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Dark Souls 2 journal #1: the first ten hours have been painful

Tuesday, 11th March 2014 08:05 GMT By Dave Cook

Dark Souls reviews have begun, and rather than try to sum up From Software’s intricate and challenging RPG in one article, Dave Cook’s doing an impressions-in-progress journal of his journey through the whole thing. He’s nuts, clearly.

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(Note: this is an impressions piece-in-progress, and our first entry covers the opening ten hours, up to level 45)

At the time of writing these words I’m now over ten hours into Dark Souls 2, my knight is level 45 and I’ve only just passed the second boss. I should be further, but since when was this series about speed-running?

To appraise From Software’s RPG at speed would be to overlook some of its most-alluring aspects, such as drinking in its bleak atmosphere, searching every corner and trying to unlock the game’s deepest secrets. Don’t forget that gamers were still adding to the Dark Souls wiki guide well over a year after the game launched, and the realisation that the world’s about to go through that analytical process again is both exciting and daunting.

We’re not a review site, but I wanted to give you an accurate account of what Dark Souls 2 is like to play and absorb at a realistic pace, so I decided to take a journal approach where I chronicle my experience through the world of Drangleic, as well as explaining what works and what doesn’t. As such; you should consider this article the first of several.

I knew from experience that both Dark and Demon’s Souls are puzzles in themselves, and no quick review play-test was going to do the game credit, so I’ll be as detailed as I can. As such; there may be some spoilers in here but I’ll do my best to avoid them.

Prepare to go beyond death and venture onward, brave hero.

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Scared New World
Characters and bosses aside, it could be argued that the main character of every Souls game are the worlds themselves. From the grand spires and towering cathedrals of Anor Londo, to the disease-ridden squalor of Blighttown, the depressing nature of these locales seeps through the screen, dragging you into a state of trepidation that refuses to let go. You’ll plod onward over each miserable mile, fighting your own sense of apathy, refusing to admit defeat each time you die. It’s miserable, and I love it.

Dark Souls 2′s ruined kingdom of Drangleic is no different, and it starts off as it means to go on. After a rather superb cinematic, your hero emerges in a strange region called Things Betwixt and you’re set upon by a gang of dog-like beasts after just a few moments. You don’t even have a weapon at this point. After punching the bastards to death I marched forward and arrived at a house occupied by a group of cackling hags. They explain that you’ve been cursed somehow and that like all those who become afflicted, you’re there to find the cure.

Many have tired and failed, and those who give up turn into mindless Hollows. They laugh a bit, explain that you’re going to die often and off you trot to the first bonfire, ready to enter the realm of sadism and hard-fought victory once more. If you’ve played Dark Souls before, you’ll relish the familiarity of it all, and it becomes clear that From Software hasn’t ruined the template as many had feared.

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They’re a bunch of assholes, honestly.
Bonfires themselves have changed a little. They’re still ‘safe’ zones that top up your health and respawn all enemies in the world, but with a few slight but significant changes. You may recall that fast-travel in the first Dark Souls was only possible after obtaining the Lordvessel, but here you can do it from the start, and while that sounds like something of a cheat it actually makes perfects sense once you realise that enemies stop respawning after grinding them too much.

That’s not a typo. Dark Souls 2 doesn’t let you sprint around the nearby area, kill everything for souls, then hit the reset button by visiting a bonfire over and over again. Each enemy stops re-appearing after a number of deaths – the actual amount is still uncertain – and this really pissed me off at first. But after being forced to move on to another area I realised that From Software have been smart here. It stops the game from being a repetitive grind and forces you to tackle new challenges elsewhere. It also makes souls in one area a finite resource that you need to spend wisely, as if you weren’t pressured enough.

So that’s the big conundrum. Do you spend those souls on levelling, buying items or upgrading your gear, knowing that they’ll run out soon enough? That’s a new type of pressure that just mounts on all of the arduous elements thrown at you in the first game. I’m well past the ten hour mark as I write this, but even now those early enemies haven’t respawned. They may have done by the time I write my next blog, but I’m yet to figure out how to make them return.

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Majula. It may look like shit, but you’ll grow to love it.
After you finish the opening tutorial you’ll find yourself in Majula, which is essentially the Firelink Shrine hub from Dark Souls. It’s a safe town where you can shop for new armour and weapons, upgrade or repair gear, and level up. Levelling is the same as it was in Demon’s Souls, as you have to speak with a female priest by the main bonfire to assign skill points. I’m unable to level up at any bonfire like in the first game, although I managed to do this in last year’s beta, so this option may become available later.

As grim as the world is, I have to admit that the first full area was a little brighter than I’d first anticipated, but then the death began…

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19 Comments

  1. mehran

    quit writing these DS2 articles :( .. i can’t read ‘em … and I sooooooooooo want to read ‘em..

    #1 6 months ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @mehran :’(

    #2 6 months ago
  3. jmg24bad

    I wont read this out of regard for spoilers . I assume this article is trying to say “I got my ass beat and died alot, but maaaan it was fun! “

    #3 6 months ago
  4. locus2k1

    Very Jealous, Dave, Friday seems so very far away right now.

    I am slightly worried about the PvP, only because I was constantly grief-ed on DS1 by low lvl players who have spent all their souls powering up the gear/abilities (Twinks comes to mind), however with Pyromancer (and other mage jobs) apparently more “balanced” I hope it won’t be so bad.

    *looks at watch* Only 70 hours to go!

    #4 6 months ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @jmg24bad Not exactly :) The first few hours arent so bad if you know the previous games well – save for two boss encounters that had me cursing.

    #5 6 months ago
  6. Michael Ireland

    @Dave Cook It wouldn’t be Dark Souls without lots of cursing and potentially a broken controller or two.

    I enjoy hardcore games immensely, but shit, Demon Souls just broke me. Utterly.

    #6 6 months ago
  7. Arnvidr

    Quit splitting up articles, I refuse to go to Page 2 :(

    #7 6 months ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @Arnvidr Why? We don’t make money per clicks. People tend to go all ‘TL;DR’ if the piece is too long.

    #8 6 months ago
  9. Michael Ireland

    @Arnvidr It’s one click.

    #9 6 months ago
  10. Dave Cook

    @Michael Ireland I actually protested it before I knew it wasn’t monetised. Now it makes sense and lets us write longer pieces without fear of people bailing before the end.

    #10 6 months ago
  11. Arnvidr

    If they bail before the end, what makes you think they bother reading more than one page? Monetized or not, I think it’s a stupid way of making web pages.

    #11 6 months ago
  12. deathm00n

    @Michael Ireland I’ve tried finishing Demon without reading anything in the internet besides basic character attributes, then I reached the Old King Allant and said, fuck this. Read all the guides I could and killed him after 4 days of attempts even. In the first boss of Dark I forfeit the strategy to read nothing. I guess I should begin reading guides right now for DS2 hahahahah

    #12 6 months ago
  13. G-Sama

    awesome write-up dave , i’m itching like crazy everytime i’m reading or seeing anything about it , i don’t think i can wait till the next month for the PC version , but i have no console and i refuse to play a game with that much of beautiful areas without witnessing them in their full glory ,

    i said before that dark souls wasn’t a flawless experience , but from the looks of it .. DSII nailed everything down and fixed most of my complaints , however i am a bit worried of it being ‘easier’ or not having a memorable boss fight like ornestien and smough especially after reading that DSII’s bosses aren’t as great ….

    still , hope it gets its deserved success and reach even more audience , these type of games are the refreshing experiences i yearn for in the time of twitch shooters and zombie smashers , can’t remember when was it the last time i actually felt excited again for a game’s release

    but hell , the wait is killing me … DSII is killing me even before i get my hands on it :D !

    Death , i’m ready

    #13 6 months ago
  14. salarta

    I’d just like to point out that online news articles for many prominent publications split the content up across multiple pages. The longer such article I’ve seen so far was 10 pages long.

    However, those articles also provide a link alongside the page links for someone to view the article as a single page.

    That doesn’t mean much here because this is just two pages. If this article was 3 pages or more, then the “view as single page” option would be helpful, but you’re clicking the same number of links (one) either way.

    #14 6 months ago
  15. Arnvidr

    That would make it two, since I already clicked to get to page 1 originally.

    It’s not the clicks that bother me either way, but the needless “hiding away” of the rest of the article. This is not a news paper with limited room. If your article is so long it feels like you need to split it up somehow, maybe it needs to be divided into logical sections, with an index table at the top?

    The trend of making web pages more and more like print materials are making them less and less usable in my eyes.

    #15 6 months ago
  16. Hcw87

    With a death penalty that decreases your HP every time you die (from the IGN review), and the fact that people can invade you whenever they want, i really don’t see myself putting much time into this.

    There are so many people in this world existing purely to piss off other people. I can see lots of immature manchildren griefing players over and over and putting it up onto youtube. That shit is just a waste of time, and i’ll wait until i know more about the griefing part before i delve into this.

    No way to judge that properly until a few weeks after release. Journalists don’t really strike me as the griefing asshole kind.

    #16 6 months ago
  17. Michael Ireland

    @deathm00n I absolutely hate reading guides when it comes to playing games, at least for my first playthrough. I want it to be my own experience, not someone else’s.

    I love hardcore gameplay. I enjoy the challenge and the victory. But Demon’s Souls and Dark Soul… man, I just… *bangs his head off the wall*

    As for the pages thing… long text crashes my phone. The comments should paginated as well honestly. As they are anything over 50 comments lags my phone to the point of being unbearable.

    #17 6 months ago
  18. deathm00n

    @Michael Ireland When I beat Demon I thought I was awesome, I could play anything else, then Dark kicked me in the balls, went back to new game+ on demon and it kicked me in the balls too. And it’s a pain I’m willing to endure again in Dark 2.

    I agree with you, it’s so hard it’s ridiculous, but we are used to games so easy now a days that it’s refreshing playing Souls games once in a while.

    #18 6 months ago
  19. Arnvidr

    @Michael Ireland I can have some sympathy for your phone lagging on long pages, but honestly that seems more like a problem with how the page is coded, text shouldn’t be able to lag any piece of hardware with the amount of text we’re talking about here. Personally I found paging to be even more of an annoyance on phones, and if the comments are not paginated here, that’s the biggest improvement from the old design for me personally.

    #19 6 months ago

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