If you follow the game industry, chances are you have heard about the infamous reputation of the Dark Souls series. Known for its incredibly challenging and hostile game world, the series is among one of the hardest in gaming. And while some gamers may debate what is challenging or simply unfair, it is unanimously agreed that Dark Souls provides an incredible amount of accomplishment with its fearsome difficulty.
The sequel on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 continued with the brutal nature of the Souls series, and even provided some in-depth DLC for the most hardcore of players. The newest version of the game for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin is the definitive edition that compiles all of the previously released DLC and adds in new changes to the layout of the game. The hardest game around just got a whole lot harder.
It goes without saying that this version of Dark Souls 2 is incredibly hard. And I mean BRUTALLY hard in the truest sense of the word. Right from the very beginning after creating the basis for your character, the game makes it abundantly clear where you reside in the food chain. Everything and anything in the world that moves can, and probably will, kill you at some point during the time you play. Even the smallest and most innocent looking of creatures within the many lands of Dark Souls 2 can become viciously lethal in the blink of an eye. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t overcome the challenges that are put before you. You need to plan thoroughly and think about situations before taking action in order to survive.
Dark Souls 2 provides the most reward through trial and error. It’s very rare that you will find yourself getting through any of the sections in the game without dying and restarting from a bonfire a few times. The game forces you to really look for patterns and play patiently when engaged in combat. Running into a battle with a group of enemies or a giant foe will almost always result in a quick demise and force you back to a checkpoint to replay a section over again. For some this may not feel like the most fun, but taking the time to cautiously move from place to place and use smart tactics against enemies will provide the best rewards at the end of the grueling road.
In the Scholar of the First Sin edition, enemy placements have been modified and key items have been moved around to change up the flow of the game. Boss fights are still terrifyingly hard, but have been adjusted a bit to feel fresh and even more challenging than before. Even those who have already spent a long time playing the previous Dark Souls games will still find themselves struggling and learning new things in Scholar of the First Sin. The downloadable content comes packed in with the full game and is seamlessly integrated into the experience, making for one epic and eventful journey.
One of the big aspects that helps make playing through Dark Souls 2 more manageable for newcomers is the ability to get assistance from other players online. Playing the game alone can be challenging enough, even with the use of NPC summon characters that will fight alongside you during boss fights or leveling up your character. Summoning up to three other players to assist in tough sections can be a godsend, especially when you find yourself dying over and over again in the same spot.
But don’t think that summoning another person to speed run you through an area of the game will make things any easier. The enemies and bosses will get stronger and more aggressive when there are more players. There is also a Soul Memory system that prevents players who are far into their own games from helping others get through sections and obtaining great weapons and armor too quickly. While this definitely is annoying when simply trying to play with someone on your friend list, it keeps the world from losing its terrifying persona.
Despite being a gorgeous looking game in every possible way, there are some issues that occur during the experience. Enemies will constantly get multiple attacks and hits on your character despite not physically coming into contact with their hit boxes. There are also times when the camera will be positioned in a way where you won’t see something approaching you with an attack, and at times will even become disorienting in crucial moments during boss fights.
These kinds of things can be a real bummer on someone who approaches the Souls series for the first time, while subsequently adding to the intimidating challenge already there. Technical issues aside however, if you stick with the game and patiently put in enough time to learn enemy patterns and key strategies for bosses, you will overcome and be happily rewarded.
Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin is not for gamers with faint hearts. It requires a lot of patience and effort to really get the most of what it has to offer. The world in the game is lush and filled with incredibly beautiful landscapes and detailed creatures that roam around. The enemy design is some of the best in the action game genre while providing the most terrifying and daunting challenges in gaming.
Whether you’re a veteran of the Souls series or a gamer looking for the next level of challenge, this version of Dark Souls 2 will give you the most content for your dollar. Just be prepared to die and be reborn again and again, many times over.
This review is based on a physical review copy of Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin for the PlayStation 4 provided by Bandai Namco.