The best way I know to start a discussion about the Dark Souls series and Dark Souls 2 is with my story of first playing it. My introduction to the series was Dark Souls 1 on Xbox 360 and I went in with the opinion that it would be like Skyrim or other open world titles, and this caused me to dislike the difficulty and quickly stop playing it. When Dark Souls 1 became the free game in June 2014 on Xbox 360, I tried again and became hooked.
Dark Souls 2 is a game, like its predecessors, that does not provide an in-game guide or any type of navigation system to tell you where to go. The game in itself is designed to push you in the correct direction without these methods. The beauty and the curse of this type of method is that once you learn how to play Dark Souls it really makes you think completely different about level design and game design in general. Dark Souls respects the player’s intellect and truly lets the player craft their own tale from fragments of the story hidden within the item descriptions.
The combat of Dark Souls 2 is buttery smooth and is more similar to the Witcher than Skyrim, but better built than both. Dark Souls 2 has loot within the game, but learning the way in which you would like to play (i.e. quick strikes and movements or heavy armor and heavy attacks) will push you to leveling the weapon and stats you would like to accommodate your specific play style. For example, my preferred way to play games in the Souls series is by wielding the largest weapon that does the most damage I possibly can. Each weapon in the game has unique move sets, and some have so many variations that they become used in PvP more often. Often, the loot in Dark Souls 2 will not be better than any weapon you have equipped when it is first received. The best loot in the game will be crafting material to reinforce your current weapon. The crafting system in Dark Souls 2 is significantly easier than its predecessors.
Dark Souls 2 has a large multiplayer community attached to it like other games in the Souls’ series. In Dark Souls 2, your game is always “online,” and in order to co-op you must use an item called a “human effigy.” However, once you use this item you are open to not only co-op, but also to be invaded by another player who is looking to either increase rank in their covenant or simply trying to mess with your progress. These encounters are usually tied directly to progression in covenants. These covenants in Dark Souls 2 will give you items that can either help you in encounters offline or are designed specifically for use against other players. I was a member of the Heirs of the Sun, and it is more of a co-op based covenant. When I killed the boss in the area of which I was summoned, I would be awarded a token of fidelity and a Sunlight Medal. The Sunlight Medals are used to increase rank in the covenant, which allowed me to unlock the Sunlight Spear Miracle, and the token of fidelity allowed me to heal the host player when summoned in their game.
Unlike Dark Souls 1, Dark Souls 2 allows the player to travel quickly to any bonfire as soon as it is lit without requiring any specific item. This leads to the main issue many fans of the series dislike about Dark Souls 2: the openness of the world. Hidetaka Miyazaki (the creator of Dark Souls), was not involved in the level design of Dark Souls 2 and the connectivity of the world was pushed aside as a result.
Finally, the technical upgrades given to Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin are fantastic; at 60fps, the game runs smoothly and the combat feels much improved as a result. All three DLCs are included, and after completing all three I can definitively say that the Crown of the Sunken King was easily the best of the three, but the boss was very easily defeated.
If you haven’t played Dark Souls 2, this is the best value and the most technically sound version you can own. This is not a simple reskin of textures, but a complete overhaul of a game that now includes a much improved frame rate, and for a game that prides itself on pinpoint button accuracy, this improvement is a game changer.