Is it? I take a look at some criticism regarding the Souls series and actually play a game fairly competently for once! Maybe I’ll do an actual playthrough of the entire game, or the sequel, if there’s any demand for it and my lovely talking voice. Or maybe you get enough of that from our podcasts. Oh, I understand…
As an addendum, it’s rather fitting that I’m talking about this exactly one day from the release of Dark Souls II on the PC. From reports that I’ve heard, they did not mess too much with the design of combat or most other aspects. Think of it as a refinement of a previously existing formula.
Now, there’s been some rumbling about the stage design and whatnot. What I can tell you is that, due to the new ability to warp between bonfires, it seems they focused each section of the world map in a way much, much more reminiscent of Demon’s Souls. For those not in the know, Demon’s Souls consisted of five very long linear levels with checkpoints (demarcated by bosses). If you died, you started again at the last Archstone (the bonfire equivalent). The Nexus, your hub area, basically functioned as a glorified stage select area with the various expected RPG accouterments.
In Dark Souls II, they’ve basically found an interesting way to mesh both designs together via the bonfire warping. Now, think of your bonfire points as a sort of stage select function. Since leveling is restricted to one NPC in the hub area (Majula, from what I know), you’ll be doing this a whole lot as you play through the game.
Another aside comes in the form of combat. Because, again, Dark Souls II wants to reintegrate elements of Demon’s Souls into the newer game, many combat encounters emphasize multiple enemy groups. You can’t pull one enemy at a time, simply because all of them will aggro in that group if you clear their radius. This is a welcome, and more interesting, change than individually drawing out enemies. You’d imagine they would try to help their allies, but (as the video above showed), Dark Souls had strange AI patterns sometimes.
I think that a welcome change. Frankly, dealing with one enemy became far too easy as the game progressed, and simply walking slowly provided me with a huge advantage in most encounters. The enemies would come out one by one, and I would slay them one by one – still challenging, but never panic-inducing. By forcing players to deal with multiple enemies gunning for your hide, I can imagine some interesting enemy/boss encounters to go along with that. Who doesn’t love a little multi-tasking and spatial awareness training? That change explains the move away from a primary health source (Estus Flasks) to less permanent means of sustaining health (Lifegem as a replacement for Demon’s Souls and its Grasses).
I’m sure others more informed with the recent console releases could enlighten me on this point. Still, from my perspective, Dark Souls II looks rather like an improvement of the first…from a sequel point of view! Whether or not it will endear itself to all audiences, from lore fanatics to otherwise, will be a long time in coming. Heck, I’m not gonna look anything up until I finish it.