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Found 8 results

  1. Brazilian Twitch streamer Luality has been on an epic quest (or at the very least a sidequest) to see what her pet bunny can accomplish in the PS4 action-RPG Bloodborne. If you're wondering how exactly a bunny might play through an action-RPG known for its difficulty, the answer seems to be, "not well, but well enough to win." With significant coaxing, the little rabbit hops around on a repurposed Dance Dance Revolution dance pad to laboriously move its in-game avatar. The project kicked off with the attempt to kill a single enemy about a week ago, with the deadly encounter lasting under a minute. However, the next logical challenge was going toe-to-toe with the Cleric Beast, Bloodborne's first boss. The fight seemingly took place on a New Game + character that possessed a large amount of health and a weapon only obtainable later on in the game. So, capable of taking numerous hits, beast fought Beast. Take a look at their tense (and adorable) battle below: Amazing and inspiring. Good job, bunny! ❤️ Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. Brazilian Twitch streamer Luality has been on an epic quest (or at the very least a sidequest) to see what her pet bunny can accomplish in the PS4 action-RPG Bloodborne. If you're wondering how exactly a bunny might play through an action-RPG known for its difficulty, the answer seems to be, "not well, but well enough to win." With significant coaxing, the little rabbit hops around on a repurposed Dance Dance Revolution dance pad to laboriously move its in-game avatar. The project kicked off with the attempt to kill a single enemy about a week ago, with the deadly encounter lasting under a minute. However, the next logical challenge was going toe-to-toe with the Cleric Beast, Bloodborne's first boss. The fight seemingly took place on a New Game + character that possessed a large amount of health and a weapon only obtainable later on in the game. So, capable of taking numerous hits, beast fought Beast. Take a look at their tense (and adorable) battle below: Amazing and inspiring. Good job, bunny! ❤️ Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. The Dark Souls series has defined itself as a fight around the idea of entropy. Should we embrace that all things must come to an end or rage against the dying of the light? Or perhaps find another way entirely? This conflict forms the central theme that permeates every nook and cranny of the game world, clarifying itself with each new enemy and boss. That struggle makes up the Dark Soul itself. The kingdoms of men in the Age of Fire, for all their strength, are doomed to fade and succumb to a curse brought on by time and the gods themselves. When the curse awakens, it makes men immortal, living on in a state of undeath, but once undead, humans begin to lose bits of themselves as time passes. Time eventually wears them away into hollows, mindless monsters who hunger for purpose. There is only one way to lift the curse: A hero must arise and brave the dangers of a world deteriorating into chaos to rekindle the First Flame, a bastion of power that preserves the world. After braving horrors and madness, players are given the option of rekindling the First Flame with their life or snuffing it out to usher in the Age of Dark, a new world order that embraces a fireless world - but there may be other choices hidden to all but a few. Players entered the world of the first Dark Souls shortly after the curse had begun afflicting humans for the first time. No matter how that great cataclysm is resolved, the events of Dark Souls II take place far into the future, in the middle of the Age of Fire. The second game has players fighting to ascend to the Throne of Want, a throne that looks strikingly like a kiln. Again, no matter how players decide to end the story, Dark Souls III happens. This time, the Age of Fire has begun to literally choke on its own ash. The First Flame is dying. It has been linked so many times that one powerful soul can no longer relight it. Now several are needed. In an effort to avert almost certain death, powerful beings from history have revived as Lords of Cinder to become sacrifices, however all but one refuse their duty to continue the world. One more bit of unkindled ash arises from the graves of heroes and receives the task of uniting those Lords and relighting the flame – the player. From the beginning, the world of Dark Souls III feels tired and broken. Ash litters the ground. Violent religious cults abound, each with their own ways of coping with their hopeless plight. The player isn’t even a lowly undead as in previous titles, but the dregs of ashen souls randomly reforged. Even immortal dragons have begun to succumb to decay of mind and body. This is the Dark Souls that players have known and loved since the beginning of the series, but all around the edges of that Dark Souls identity threads come unraveled. Of course, when I say “this is the same Dark Souls,” I mean thematically and visually. The mechanics of Dark Souls III have undergone a revision that incorporates lessons learned from the development of Bloodborne. When Bloodborne released, people compared its fast, aggressive combat favorably against the more deliberate, measured pace of the Dark Souls series. You can see that quickened sensibility translated into Dark Souls III in a number of little ways. For example, the player gets locked into fewer animations, something that in previous Souls games could mean death by accidental button press. More weapons feature transformations between distinct move sets, something that Bloodborne certainly popularized. Combat occurs with a desperate finality. The enemies players encounter act as if they know they are living in a world with a mortal wound, a fatal injury that affects them as well. And as the saying goes, “nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.” Enemies throw themselves into combat ferociously, adopting frenzied patterns of attack. Sometimes these patterns can seem unfair, but the core fun of Dark Souls has always been in learning those patterns and overcoming obstacles either alone or in jolly cooperation with other players. Dark Souls III feels rigorously balanced to avoid luring players into cheap deaths. Often it feels like if you’re just vigilant enough, you could deal with anything the game might throw at you. Though that confidence is often immediately undercut by a blistering encounter - if nothing else, Dark Souls III keeps players humble. Developer From Software describes their artistic approach to Dark Souls III as “withered beauty.” I wasn’t sure at first if the style of a dying world in all its dilapidated grandeur stemmed from a conscious choice or if the aesthetic was an extension of series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s reluctance to return to the series. He had made some statements in the past that indicated he wanted to be done with Dark Souls and that too many sequels would muddy his original intent. After spending almost 100 hours in its intricate, crumbling world, I feel comfortable saying that, yes, Dark Souls III is an entirely intentional work of art that brings the series full circle. While the core game does conclude on a definitive note regardless of player choice, the DLC ultimately brings things to a climactic final coda at the end of all things: A clash between the old world and the possibilities of the future. Ashes of Ariandel invites players into a world of rot and ice, a refuge from the apocalypse in the outside world. However, the shelter from ending possesses its own dangers and stands out as providing one of the most unique encounters in Dark Souls III. It also introduces a largely disposable multiplayer Vs. Mode, though I am sure many will derive some joy from fighting friends and strangers. Ashes of Ariandel ultimately exists to set the stage for The Ringed City DLC. This lore-heavy expansion has players delving into the legendary home of the Pygmies, an obscure, but important race of beings in the Souls universe. However, some characters and creatures have persisted within the city’s walls for countless years, standing firm to ward off intruders who come hoping to lay claim to the titular Dark Soul. Strangely, the final encounter in this DLC doesn’t end with an explosive cutscene or much exposition, just an intimate battle to the death and a subtle revelation hidden within the Ashes of Ariandel. It’s quiet, and that muted finale subverts expectations in a game that goes big so often. But that ending gets at the heart of what Dark Souls III and, indeed, what the larger Dark Souls series was about from the beginning. Conclusion: Dark Souls has been about the continuation of a toxic cycle, a cycle that offers diminishing returns with each renewal. Miyazaki purposefully left that cycle open to interpretation as an artistic statement. Does it represent addiction? Depression? Existentialism? One can interpret the cycle of spiraling rebirth and death to mean quite a number of things on a personal level – that, along with the near perfect "firm but fair" mechanics, is part of what allowed so many people to identify so strongly with the series. Dark Souls III sees that cycle finally spiral down toward its ultimate conclusion. The world can continue to struggle on, locked in an endless twilight, take the plunge into darkness where hope might one day be born anew, or the cycle can be broken into something else entirely. Even in this ending, Miyazaki leaves what the series could mean up to each player’s interpretation. There are some who see nothing in it, a pointless exercise in rehashing the Dark Souls adventure for a third time. There are some who see some truth in that portrayal of the world. Personally, Dark Souls III seems to be a meta commentary on the creative process – it is an adventure that seems limitless until limits are imposed upon it by solidifying an idea and making it real, and then creativity dies or stagnates or, very rarely, soldiers on toward something new and unknown. Indeed, while Miyazaki might not have initially desired a Dark Souls III, he and his team made the most of it while operating within the constraints of the franchise. Now From Software is working on something new, a new world on a new canvas. Dark Souls III is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
  4. The Dark Souls series has defined itself as a fight around the idea of entropy. Should we embrace that all things must come to an end or rage against the dying of the light? Or perhaps find another way entirely? This conflict forms the central theme that permeates every nook and cranny of the game world, clarifying itself with each new enemy and boss. That struggle makes up the Dark Soul itself. The kingdoms of men in the Age of Fire, for all their strength, are doomed to fade and succumb to a curse brought on by time and the gods themselves. When the curse awakens, it makes men immortal, living on in a state of undeath, but once undead, humans begin to lose bits of themselves as time passes. Time eventually wears them away into hollows, mindless monsters who hunger for purpose. There is only one way to lift the curse: A hero must arise and brave the dangers of a world deteriorating into chaos to rekindle the First Flame, a bastion of power that preserves the world. After braving horrors and madness, players are given the option of rekindling the First Flame with their life or snuffing it out to usher in the Age of Dark, a new world order that embraces a fireless world - but there may be other choices hidden to all but a few. Players entered the world of the first Dark Souls shortly after the curse had begun afflicting humans for the first time. No matter how that great cataclysm is resolved, the events of Dark Souls II take place far into the future, in the middle of the Age of Fire. The second game has players fighting to ascend to the Throne of Want, a throne that looks strikingly like a kiln. Again, no matter how players decide to end the story, Dark Souls III happens. This time, the Age of Fire has begun to literally choke on its own ash. The First Flame is dying. It has been linked so many times that one powerful soul can no longer relight it. Now several are needed. In an effort to avert almost certain death, powerful beings from history have revived as Lords of Cinder to become sacrifices, however all but one refuse their duty to continue the world. One more bit of unkindled ash arises from the graves of heroes and receives the task of uniting those Lords and relighting the flame – the player. From the beginning, the world of Dark Souls III feels tired and broken. Ash litters the ground. Violent religious cults abound, each with their own ways of coping with their hopeless plight. The player isn’t even a lowly undead as in previous titles, but the dregs of ashen souls randomly reforged. Even immortal dragons have begun to succumb to decay of mind and body. This is the Dark Souls that players have known and loved since the beginning of the series, but all around the edges of that Dark Souls identity threads come unraveled. Of course, when I say “this is the same Dark Souls,” I mean thematically and visually. The mechanics of Dark Souls III have undergone a revision that incorporates lessons learned from the development of Bloodborne. When Bloodborne released, people compared its fast, aggressive combat favorably against the more deliberate, measured pace of the Dark Souls series. You can see that quickened sensibility translated into Dark Souls III in a number of little ways. For example, the player gets locked into fewer animations, something that in previous Souls games could mean death by accidental button press. More weapons feature transformations between distinct move sets, something that Bloodborne certainly popularized. Combat occurs with a desperate finality. The enemies players encounter act as if they know they are living in a world with a mortal wound, a fatal injury that affects them as well. And as the saying goes, “nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.” Enemies throw themselves into combat ferociously, adopting frenzied patterns of attack. Sometimes these patterns can seem unfair, but the core fun of Dark Souls has always been in learning those patterns and overcoming obstacles either alone or in jolly cooperation with other players. Dark Souls III feels rigorously balanced to avoid luring players into cheap deaths. Often it feels like if you’re just vigilant enough, you could deal with anything the game might throw at you. Though that confidence is often immediately undercut by a blistering encounter - if nothing else, Dark Souls III keeps players humble. Developer From Software describes their artistic approach to Dark Souls III as “withered beauty.” I wasn’t sure at first if the style of a dying world in all its dilapidated grandeur stemmed from a conscious choice or if the aesthetic was an extension of series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki’s reluctance to return to the series. He had made some statements in the past that indicated he wanted to be done with Dark Souls and that too many sequels would muddy his original intent. After spending almost 100 hours in its intricate, crumbling world, I feel comfortable saying that, yes, Dark Souls III is an entirely intentional work of art that brings the series full circle. While the core game does conclude on a definitive note regardless of player choice, the DLC ultimately brings things to a climactic final coda at the end of all things: A clash between the old world and the possibilities of the future. Ashes of Ariandel invites players into a world of rot and ice, a refuge from the apocalypse in the outside world. However, the shelter from ending possesses its own dangers and stands out as providing one of the most unique encounters in Dark Souls III. It also introduces a largely disposable multiplayer Vs. Mode, though I am sure many will derive some joy from fighting friends and strangers. Ashes of Ariandel ultimately exists to set the stage for The Ringed City DLC. This lore-heavy expansion has players delving into the legendary home of the Pygmies, an obscure, but important race of beings in the Souls universe. However, some characters and creatures have persisted within the city’s walls for countless years, standing firm to ward off intruders who come hoping to lay claim to the titular Dark Soul. Strangely, the final encounter in this DLC doesn’t end with an explosive cutscene or much exposition, just an intimate battle to the death and a subtle revelation hidden within the Ashes of Ariandel. It’s quiet, and that muted finale subverts expectations in a game that goes big so often. But that ending gets at the heart of what Dark Souls III and, indeed, what the larger Dark Souls series was about from the beginning. Conclusion: Dark Souls has been about the continuation of a toxic cycle, a cycle that offers diminishing returns with each renewal. Miyazaki purposefully left that cycle open to interpretation as an artistic statement. Does it represent addiction? Depression? Existentialism? One can interpret the cycle of spiraling rebirth and death to mean quite a number of things on a personal level – that, along with the near perfect "firm but fair" mechanics, is part of what allowed so many people to identify so strongly with the series. Dark Souls III sees that cycle finally spiral down toward its ultimate conclusion. The world can continue to struggle on, locked in an endless twilight, take the plunge into darkness where hope might one day be born anew, or the cycle can be broken into something else entirely. Even in this ending, Miyazaki leaves what the series could mean up to each player’s interpretation. There are some who see nothing in it, a pointless exercise in rehashing the Dark Souls adventure for a third time. There are some who see some truth in that portrayal of the world. Personally, Dark Souls III seems to be a meta commentary on the creative process – it is an adventure that seems limitless until limits are imposed upon it by solidifying an idea and making it real, and then creativity dies or stagnates or, very rarely, soldiers on toward something new and unknown. Indeed, while Miyazaki might not have initially desired a Dark Souls III, he and his team made the most of it while operating within the constraints of the franchise. Now From Software is working on something new, a new world on a new canvas. Dark Souls III is now available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC View full article
  5. This week we return to From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki to cover the beginnings of the Soul series. The 2009 release of Demon's Souls became the sleeper hit of the year, racking up awards for its gameplay innovations and solid, challenging mechanics. Despite a mixed to positive critical reception, Demon's Souls remained mostly overlooked until From Software's spiritual successor, Dark Souls. The popularity of Dark Souls had the effect of more than doubling Demon's Souls' sales. Can Demon's Souls stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it doomed to remain in the shadow of its sequel for all time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod Outro music: Demon's Souls 'Abandoned by God' by RoeTaKa (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03238) New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  6. This week we return to From Software and Hidetaka Miyazaki to cover the beginnings of the Soul series. The 2009 release of Demon's Souls became the sleeper hit of the year, racking up awards for its gameplay innovations and solid, challenging mechanics. Despite a mixed to positive critical reception, Demon's Souls remained mostly overlooked until From Software's spiritual successor, Dark Souls. The popularity of Dark Souls had the effect of more than doubling Demon's Souls' sales. Can Demon's Souls stand on its own as one of the best games period or is it doomed to remain in the shadow of its sequel for all time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! You can also follow the show on Twitter: @BestGamesPeriod Outro music: Demon's Souls 'Abandoned by God' by RoeTaKa (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03238) New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  7. With Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and now Dark Souls II, From Software has made providing gamers with challenging entertainment their overriding game design philosophy. The difficulty of Dark Souls II is both its greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. For the uninitiated, Dark Souls II is an open-world action RPG. Players step into the shoes of some poor man or woman who has become afflicted with “The Curse” and has ended up in the kingdom of Drangleic. This is about as specific as the story seems willing to be, with the rest is a blur about a king, something about fire keepers, and giants. About three-fourths of the way through the game, the storyline inexplicably changes gears from trying to cure your character from The Curse to becoming the new king or queen of Drangleic. I was pretty confused when this happened, but being confused in Dark Souls II is the normal state of affairs. Also, I’d be lying if I said this game was about its story. The vague plot serves as an excuse to insert strange monsters and visuals. To its credit, Dark Souls II looks incredible. It retains the aura of faded glory, despair, and hopelessness of the first Dark Souls, but it isn’t afraid to access a brighter color palate. Sunsets on endless oceans, soaring mountain peaks, misty forest vales, these locations all have distinct color schemes and feel unique. By extension, Dark Souls II stands out visually more than its predecessor, whose graphical styles ranged from dim to dark. I can believe that people, insane though they may be, live in the kingdom of Drangleic, whereas the denizens of Lordran seemed entirely out of place. The creature designs range from traditional fantasy fare like giant spiders and dragons to monsters that would be right at home in a remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing. For example, one of the bosses is literally a giant pile of corpses fused together to form a disgusting mass of grasping arms and legs. It’s gross. The Souls series has constructed its identity around the idea that games should be hard, but fair; a game design concept that many console games in the 8-bit era of gaming strove to embody. Gameplay largely revolves around knowing when to block, dodge, heal, and attack. Most monster encounters consist of learning their timings and weaknesses. In the average Dark Souls II fight or boss battle, if you die, it is largely your own fault for being too slow to block or dodge. Dark Souls II mostly succeeds in walking the knife-thin line that separates a difficult game from a frustrating game, but it does have its fair share of insta-death moments. Random explosions, powerful monsters masquerading as treasure chests, one-hit-kill boss attacks, Dark Souls II has a number of cheap ways to die. At times, this game made me so mad I had to put it down for a couple hours so as not to pull my hair out in rage. What mitigates the feelings of frustration and will keep you coming back for more punishment is the sense of accomplishment after conquering a particularly hard section or boss. It also helps that Dark Souls II is fully aware of how difficult it is and is designed to lessen the impact of its own betrayals. Sure, there will be numerous times when you die unfairly, but the penalty for death is simply dropping your souls, the in-game currency used to level up and buy items. These souls can be reclaimed by going to where you died and recovering them. Once you know something will instantly kill you, it is usually easy to avoid. After killing enemies a certain number of times, they will disappear forever. This is probably to prevent people from farming up souls, which you obtain by slaying enemies, and to help players make it through overly frustrating portions of Drangleic. Another method of alleviating difficult sections of gameplay is by summoning other players to assist in combat. A player having trouble with a boss or a long stretch of enemies can use an item called a human effigy to restore their zombie-like form to its human state, allowing them to summon allies. Offline players are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to summoning, since they may only call upon the various denizens of Drangleic. These stalwart heroes are controlled by the AI and are not very smart. They’ll throw themselves at bosses with as much relish as Kobayashi at a hot dog eating contest and they won’t stop until they are dead. There is another problem with summoning, though, and that is finding the item that allows you to summon and be summoned. You see, the majority of the problems that I had with Dark Souls II stemmed from just how oblique and purposefully confusing the game can be at times. The player is never told that one of the most essential skills in the game is just talking to the NPCs repeatedly until they have nothing new to say. At one point in my playthrough, I had explored all available sections of Drangleic and was stuck. After several hours of aimless backtracking I found that I needed to talk with a specific shop keeper multiple times, a shop keeper I had no reason to talk to and whose merchandise I couldn’t use. Talking with that specific character opened up an entire half of the game. Talking with other seemingly unimportant characters multiple times is also what nets players access to certain items, like the items required to summon help for boss fights. On numerous occasions I picked up an item, read the description, and was still completely in the dark as to its purpose. Perhaps the greatest example of just how frustratingly obtuse Dark Souls II can be is found in the information it conveys to players regarding covenants. Covenants are essentially groups you can join that give you special powers or advantages. One of the earliest covenants players can encounter is The Way of the Blue which summons other players to your aid whenever your world is invaded by enemy players. This is by far the most useful covenant early on in the game. However, there is another covenant called the Company of Champions, which was the first covenant I happened to discover. Not really knowing anything about it, I joined. Dark Souls II game never explains what the Company of Champions does, so I played the game, remarking how incredibly difficult all the starting areas seemed to be. It wasn’t until I reached a boss fight half-way through that I began to suspect the purpose of the Company of Champions. It turns out that joining the Company of Champions amounts to ratcheting up the difficulty to eye-gougingly hard levels. I’m all for allowing players to discover things for themselves; that can be a beautiful and awesome thing if implemented correctly. However, a little more explanation would go a long way toward making Dark Souls II a more accessible and less frustrating experience. Conclusion: On the one hand, I admire Dark Souls II. It is a game that is what it is and doesn’t bother trying to explain itself except in the broadest possible sense. Players must rise to meet its challenge; it doesn’t stoop to accommodate anyone. On the other hand, there are many occasions when Dark Souls II intentionally obscures itself in order to give the illusion that it is more meaningful and complex that it is. Difficulty should stem from gameplay, not from intentionally confusing the player. I enjoyed Dark Souls II very much at first, but it eventually wore out its welcome. If you enjoyed the first game or if you love difficult games, you’ll probably also enjoy Dark Souls II. If you don’t have a lot of patience or persistence, you should probably steer clear, or at least until the price drops significantly during a Steam sale or something. Reviewed on Xbox 360 View full article
  8. With Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and now Dark Souls II, From Software has made providing gamers with challenging entertainment their overriding game design philosophy. The difficulty of Dark Souls II is both its greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. For the uninitiated, Dark Souls II is an open-world action RPG. Players step into the shoes of some poor man or woman who has become afflicted with “The Curse” and has ended up in the kingdom of Drangleic. This is about as specific as the story seems willing to be, with the rest is a blur about a king, something about fire keepers, and giants. About three-fourths of the way through the game, the storyline inexplicably changes gears from trying to cure your character from The Curse to becoming the new king or queen of Drangleic. I was pretty confused when this happened, but being confused in Dark Souls II is the normal state of affairs. Also, I’d be lying if I said this game was about its story. The vague plot serves as an excuse to insert strange monsters and visuals. To its credit, Dark Souls II looks incredible. It retains the aura of faded glory, despair, and hopelessness of the first Dark Souls, but it isn’t afraid to access a brighter color palate. Sunsets on endless oceans, soaring mountain peaks, misty forest vales, these locations all have distinct color schemes and feel unique. By extension, Dark Souls II stands out visually more than its predecessor, whose graphical styles ranged from dim to dark. I can believe that people, insane though they may be, live in the kingdom of Drangleic, whereas the denizens of Lordran seemed entirely out of place. The creature designs range from traditional fantasy fare like giant spiders and dragons to monsters that would be right at home in a remake of John Carpenter’s The Thing. For example, one of the bosses is literally a giant pile of corpses fused together to form a disgusting mass of grasping arms and legs. It’s gross. The Souls series has constructed its identity around the idea that games should be hard, but fair; a game design concept that many console games in the 8-bit era of gaming strove to embody. Gameplay largely revolves around knowing when to block, dodge, heal, and attack. Most monster encounters consist of learning their timings and weaknesses. In the average Dark Souls II fight or boss battle, if you die, it is largely your own fault for being too slow to block or dodge. Dark Souls II mostly succeeds in walking the knife-thin line that separates a difficult game from a frustrating game, but it does have its fair share of insta-death moments. Random explosions, powerful monsters masquerading as treasure chests, one-hit-kill boss attacks, Dark Souls II has a number of cheap ways to die. At times, this game made me so mad I had to put it down for a couple hours so as not to pull my hair out in rage. What mitigates the feelings of frustration and will keep you coming back for more punishment is the sense of accomplishment after conquering a particularly hard section or boss. It also helps that Dark Souls II is fully aware of how difficult it is and is designed to lessen the impact of its own betrayals. Sure, there will be numerous times when you die unfairly, but the penalty for death is simply dropping your souls, the in-game currency used to level up and buy items. These souls can be reclaimed by going to where you died and recovering them. Once you know something will instantly kill you, it is usually easy to avoid. After killing enemies a certain number of times, they will disappear forever. This is probably to prevent people from farming up souls, which you obtain by slaying enemies, and to help players make it through overly frustrating portions of Drangleic. Another method of alleviating difficult sections of gameplay is by summoning other players to assist in combat. A player having trouble with a boss or a long stretch of enemies can use an item called a human effigy to restore their zombie-like form to its human state, allowing them to summon allies. Offline players are at a significant disadvantage when it comes to summoning, since they may only call upon the various denizens of Drangleic. These stalwart heroes are controlled by the AI and are not very smart. They’ll throw themselves at bosses with as much relish as Kobayashi at a hot dog eating contest and they won’t stop until they are dead. There is another problem with summoning, though, and that is finding the item that allows you to summon and be summoned. You see, the majority of the problems that I had with Dark Souls II stemmed from just how oblique and purposefully confusing the game can be at times. The player is never told that one of the most essential skills in the game is just talking to the NPCs repeatedly until they have nothing new to say. At one point in my playthrough, I had explored all available sections of Drangleic and was stuck. After several hours of aimless backtracking I found that I needed to talk with a specific shop keeper multiple times, a shop keeper I had no reason to talk to and whose merchandise I couldn’t use. Talking with that specific character opened up an entire half of the game. Talking with other seemingly unimportant characters multiple times is also what nets players access to certain items, like the items required to summon help for boss fights. On numerous occasions I picked up an item, read the description, and was still completely in the dark as to its purpose. Perhaps the greatest example of just how frustratingly obtuse Dark Souls II can be is found in the information it conveys to players regarding covenants. Covenants are essentially groups you can join that give you special powers or advantages. One of the earliest covenants players can encounter is The Way of the Blue which summons other players to your aid whenever your world is invaded by enemy players. This is by far the most useful covenant early on in the game. However, there is another covenant called the Company of Champions, which was the first covenant I happened to discover. Not really knowing anything about it, I joined. Dark Souls II game never explains what the Company of Champions does, so I played the game, remarking how incredibly difficult all the starting areas seemed to be. It wasn’t until I reached a boss fight half-way through that I began to suspect the purpose of the Company of Champions. It turns out that joining the Company of Champions amounts to ratcheting up the difficulty to eye-gougingly hard levels. I’m all for allowing players to discover things for themselves; that can be a beautiful and awesome thing if implemented correctly. However, a little more explanation would go a long way toward making Dark Souls II a more accessible and less frustrating experience. Conclusion: On the one hand, I admire Dark Souls II. It is a game that is what it is and doesn’t bother trying to explain itself except in the broadest possible sense. Players must rise to meet its challenge; it doesn’t stoop to accommodate anyone. On the other hand, there are many occasions when Dark Souls II intentionally obscures itself in order to give the illusion that it is more meaningful and complex that it is. Difficulty should stem from gameplay, not from intentionally confusing the player. I enjoyed Dark Souls II very much at first, but it eventually wore out its welcome. If you enjoyed the first game or if you love difficult games, you’ll probably also enjoy Dark Souls II. If you don’t have a lot of patience or persistence, you should probably steer clear, or at least until the price drops significantly during a Steam sale or something. Reviewed on Xbox 360
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