the first few hours: Dark Souls II

So I think I’ve established here that I am not the target audience for Dark Souls II.  I’ve never particularly enjoyed “difficult” games, irrespective of the perceived “fairness” of those games; and in the brief time I spent with the earlier games in this franchise, I was able to glean what the game was going to be like, and then know that it wasn’t for me.

That’s all well and good; not every game is meant for everybody.

Anyway, here’s a hypothetical question:  if Dark Souls II was a game of average difficulty, as opposed to notoriously unforgiving difficulty, but in every other respect was the exact same game – would anybody care?  Is the game’s difficulty and obscurity the actual appeal?

Because last night I did in fact give Dark Souls II a second chance.  I made it to the first town, and then to the first bonfire outside of town, and I killed things and got killed, and so while I acknowledge that I’ve seen but a tiny sliver of what the game has to offer, it also showed me plenty:

  • Utterly strange sound design, where (for example) walking through tall grass sounds like a very stiff whisk broom sweeping across ragged sandpaper
  • Ponderously dull voice acting.  This has been true in the limited time I’ve spent with the previous two games, so I guess it’s a franchise trademark, but still.  There are other ways of instilling gravitas in your dialogue besides asking your voice actors to slowly drone the words.
  • Striking visual design, to be sure, but marred by surprisingly bad visual fidelity.  I installed the game to the 360’s hard drive – usually that helps – but MAN, this game has moments of supreme ugliness and jank.  Definitely does not look like a late-era 360 game – there are plenty of games that look a lot better than this.  And considering how terrible the PC version of Dark Souls I looked, I’m not necessarily holding out hope that the PC version of this game looks remarkably better.
  • Unintuitive control schemes.  My very first death in Dark Souls II was from trying to jump and instead plummeting into a lake.  Jumping requires being in a “dashing” state (i.e., pressing B), and then clicking the left thumbstick.  In most games, jumping only requires one button press.  I get that this isn’t a platforming game, but considering how cheap some of my deaths have been (like accidentally falling off cliff-sides and such), having to perform such an awkward maneuver to achieve a simple action is a bit off-putting.

Essentially, without the unforgiving difficulty and the willful obscurity of your objectives, the game is kind of a mess, and probably wouldn’t be all that interesting.  So, then:  am I going to bother playing it for much longer?  Especially with Infamous and MGS arriving later this week?

Author: Jeremy Voss

Musician, wanna-be writer, suburban husband and father. I'll occasionally tweet from @couchshouts. You can find me on XBL, PSN and Steam as JervoNYC.

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