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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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    Rock Band 4 will more closely emulate the feeling of being a real musician with some neat personalisation touches. For Rock Band 4, Harmonix elected to double down on player ownership of their experience rather than technical precision. To this end, it has implemented a number of cool new features. I am wildly envious of […]

  • Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Lost Planet 3 developer shuttered

    Spark Unlimited has gone down with all hands. The Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Lost Planet 3 developer has been shuttered and all staff laid off. Chief technical officer John Butrovich confirmed the news in a statement issued to IGN. “Spark Unlimited is closing as a video game developer. The ongoing opportunities for smaller mobile […]

  • PS Now subscription available on PlayStation 3 this month, Vita coming soon

    PlayStation Now’s all you can eat service has finally been dated for PS3. Subscriptions to PS Now, Sony’s cloud-based gaming service, will be available on PS3 from May 12 in the US. The all you can eat package will also be made available on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players on the same date. […]

  • GTA 5 is even better with a gravity gun

    GTA 5 modders have made a dream come true, adding a gravity gun to your arsenal of mayhem-causing weaponry. GTA 5 isn’t ready for this. It looks like a heck of a lot of fun, but the poor old Los Santos po po can’t deal with the resulting carnage at all. If Rockstar were ever […]

  • “Mod makers should be able to make money from their creations,” says DOOM creator

    DOOM co-creator John Romero has weighed in on the paid mods debate. Paid mods are a hot issue right now. For years, Valve has been enabling content creators to make money from their work on Counter-strike: Global offensive, Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2, but when it partnered with Bethesda to offer the same for […]

  • Watch WRC driver Kevin Abbring smash through a DIRT Rally challenge

    WRC driver Kevin Abbring has been participating in Dirt Rally’s daily events – and kicking ass. Dirt Rally seems to have ticked one of the most difficult to attain boxes of racing development – creating something professional drivers like to play, and which rewards their years of experience. Codemasters published the video below showing Hyundai […]

  • Mortal Kombat X patch to bring PC version up to console standard

    Mortal Kombat X PC will be fixed tomorrow, NetherRealm has promised. The PC version of Mortal Kombat X has come under fire for poor performance, including stuttering frame rate and bugs as plenty. About 45 minutes into a recent Twitch stream, NetherRealm boss Ed Boon said an update will drop tomorrow to address many of […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: all new Crucible maps detailed

    Destiny’s House of Wolves DLC will add four new maps to the Crucible, the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Let’s take a look at all of them. Alex brings you new footage showing all of the four maps that will drop with House of Wolves. He goes over the layout, landmarks, gameplay styles, and other important […]

  • Custom Xbox One Star Wars controllers look very tempting

    Microsoft is celebrating May 4 by showing off concept designs for Star Wars-themed Xbox One controllers. May 4 is of course Star Wars Day and the controller concepts you’re about to see are just that, concepts. Or at least that’s what they said they are. There are four designs and they don’t look very practical. […]

  • Project Cars launch trailer is an anthology of race cars, set to the beats of Deadmau5

    Project Cars comes out this week and there’s just enough time for one last trailer. Project Cars, Slightly Mad Studios’ ambitious racer that has been in development for ages, is finally coming out this week. The racer received plenty of changes throughout its development based on community feedback and the final product will be in […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront dev reveals planet Sullust

    Sullust, a planet that has not been previously shown, will be featured in one of Star Wars Battlefront’s maps. Star Wars Battlefront developer DICE revealed today that planet Sullust will be one of the game’s locations. The planet was mentioned in the films and other Star Wars works, but was only shown today. DICE posted […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: Tower vendor changes

    House of Wolves will change the inventory of some of Destiny’s vendors and add new roles to others. Here’s everything that has been announced so far. You know that House of Wolves will bring a new social space to the game in the form of The Reef. But did you also know that the good […]

  • Nintendo apologises for Amiibo shortages, will reissue some out-of-stock figures

    Nintendo released a statement today to apologise for fan’s frustrations in finding some Amiibo figures and promised to handle distribution better going forward. Nintendo has been criticised recently for its lack of communication when it comes to new Amiibo figures. Something which has lead fans to not know if certain figures are limited to some […]

  • Halo: MCC “a black eye for us,” Halo 5 won’t suffer the same fate, says franchise director

    The development of Halo: The Master Chief Collection was of an “outrageous complexity,” which was one of the reasons it suffered a horrible launch. None of that will happen with Halo 5: Guardians, according to Frank O’Connor. Frank O’Connor, Halo franchise development director opened up to Xbox Achievements about the difficult task of developing The […]

  • Destiny House of Wolves: weapon Reforging explained

    When House of Wolves drops in a couple of weeks, you’ll be able to change the stats of some in-game weapons. This process is called ‘Reforging’. Alex goes over all the details Bungie revealed about the new Reforging system. This covers the materials you need, the weapons that can be reforged and much more. Make […]

  • GTA 5 PC: control the in-game phone with your iPhone using this mod

    GTA 5′s latest mod lets you control the in-game phone with your real-life iPhone. Reddit user Planetleak wanted to see if he would succeed in getting his iPhone to control the phone in GTA 5. He did it and has a video to prove it. It’s not a mod per-se, but it emulates mouse and […]

  • SoulCalibur dev wants to know fans’ favourite characters for “something huge”

    SoulCalibur developers are probably working on a new game, because they’re asking fans to vote on their favourite characters. Project Soul, the longtime developer of the SoulCalibur series is soliciting feedback on fans’ favourite characters. The developer said as much in a post on its Facebook page. “Calling all SoulCalibur Fans! Project Soul would like […]

  • Jason Voorhees doesn’t look out of place in new Mortal Kombat X trailer

    Jason Voorhees comes to Mortal Kombat X starting tomorrow and it’s time to celebrate his arrival. Jason Voorhees, the first DLC character for Mortal Kombat X has been given the trailer treatment. Jason is part of the game’s Kombat Pack, owners of which can start using him tomorrow, May 5. Being an iconic horror character, […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition – Dragonslayer DLC announced, free to all this week

    Dragon Age: Inquisition is getting a multiplayer expansion this week. BioWare has announced that all owners of Dragon Age: Inquisition will receive a new multiplayer expansion, for free. The expansion is called Dragonslayer and it’s centred around fighting dragons, hence the name. Three new playable characters will join the roster as you explore an all-new […]

  • Sonder is still happening, and this is the best news of the week

    Sonder is a really interesting-looking new indie adventure, which I am quite excited to remember exists. We first heard about Sonder in late 2013, when its debut trailer introduced us to a Kamai Media’s ambitious vision. In the intervening months Kamai has been hard at work on its space station management sim slash non-linear narrative […]

  • Twitter axes playable Internet Archive embeds

    The dream has died: Twitter has disabled Internet Archive game embeds. Remember how for a few days you could tweet a link to an a game on the Internet Archive and it was playable direct from that tweet? Well, Twitter has cancelled that. All those tweets now just show links. GamesIndustry suspects it has something […]

  • Lords of the Fallen, Divinity: Original Sin developers will reveal new games at E3 2015

    Lords of the Fallen developer Deck13 and Divinity: Original Sin developer Larian Studios have new projects in the works which will be revealed at E3 2015. Publisher Focus Home Interactive is behind both new games. In a French press release [PDF] spotted by RPG Codex, Focus said it will show off the two unrevealed titles […]

  • Rare game announce expected at E3 2015

    Rare’s new game will be shown off at E3 2015, apparently. Rare hasn’t announced a reveal, and neither has Microsoft, but it looks like the news has slipped out anyway. IGN cites a tweet from Rare creative director Simon Woodroffe in which he says that a new project from Rare designer Gregg Mayles will be […]

  • Batgirl expansion included in $40 Batman: Arkham Knight season pass

    Here’s what you get in the $40 Batman: Arkham Knight season pass. Batman: Arkham Knight’s season pass was announced last week, but apart from the news that it would cost a whopping $40/£33, we didn’t get many details of what it would include. Thankfully, Warner Bros. has since acknowledged the clamour this caused, as players […]

  • Star Wars Day Xbox sale discounts Force Unleashed, Lego games

    Star Wars Day is upon us, and here’s an Xbox sale to mark it. Microsoft is offering discounts on Xbox 360 games to celebrate May 4. From my desk here in Australia the sale is a bit light on content – two Lego games, plus The Force Unleashed and its DLC packs. Your mileage may […]

  • Here’s hoping this tease means we see Mass Effect at E3 2015

    Mass Effect boss Mike Gamble has shared a teaser image, which we’re more than happy to draw speculative conclusions from. The new Mass Effect game in the works at BioWare Edmonton is a mysterious beast. Judging by how long it’s been in development, it feels like we’re about due for a proper reveal, to clear […]

  • Watch almost a whole hour of Wolfenstein: The Old Blood

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood is almost here. Are you ready for old-school shooter action? Wolfenstein: The Old Blood publisher Bethesda livestreamed almost an hour of the Machine Games shooter recently, and has now uploaded the archive to YouTube. Check it out below: Wolfenstein: The Old Blood launches digitally on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on […]

  • Splatoon lacks voice chat to promote a positive online experience

    Nintendo’s multiplayer game Splatoon will not contain a voice chat option in order to “focus on the positive aspects” of online gaming. Speaking in the latest issue of Edge magazine (thanks, GamesRadar), Splatoon co-director Yusuke Amano said personal experience with negativity in online voice chat was one of the main reasons for excluding the feature. […]

  • D4 on PC: differences from Xbox One version, system specs announced

    D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die – Season 1 is coming to PC, and Access Games has provided a list of features different from the Xbox One version. We’ve pulled most of the changes off the game’s website and posted them below, along with the PC specs. D4 on PC Kinect gesture input controls replaced with […]

  • The Megalodon returns to Battlefield 4 with the latest CTE patch

    The Megalodon Easter Egg in Battlefield 4 may have been removed earlier this year from Naval Strike, but it has since resurfaced on the CTE with the latest patch. I’d make a Jaws reference, but it’s been done to death. The shark is shown in the video on the Paracel Storm map which was where […]

  • Survival horror game Kodoku has a new work-in-progress trailer

    Kodoku, the survival horror title from Carnivore Studio, has a new work-in-progress video available, showing you how the game is coming along. Announced for PlayStation 4 and Vita back in 2013, the game is slated for release sometime this year, and tasks the player with avoiding mythical Japanese ghosts using only magic and stealth. Thanks, […]

  • Current HoloLens prototype has noticeably “tighter” FoV compared to January build

    Microsoft’s augmented reality headset HoloLens is still very much in the prototype stage, according to various reports out of the Build Conference. Microsoft hasn’t discussed technical specs with the press yet as nothing is set in stone, but during a hands-on at Build, Ars Technica noticed the prototypes had a “x86 processor, 2GB RAM, 802.11ac […]

  • Silent Hills petition asking Konami to continue development has over 50,000 signatures

    A petition to save the Silent Hills game has been formed by fans in the hopes Konami will change its mind and bring the collaboration with Guillermo del Toro back from the dead. Konami confirmed on Monday the Silent Hill remake from film director Del Toro and Metal Gear’s Hideo Kojima had been cancelled, but […]

  • Attack on Titan has a US release date, title changed in EU over copyright claim

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains will be released under a different title in Europe, according to the publisher, and while a release date has been set for North America, the same cannot be said for fans across the pond. According to Atlus, a copyright claim in Europe has forced the company to publish the […]

  • Yooka-Laylee meets final Kickstarter Stretch Goal in less than 24 hours

    The Kickstarter for Playtonic’s Yooka-Laylee sailed beyond its final £1 million ($1.5 million) Stretch Goal overnight, which will allow for a simultaneous release on all announced platforms. Once funded, Yooka-Laylee was slated for release on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One; however, a simultaneous release on all platforms wasn’t guaranteed unless […]

  • Not a Hero will miss its May 7 release date, but not by much

    Not a Hero will miss its May 7 release date, according to an announcement from Roll7. Not to worry though, it’s only by a week. According to the developer, the delay is due to “having undergone super-secret upgrades to crank shit up to 60fps.” The extra week will provide the additional time needed for tweaking […]

  • Assassin’s Creed, The Crew, Far Cry 4, other Ubisoft titles on sale through the Humble Store

    Ubisoft has put a number of its games on sale through the Humble Store. Franchises Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are on discount as are single release titles. The list of games on sale are below. For pricing in your region, head over to the Humble Store. Anno 2070 Complete Edition Assassin’s Creed 3 Assassin’s […]

  • Payday 2: Repeater rifle, Peacemaker pistol introduced with The Butcher’s Western Pack

    Overkill Software released the 21st DLC pack for Payday 2 yesterday, titled The Butcher’s Western Pack. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and other digital distribution channels. “For our 21st DLC we go back in time to visit the Wild West and the arsenal it was known for,” said the developers. “With it we’re introducing […]