Bloodborne was the most interesting thing to happen to the Souls series, says Sherif Saed, changing the way he approached Scholar of the First Sin.
“Why not try something different, knowing that Dark Souls 2’s enemies are different from Bloodborne’s? They may share the same creator, but they both have very different intricacies.”
I’ve recently got my hands on a copy of Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin. I’ve been wanting to revisit the game for a while now, and it’s a chance for me to play two of the game’s three DLC packs that I missed.
When I first played Dark Souls 2, it was my first game in the series. I defaulted to a sword and shield setup and invested in my Strength, Vigor, and Vitality stats. I even used great swords on a few occasions. I did the same when I played the original Dark Souls afterwards. To me, Dark Souls meant the careful navigation of every corner, shield up, and ready to block whatever comes before getting a chance to even see what it is. I watched countless livestreams and YouTube videos of players rolling everywhere, dodging attacks, and dual-wielding their way to victory. I could never do that, if I rolled it would be as a last resort. When I experimented with it, I ended up rolling into attacks so often that I got frustrated and reverted back to my tank setup.
Until this one little game called Bloodborne came along. Where everything is just as deadly, if not more so, than earlier Souls games. There are no shields, no blocking, no Havel’s Armour, no nothing. Your off-hand is a gun that you use to parry enemies. The button associated with defence in my head was no longer my fall-back. It all seemed so strange for the first few minutes, until it became second nature.
I never really realised Bloodborne’s effect on me and how I perceived encounters in those games until last weekend when I started Scholar of the First Sin. From the outset, I decided to dual wield, and do without a shield. Not using a shield, in that moment, didn’t feel strange at all. Carrying a shield felt like it would slow me down.
Then, I invested some points into Intelligence and thought I would get my hands on a staff and try some Soul Arrow, a ludicrous idea by my old standards. I thought why not try something different, all the while knowing that Dark Souls 2’s enemies are different from Bloodborne’s, and that I won’t have access to the latter’s side-step. They may share the same creator, but they both have very different intricacies.
So there I was, covered in light armour and armed with two deadly swords, each with its own moveset. I found myself paying a lot more attention to enemies’ animation routines, figuring out their “tells” – essentially working out a plan of attack as I twirled and dodged around them. I even went through a few areas parrying attacks as often as I could, breaking some fools’ guards and backstabbing others. Not having a shield, as I’ve come to appreciate, is an incredible freedom.
“I was no longer shackled by tactical movement. My attack routine switched to a more nuanced one. I always had the option to roll away and GTFO if things got hairy.”
I was no longer shackled by tactical movement. My attack routine switched from blocking a few attacks and slashing once, to a more nuanced one where I would alternate between firing off a spell, swiping, to firing another spell. I always had the option to roll away and GTFO if things got hairy, which was nice.
Nimble as you may be, this new setup requires you to be on your toes 100 percent of the time. Because if you dodge too early or too late, you’re done. Even though Bloodborne’s side-step is unmatched in Dark Souls 2, it conditioned me not to be complacent and to always be looking for a way to exploit the weakest link in the enemies’ attack chain. Using the shield meant that I would just stand there and take it. I never used anything below 100 percent block. Because why would I? A shield is supposed to block everything, or so I believed, refusing to figure enemies out.
This, coupled with Scholar of the First Sin’s other changes, meant that a new playthrough felt fresher than I had imagined. Not being bound to a shield made me dabble in things like the Power Stance, which opens up a new set of animations for you. This in and of itself added a new layer for me go through. The narrow path of constantly getting better shields and not changing my play-style became obsolete.
As for Scholar of the First Sin itself, the re-release upped the number of enemies in a few places. But just like in earlier games, advancing into one slowly will still only alert two NPCs at most. I did come across a few areas that spiked greatly in difficulty for no apparent reason. It almost seems like designers had a lapse of judgement, throwing tougher enemies at you every chance they got to artificially make things challenging.
Maybe it was From Software still trying to figure out what to do with new hardware. In most cases, it seemed like these places were politely nudging you into summoning a buddy to help you along the way. That being said, series newcomers who are not familiar with how co-op works in those games will be frustrated. After all, co-op isn’t exactly the first thing that we think of when Souls games are brought up.
Co-op or solo, Scholar of The First Sin is a great experience. If you played both games, I suggest you go back to Dark Souls 2 and start applying some of your newfound knowledge. Doubly so if Bloodborne was your first game in the series.