, simply need to pick up sword and shield in the world of “Dark Souls II.” And like its predecessors, “Demon’s Souls” and the original “Dark Souls,” the tradition of overwhelming adversity continues.

Everything in the game’s aesthetic is designed to convey this message. The setting, the fallen kingdom of Drangliec, is beautifully realized. The different areas of the kingdom are each distinct in style. Crumbling fortresses, macabre crypts, spider infected caverns and impossibly high cities, all tell a cohesive implied story of a war that ravaged the land in ancient times. And they all communicate the same message to the player: “Here you will find death.”

The creators of “Dark Souls II” are not afraid to kill the players of their game. Just like its predecessors, players will encounter mechanical traps, ambushes and powerful beasts. Even a low level enemy can prove to be deadly if not dealt with carefully. The game’s pace leaves little room for mistakes and players who reach an area prematurely or face a gargantuan boss with the wrong strategy will get slaughtered.

Fortunately for new players of the series, “Dark Souls II” is more accessible than previous games. The game allows for return to the game’s central hub, the village of Majula, at almost any point in the game. Majula provides respite from the game’s decrepit atmosphere; players there can increase their skill points, purchase new equipment, upgrade current weapons and armor, and even get tips from other crestfallen characters. This allows for players to retreat from a given area and find new ways to approach it, or approach a different area entirely.

Returning players may see this, along other additions, as changes to get used to. Mechanical tweaks such the time it takes to attack or shield block, or the adjusted statistics on leveling up a character can throw off even the most seasonedSouls” series veterans.

Other new features might be welcomed with open arms by all players. “Dark Souls II” has rebalanced the character class system, allowing for more ways to defy death in the ruins of Drangliec. The introduction of the “power stance” gives players who duel wield weapons a better chance at fighting well armored foes. The addition of “Hex” sorceries gives players who focus on magic a new set of tools to deal with enemies. Other skills such as archery or parrying have been adjusted to prove more useful in combat.

This rebalancing also affects the game’s intricate multiplayer system. Though “Dark Souls II” can be played completely alone, players who are having a rough time in a level can summon in other players, and beat an area together in jolly cooperation. However, an invasion system allows for less well-meaning players to enter your world and hunt you down.

“Dark Souls II” certainly earns its reputation as a brutally difficult game, but those who are open to it may find it a deeply gratifying experience. The “Souls” series has always been about rewarding players who choose to play patiently, punishing those who repeat mistakes. Though the changes are certainly more welcoming to new players, the game is not for everyone. “Dark Souls II” is a challenge to undertake and overcome. And in that challenge, defeat will be met over and over again.

And for nostalgic gamers like me, that’s just the way we like it.

This is a review of the PC version of “Dark Souls II.

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