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Dark Souls 2 Review: Just Don’t Play It All Night Long

Puching Zhang
Written by Puching Zhang

Fegelein Puching Zhang reviews the epic Dark Souls 2. Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about it — and why you shouldn’t even think about playing it all night long. Epic!

aNewDomain.net — I’ll say it right away: Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are the junk food of video games. Usually they’re nothing more than repetitive gameplay, cheap graphics and in-world advertisements that detract from the actual game. Dark Souls 2 is the exception. In my Dark Souls 2 review, I found this follow-up RPG, by From Software, to be truly epic.

Dark Souls 2 combines a massive online single-player campaign with excellent graphics, a cunning AI and a ton of unique features.

I know what you’re thinking. And no, I wouldn’t marathon this game through the night. I advise you don’t, either. The enemies pop out from literally everywhere. Dark Souls 2 will deprive you of sleep for a week. That said, Dark Souls 2 is on par with the Elder Scroll series in it’s quality and game play — which is saying a lot. That’s why my Dark Souls 2 review is — for me, anyway — so uncharacteristically positive.

Campaigns, Tutorials and Zombie-esque Enemies

The campaign opens in media res. You’re a lost soul who comes from either a past state or another dimension — don’t ask me which. The prologue confused me : ). But after that bit of confusion, you are dropped immediately into the avatar customizer.

Here the soul takes on a new body. That will be your avatar for the rest of the game.

Dark Souls 2 Customization

Image credit: From Software

Pause right there. Now, you’re probably thinking this is the time when your avatar goes on a boring, generic tutorial. Queue all the bloody-obvious and mindlessly-mundane actions. But wrong!

Instead you enter a mysterious portal that happens to be a maze. This game has so many twists, turns, creeps and surprises. The tutorial is intriguing because the instructions are actually messages engraved on rocks throughout the maze. And the practice dummies are low-level zombies! Or something akin to zombies, anyway.

There are also many cool moves your avatar has before the tutorial, one of which is the taunt method. Watching my avatar taunt was hilarious. When he raised his arms in the air, he looked like he was about to sacrifice someone.

Dark Souls 2, as the possible zombies indicate, offers you a wide array of enemies, too. I’ve said this before in my aNewDomain game reviews, but please: How many freaks can there be in one game? I have fought deadly, scary and sometimes downright ridiculous enemies — from mundane stone giants to my first boss, which was a tree that came alive. All very cool. But the baddies are always too surreal.

Dark Souls 2

Image credit: From Software

I mean, within the first 10 minutes of game play, it feels as if I’ve walked right up to Mordor from Lord of the Rings, only scarier. And that’s why I must repeat. Don’t approach Dark Souls 2 like it’s a Dark Souls 2 marathon.

Gamer to gamer, my advice is : Do not  play this past midnight, when you’re still high off the excess caffeine of that last RedBull.

These enemies will absolutely freak you out. Really. They will.

Dark Souls 2 has an element of horror that isn’t gory or elaborate. It focuses on making the player jump, in a terrifying sort of way.

The Environment, Customization and the Destruction of All Objects

What would an RPG be without its environment? Dark Souls 2 is a wondrous sight to see.

What makes it special is the high amount of contrast. From cities that make Troy look like a mud hut to the simple haunting woods of past times, the world is expansive and highly detailed. Forget about those 2D online RPGs — Dark Souls 2 has an immersive 3D world that simply comes alive when the player enters. Don’t stare at the scenery too long though, or you might be attacked by a random enemy.

Dark Souls 2 doesn’t lack customization options, either. For those World of Warcraft fanatics and Diablo III diehards, Dark Souls 2 isn’t so much a step up, but rather a step in a different direction. Namely, variety. The player basically has free reign to make themselves be what they want to be, all the while destroying an endless amount of random freaks.

Dark Souls 2 Fighting

Image credit: From Software

Another unique feature in Dark Souls 2 is the ability to destroy objects, random objects, akin to the Red Faction series. Yes! Finally! For many gamers like myself, it’s been a childhood dream to destroy any and all random things. This feature is, of course, augmented by the fact that the NPC merchants are basically apologetic fools, enhancing the comedy of the whole experience.

Unfortunately, a less-than-stellar feature in the game is the fighting mechanics. These are essentially button-mashing techniques akin to series like Dynasty Warriors. Sure, most RPGs suffer from this problem — certain weapons execute certain moves, like a broadsword making a slash and/or cut — but after a while it becomes pretty uninteresting.

C’mon From Software — you guys can make epic 3D worlds and extremely-ugly monsters (the graphics themselves are beautiful and highly detailed) but can’t add variety to attack motions? I am definitely disappointed on this front.

The MMO in MMORPG

What really delighted me about Dark Souls 2 was it’s online multiplayer feature. From Software has really taken the MMO in MMORPG to a whole new level. Not only is there an extensive online multiplayer campaign like Titanfall, but there is a completely-unique feature known as “blood stains.”

Blood stains appear when a player dies/is killed in-game. The killer leaves a blood stain on those they have killed, as a medieval, recurrent warning. When a player comes across a blood stain, he or she can click on it, and it plays a flashback of how the previous player died. Players also have the ability to leave notes with their blood stains when they die.

Dark Souls 2 Blood Stain

Image credit: From Software

Now, in theory, blood stains were supposed to be an advisory system whereby past players could leave warnings for future players, helping them advance through the game. What it has turned into, though, is the biggest complication of gaming bloopers ever seen in an MMORPG. Inexperienced players often die in the most-absurd and sometimes-silly deaths, and their blood stains serve as fail videos for future players to laugh at.

Take me for example: I came across a river of lava with a bridge, and on one side of the river I saw a blood stain and a note that read, “impossible.” I clicked on the blood stain and saw the player attempting to jump the river of lava, but s/he falls halfway through the jump. I proceed to laugh hysterically and face-palm. Also, I steer clear of the river of lava.

I still find it weird that the main highlight of one of the best MMORPGs I’ve ever played is a real-time blooper reel. Still, there’s no better way to elicit laughs in an online game than watching the stupidity of beginners.

Overall, Dark Souls 2 gets a 9/10 for it’s unique features, great graphics and revolutionary step in the world of MMORPGs. It is very much like World of Warcraft — a story-line driven, but non-linear campaign that gives the player a huge amount of freedom, while also providing an awesome Lord of the Rings-style fantasy setting.

Until next time, this is Fegelein Puching Zhang for aNewDomain.net signing off.

Based in Chicago, Fegelein Puching Zhang is our gaming scribe at aNewDomain.net. Read more of his work here or contact Fegelein at puching@anewdomain.net.

About the author

Puching Zhang

Puching Zhang

Based in Chicago, Puching is gaming editor at aNewDomain and our sister pub, BreakingModern.com