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

Tuesday, 11 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.

dark_souls_2

(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.

Dark_Souls_2_7

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.

Dark_Souls_2_3

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.

Dark_Souls_2_2

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 1 year ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @mehran :’(

    #2 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year ago
  7. Arnvidr

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

    #7 1 year 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 1 year ago
  9. Michael Ireland

    @Arnvidr It’s one click.

    #9 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year 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 1 year ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Square Enix offering another mystery bundle to customers in the UK, which comes with five mystery PC games for £3.99. As before, customers will be unaware of the games they are purchasing in the mystery bundle, but the bundle contains triple-A titles worth £40 combined. One of Square’s previous mystery bundles contained Tomb Raider, Just […]

  • From Software’s PSone game Shadow Tower coming to PSN

    Shadow Tower, the first-person action-RPG developed for the original PlayStation by From Software, will be released on PlayStation Network. In the 1998 title, players took on the role of a mercenary who has returned home to the Holy Land of Zeptar to find the place has been sucked into the Underworld. He must use the […]

  • PlayStation TV gets price cut in the UK, now £44.99

    PlayStation TV has received a price cut in the UK. After several retailers started offering the console for less than the RRP of £84.99, users on DealSpwn began to wonder whether this is an official price cut, and not just regular deals or stock clearance. Sony later confirmed the new price of £44.99. “Starting from […]

  • Fast & Furious expansion for Forza Horizon 2 is now available, for free

    You can download Forza Horizon 2 expansion Fast & Furious starting right now. Forza Horizon 2 Presents Fast & Furious is available to download now through Xbox Live for Xbox One and Xbox 360. The expansion is standalone, so you don’t need to own Forza Horizon 2 to play it. It’s also free from now […]

  • Fire-based weapons come to PayDay 2 with the Butcher’s BBQ Pack

    The 20th DLC for PayDay 2, the Butcher’s BBQ Pack, is now available on Steam. The DLC will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: Piglet Grenade Launcher, 12G Steakout Shotgun and Mk1 Flamethrower Molotov cocktails and incendiary ammo Four new masks, patterns, materials and achievements The Butcher’s BBQ Pack is another co-development between Overkill and Croatian […]

  • Lords of the Fallen developer offers Hideo Kojima a job

    Amid the current turmoil between Hideo Kojima and publisher Konami, one studio has offered the legendary designer a position. Lords of the Fallen developer Deck 13 took to Twitter to extend a job offer to Hideo Kojima. Dear Mr. @HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN In case you are currently searching, we have an open position as Head of Game […]

  • Destiny Xur update: should you buy MIDA Multi Tool?

    The question on every Destiny player’s lips today. And the answer, supplied by resident Destiny expert Paul Davies, is… Yes! We asked Paul whether or not he thought Xur’s Exotic weapon this week was worth the 23 Strange Coins. Here’s what he said: “It was already a great gun to own for PVP owing to […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 has an all-male cast to make it “more approachable”

    According to Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata, the main cast of the game is all-male because it makes the game “more approachable.” Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata spoke to Gamespot about the reason for his choice of making the core cast an all-male affair. “Speaking honestly, an all-male party feels almost more approachable […]

  • Hearthstone Blackrock Mountain is coming April 2

    Blizzard has given Hearthstone expansion Blackrock Mountain a solid release date. Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain adventure pack will be released April 2 in the Americas region, and April 3 in Europe, Korea, Taiwan, and China. Blackrock Depths is the first wing to be released, others will follow one week apart. Other than the 31 new cards, […]

  • Bloodborne: if you can’t load your save after installing firmware 2.50, this will help

    If you’re having issues loading your Bloodborne save after applying firmware update 2.50 to your PS4, this should help you out. Reddit user KBALLZZ encountered an issue after installing update 2.50 on his PlayStation 4. Bloodborne started reinstalling the day one patch again and when it was done he couldn’t continue his game or load […]

  • Use this code to get 10% off on PSN purchases

    Sony is offering a 10% discount coupon to anyone looking to buy games on PlayStation Store this weekend. Sony’s latest discount coupon code is here. You’ll receive 10% off your cart total when buying from the PSN Store. The offer is not valid on purchases made on PS Vita, PlayStation TV, PSP, or in-game stores. […]

  • Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin upgrade path announced, system specs revealed

    Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin will offer returning customers a chance to upgrade at a discounted price. Those who already own Dark Souls 2 on Steam and are interested in picking up the Scholar of the First Sin edition will be happy to know that publisher Bandai Namco is offering them an […]

  • Bloodborne: this is what happens when you have 40 Insight

    Insight is one of the currencies in Bloodborne, but it’s also a mechanic that affects the gameplay. There are MASSIVE SPOILERS below, so turn back now or one of Bloodborne’s gameplay mechanics will be SPOILED for you. Just like Blood Echoes in Bloodborne, Insight is used to purchase certain items from vendors in the game. […]

  • Phase two of Xbox One April update brings voice messages, dedicated servers for party chat, more

    The second phase of the April update for Xbox One is now open to members of the Preview programme and and it looks like there are even more features in store. Phase one of Xbox One’s April firmware update started a few days ago with improvements to party chat and achievements notifications. Today, phase two […]

  • GTA 5′s graphical “downgrade” is a bug, will be fixed in upcoming patch

    As of patch 1.8 for GTA 5 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, a few graphical issues have cropped up leading some to believe there has been a stealth downgrade to the game’s overall graphics. Over the past couple of days, Reddit went nuts over a video showing what appears to be a downgrade to […]

  • Destiny: Xur location and inventory for March 27, 28 – MIDA Multi-Tool edition

    Xur: Agent of the Nine has arrived at The Tower in Destiny to rid you of your Strange Coins. Xur: Agent of the Nine has once again made it to Destiny’s Tower to sell you Exotic weapons and gear in exchange for Strange Coins and Motes of Light. For this weekend, Xur can be found […]

  • Destiny vault space upgrade will have enough room for every Exotic

    Destiny is finally getting the vault space upgrade players have been begging for almost since launch week. Destiny players can currently use vault space to store 20 pieces of amour, 20 weapons and 20 general item stacks. In the latest Bungle Weekly Update, the developer revealed that as of patch 1.1.2, due before House of […]

  • Half-Life 2: Update mod applies some sparkle to the original title

    Half-Life 2: Update will be available tomorrow, and thanks to the modding community, those who own the vanilla version of the game can apply a visual update to the 2004 title. The comparison video shows you the differences between the original version, and the version with Half-Life 2: Update applied. Here’s what the mod includes: […]

  • Neverwinter MMO can now be pre-downloaded on Xbox One

    You can now pre-download the free-to-play Neverwinter MMO on Xbox One. The game launches on March 31, but you will still need an Xbox Live Gold account to play it. Based on the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, the game can be downloaded from the Xbox Store.

  • Destiny of Spirits will go offline starting next month

    Sony will be ending service for Destiny of Spirits starting next month, Sony has announced. The free-to-play Destiny of Spirits was released in late March 2014 on Vita, and tasked players with collecting supernatural forces appropriate to their geographical location, and then trading them with others online. Gravity Rush spirits were added to the game […]

  • MotoGP 15 is out this spring on PC, last and current-gen consoles

    MotoGP 15 will be released in June on PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Milestone has announced. Bike, rider and team customization are part of the latest release in the franchise, along with time-trials and enhanced career options. The game features over 20 bike models divided into three classes: MotoGP, Moto 2 […]

  • Cities: Skylines players should check out Nakatomi Plaza and Wayne Enterprises

    Nakatomi Plaza and Wayne Enterprises can now be yours in Cities: Skylines. Die Hard fans will be familiar with Nakatomi Plaza. Those who have never watched the first film and live in Los Angeles know it by its real-life name, FOX Plaza. It was created by Enos Shenk and is available through Steamworks. Those who […]

  • Call of Duty franchise has sold 175M copies, players have thrown 300B grenades

    With the Call of Duty Championship kicking off tomorrow, Activision has sent over a series infographic full of interesting figures such as the number of copies sold over 10 years and how many grenades players have tossed. According to the stats below, the Call of Duty franchise has sold 175 million copies across all platforms […]

  • Save up to 75% on select SEGA games on Steam this weekend

    SEGA has put many of its games on sale through Steam this weekend and the firm has also announced Eastside Hockey Manager is now available through Early Access. The sale runs through March 30. The entire Total War, Company of Heroes and Dawn of War back catalogs are discounted 75% and all associated DLC is […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight PC confirmed as digital download-only in UK

    Batman: Arkham Knight will indeed be a download-only title on PC in the UK, Warner Bros. has confirmed to VG247. Batman: Arkham Knight will be available as both a physical and digital release for PS4, Xbox One and PC in North America and Europe. Again, in the UK, the PC version will be “available as […]

  • Rainbow Six Siege release date set for October per GameStop Italy – report

    GameStop Italy may have let the release date for Rainbow Six Siege slip if a recent listing is accurate. According to the listing, the game will release on October 16. While this could be a placeholder date, October 16 is a Friday in the UK, the usual day new releases land at retail. The release […]

  • Watch the $1 million Call of Duty Championship right here

    The The Call of Duty Championship takes place this weekend, and you can watch all the action as it unfolds right here. The event takes place in Los Angeles tomorrow March 27 and runs through March 29, and the livestreams are below. 32 teams from five continents and 11 countries will be competing in Call […]

  • Battlefield Hardline: Battlefest kicks off this weekend with Double XP

    A new season of Battlefest kicks off this weekend, and starting today, you will earn Double XP in Battlefield Hardline. Battlefest for Hardline is similar to the event held for Battlefield 4 last year. For the entire month of April and into May, in-game events and competitions will be held by the developers and player […]

  • Don’t forget: the GTA 5 PC pre-order bonus cutoff is March 31

    Just a friendly reminder to those planning on purchasing GTA 5 for PC: you have until March 31 to pre-order if you want all the bonuses on offer. Those who pre-order will be handed $1 million in-game cash plus a bonus $300,000. It is split between GTA 5 and GTA Online: $500,000 for Grand Theft […]

  • Games with Gold offers doubled for April – six games instead of three

    Microsoft’s April Games with Gold collection is being doubled. For the month Xbox Live Gold members will receive six instead of three games free. Here’s what’s on offer: Pool Nation FX: Available all month on Xbox One Child of Light: Available all month on Xbox One Gears of War: Judgment: Available from April 1-15 on […]

  • Pokemon players can grab a code for Shiny Charizard at GAME in April

    Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire players along with Pokemon X and Y owners can grab a free, rare Shiny Charizard from April 3 at one of GAME’s 320 stores in the UK. The redeemable codes for the character will be made available upon request and no purchase is necessary. Those who pop into one […]

  • F1 2015 will arrive on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in June, includes Mexico circuit

    Codemasters has announced its F1 franchise will make its series debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this June with the release of F1 2015. The game was developed using a new engine and contains improved handling and physics for all vehicles and parts attached. This includes: engine, transmission, aerodynamics, fuel tank, force feedback, suspension […]

  • Mortal Kombat X video confirms Liu Kang as playable character

    Liu Kang has been confirmed as a playable character in Mortal Kombat X in the latest video. You’ll also notice Bo’ Rai Cho in there as well. In the Shaolin trailer above you also get a look at Kung Lao and Kung Jin who is new to the series. Apparently, Raiden’s past champions of the […]

  • Short teaser for Star Wars: Battlefront shows the Battle of Hoth

    A short teaser for Star Wars: Battlefront has been posted by EA on Twitter. Well, that speeder isn't going anywhere. Can someone give us a lift to @SW_Celebration http://t.co/srEVrAA0zl #SWCA https://t.co/4W4LG8myke — EAStarWars (@EAStarWars) March 25, 2015 The teaser shows vehicles which we could be using in the game, but it mainly shows the snowy landscape […]

  • Pillars of Eternity releases today – get all the review scores here

    Pillars of Eternity, which still stands as the second most-funded video game on Kickstarter, finally releases today. It’s also getting some rather positive reviews scores, which we’ve rounded up for you. The isometric, party-based RPG from Obsidian Entertainment was one of the first video game projects to take to Kickstarter, and hit its $1.1 million […]

  • Take an in-depth look at Evolve’s Behemoth monster and four new hunters

    Evolve’s fourth monster, the Behemoth, as well as the four new hunters are shown off in new gameplay video. Evolve’s latest gameplay trailer gives everyone a good look at each of the four new hunters and the massive Behemoth monster. The hunters can be bought either separately or though the hunting pass, while the monster […]

  • PS4 firmware update 2.50 causing issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall

    The suspend/resume feature in PlayStation 4′s 2.50 firmware update is causing some issues with Killzone: Shadow Fall. Killzone: Shadow Fall developer Guerrilla has said that the game is experiencing some issues in some instance where the suspend/resume feature is used. The timing of when players put the game in suspend mode does have an effect, […]

  • Bungie on Destiny matchmaking: “We believe there’s no substitute for a pre-made team”

    Crazy though this may seem, it’s possible that Destiny shipped according to plan. History points to community as a crucial component, far from the contingency that many now suspect. Paul Davies spoke to Bungie for clarity. “The community always engineers the best solutions for bringing players together. While Matchmaking is a great resource for introducing […]