The “Souls” series in general is undoubtedly an acquired taste and Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m starting at the next gen re-release as it is at this point that it’s the easiest to get into.
I heard about Demon’s Souls and the original Dark Souls many years ago and got mixed reviews, but they slipped past me. About a year before Dark Souls 2 was released I decided to give it a go and was not impressed, visuals were grainy and I just kept dying. Needless to say this got on my tits pretty quickly and on to ebay it went. Fast forward a year and what should I win on one of these “Like & Share” competitions on Facebook (yes I thought they were all bullshit too but who knew!) but a newly released Dark Souls 2 for the PS3! So after my experiences of the first one my initial thoughts were to get this sold for a tidy profit but then I thought I would give it a quick go….. Fast forward 200 precious gaming hours and my first ever platinum trophy popped. Needless to say this game consumed me and I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why.
The Dark Souls games are beyond “difficult” you are expected to die pretty much constantly for most of the game, especially first time around. If you can get this premise into your head when you start then you have a chance of loving this. This style of gameplay reminds me a lot of old school gaming when you had to learn every inch of every level if you ever hoped of getting further than you did last time. You can’t just keep running back to the bonfires which are this games fast travel/rest points, as every time you use them all of the enemies in the area will respawn. There is nothing more soul destroying than to finally clear an area of enemies, but be so low on health that you know you will have to rest and go through them all again, hoping to do it losing less health than last time so you can make it to the next bonfire without losing all of your hard earned souls which is this games currency for everything including levelling. When you die your souls are left at the point where you died, if you die on the way to retrieving these then they are gone forever. Hundreds of thousands of souls lost. It is this games cruellest joke.
This game is very in depth in its nuances and depending on what style of play you prefer will dictate how you play the game. The good news for perfectionists is that starting class means practically bugger all, it just distributes your attribute points and give you your starting gear. Basically meaning you can start off as a magic user but then end up as a fighter it’s all about where you put your points when you level up. There are many websites dedicated to how to use your points effectively so I will not bore you with them here, all I will say is that adaptability is your friend. You can also use a consumable item called a Soul Vessel which will let you redistribute your points but these are finite so use them wisely.
Now normally I bitch like hell when there is little to no story in a game, but for some reason I can forgive this. The mystery is almost part of the intrigue it also makes every conversation interesting as there’s so little you know about the world you are in. You start off as a traveller who has come to the land of Drangleic as you have “the curse” and rumour has it there is something in this place that can cure you. The curse is that you cannot die, however without consuming souls you will go hollow and lose all of your humanity and end up wandering around like a zombie. Also you will lose a portion of your total health each time you die capping off at half health, you can use an item to reverse this but again these are few and far between. As this game gives very little narrative I don’t want to give too much away
Story wise, all I will say is that it starts off with little direction, the objective for the first part of the game is to obtain 4 “great” souls and you can continue from there, is very open and you have to figure out for yourself which order is the best to take things in without getting twatted by the local enemies. Once you get past this point your choices are much more limited but there’s still a hell of a lot of game to go even at this point.
Although there are not many side quests as such there are many secret areas which hold varying rewards and if you do things with certain NPCs in the right way then you will also be rewarded. Content wise this game is value for money, the original game itself was pretty big and the DLC (actual proper DLC which are levels that were written after the original games release) which is of exceptional quality and has some of the games’ most gorgeous areas and hard bosses. Playing this on PS4/XB1 you will be able to tell that this is a last gen port, the textures are not quite as detailed as you would expect and there is a lack of detail in places. That being said the fact this runs at or around 60fps at all times is fantastic, there was a fair bit of framerate dropping on the PS3 which could lead to many a death, and seeing as battle in this game hones your senses to near grand master level, knowing exactly when and when not to hit, so on next gen there is less frustration due to that, and it looks beautiful running at that level.
The reason I played and loved this game was gratification. Every single boss will most likely kill you many times. It can be joypad breakingly frustrating, but persevere. Eventually you will learn that boss. You will know his or her every “tell”, every weakness, exactly how many hits you can get in after each attack and move to a safe distance before the next onslaught. Then there’s that feeling. After spending 4 hours dying at the hands of one boss, dying over and over again, the feeling of finally being victorious is absolutely euphoric. Now playing like this is not for everyone but in Scholar of the first sin they made some changes which made it considerably easier. Ish.
One of the great elements of Dark Souls 2 is its use of online gameplay. There is a whole PvP side of things which I never really bothered with but you can leave your summon sign pretty much anywhere and you can be summoned by someone of similar level to go help them with a particularly tricky area or boss and likewise you can summon other people. Now sometimes in the PS3 version there were a few NPC summon signs you could use as there is not always someone of your level there that is available to help, but the reason things are a lot easier in Scholar of the First Sin is that the number of these NPC summons has been increased dramatically Almost every boss now has at least one available and you have no idea how much easier that can make things when the boss isn’t trying to get your innards on display as for 50% of the time they have someone else to try and eviscerate. Be warned though, every time you summon someone that will make the boss hit harder and have more hit points, so if you’re lucky to have 2 actual people you can summon then leave those NPCs alone as if you get more than 2 people helping you then you will find the boss is near un-killable. First time around I solo’d most of the bosses so this time I already knew what I was doing but I can tell that it would have been easier and (slightly) less frustrating for me if this was where I had started out.
Rating this game is difficult, personally I have spent more time on this game than practically any other, ever. I have the platinum trophy on both PS3 and PS4 versions so for me it has been excellent value for money. There is no such thing as a perfect game, but taking into account what they could of done better.
I will give it 8/10.
Although there are many people who will hate this game, but if you can get past that “wall” there is a chance you will love it.
Buy it now