Dark Souls 2: An Underrated Gem

dark-souls-ii

According to the internet, Demons Souls is the weird one nobody has played, Dark Souls 1 is the best game ever made, Dark Souls 2 is trash, Bloodborne is almost as good as Dark Souls 1, and Dark Souls 3 is pandering fan service. Now, I think that the player base as a whole isn’t that extreme, but the vocal fans love to hate Dark Souls 2 and I think it’s undeserved. If I had to rate the series, personally, it would go Bloodborne, Demons Souls, Dark Souls 1 and 2 about equally, and then Dark Souls 3. I think that many people like to forget the flaws in Dark Souls 1 and ignore the strengths of Dark Souls 2. One of the biggest flaws of Dark Souls 3 (which I still love) was that it was too similar to Dark Souls 1 and had too many references. Personally, I love how different 2 is from 1. It was brave to set itself apart from its predecessor and I think it paid off.

One of the things that is popular about Dark Souls 1 is the variety of boss design and Dark Souls 2 is accused of having too many bosses that are armored knights. I think that people often forget or ignore the Re-skin Demon, A.K.A. the Asylum Demon, the Stray Demon, and the Demon Firesage. Those three bosses are literally re-skins of each other, and the only difference in functionality is their health, damage numbers, and the later two do magic or fire damage. In Dark Souls 2,  the only thing that is the same about the armored knight bosses is the fact that they wear armor. They are functionally different and have unique fighting styles. The Pursuer is aggressive and quick, making himself more dangerous because he inflicts curse. The Dragonrider is predictable and slow, perfect for learning patterns and dodge timing. He also has good player-controlled difficulty with the changeable size of the arena. The Ruin Sentinels are very challenging to fight all together, they are slow but hit very hard and have short and long ranged attacks. They teach you about zoning multiple enemies. The Looking Glass Knight is slow and telegraphs his moves, making him easy to fight on his own, but he summons phantoms and sometimes players. These new enemies are not push overs and the Looking Glass Knight has several crowd control attacks. You have to keep an eye on him while you take out the phantom as fast as possible. There are others, but I’ll leave this point here. Functional differences are more important than visual differences. If you look at them as game mechanics, there are more unique bosses in Dark Souls 2 than in Dark Souls 1.

One of my favorite enemies in Dark Souls 1 was the Basilisk. Those things are absolute bastards and curse sucks, but they were so goofy. I loved that they could make me afraid of a derpy frog monster. I also loved the mushroom people, Havel, and the corrupted citizens of Oolacile. From Software is not afraid of including some absurd and funny designs in their otherwise serious game to provide some levity. Not every enemy has to be a Black Knight. Dark Souls 2 just expanded that. Two of the bosses are perfect examples of this. The Demon of Song is a gigantic frog monster with human hands and a grotesque skull-like face. He hops around a pond trying to slap you with its giant arms and the only place to damage it is it’s creepy face, which he periodically covers with skin around his neck. The boss is incredibly goofy but also horrifying. The other boss is The Covetous Demon. He is a massive Jabba the Hutt-like creature. He has three basic attacks, lunging his body forward, rolling over on top of you and a fantastic tongue attack were he grabs you, eats you and then spits you back out after unequipping all of your items including your armor. So you have to either dodge him while putting your armor and weapons back on, or beat him to death with your fists. Both bosses are pretty easy, but they are still funny and have great designs. Another example is some of the weapons. There are entire anvils on chains, a club shaped like a drum stick that flings you onto your stomach with every heavy attack, and a sword made out of a slab of rock that’s larger than the player character. It’s all very creative and adds a lot of flavor to the game.

The weapons are not just good because there are some funny ones, there are so many and they are so creative. The same can be said for the magic and armor. There are so many viable builds in Dark Souls 2. I personally really like pure strength and hex caster. It makes the PvP so much more fun as well. I love invading someone’s world wielding the Fume Ultra Greatsword while dressed as a butterfly that poisons anyone near me, or dressed in the armor that makes me look invisible and cast crazy hexes into area. I haven’t mentioned rings and consumables, but there are dozens of each of those as well. There is so much variety in the game, much more, I think, than the other games in the series. Dark Souls 3 had, by far, the most weapons and armors, but they were almost all the same. Nearly every straight sword had the same animations and the stance weapon skill, every ultra greatsword had stomp, etc, so it didn’t feel quite as varied.

Something that many people dislike about Dark Souls 2 is that the story isn’t very connected to that of the first game, only a few small references, and that the story of the game itself is very fractured. I once heard it described as Dark Souls 1 is a straightforward but detailed saga and Dark Souls 2 is comprised of a series of short stories. I quite enjoy both. 1 had a much better story start to finish, but 2 had amazing character stories and location lore. I particularly love the story of Vendrick, Lucatiel, and the whole Iron Keep leg of the game. I want to give the DLC content in this game is fantastic as well. This series does an amazing job of creating detailed characters with snippets of dialogue and item descriptions.

Now I do want to make sure to recognize the flaws in the game because it’s not perfect. I enjoy the combat a lot, but I think that the parry timing was much worse than the rest of the games, and the weapons felt a little floaty. I also think that accessing the Darklurker boss fight is unreasonable. I love the boss and unlocking each of the three entrances is fine, but having to defeat those enemies every time sucks. The final boss is fine, but definitely a let down. The healing gems made the game significantly easier. I disliked three of the boss fights: the Ancient Dragon, Sinh the Slumbering Dragon, and the Old Iron King. It’s really a shame that From Software hasn’t managed a good dragon fight since Kalameet.

Overall, I think that the game is flawed but excellent. That how I also feel about Dark Souls 1. I love the series as a whole and even the worst one is still better than most other games I’ve played. There is something special about the series that I have never been able to pin down. It’s not the combat, the difficulty, the setting, or the storytelling. There are games that have had one or several of those elements, but they haven’t grabbed me in the same way. I must add that Dark Souls 2 created my favorite Souls meme.

Don’t Give Up Skeleton

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