Dark Souls II - First review

F0rneus

Tears in the rain
It always happen when you get sequels of cult games - people know they're cool, and so they don't want to appear *not* to be cool by saying they don't like the follow-up game. Happens all the time, think back about how many sequels you've played that got massively over-scored.
Your videos on DSII are pretty much the reason why I fear for the game. So I can't wait to read your final review of it. I don't want to read reviews that just endlessly praise the game, when they are actually just afraid to call FROM Software out for bad design decisions. From respeccing, to bonfire teleportation, to non-respawning enemies...I just want reviews to not gloss over all of this, just because Dark Souls is "in". So you are 100% right. You have my attention, and I agree with you on everything you say, so yeah your review is the one I'll be keeping an eye out for... I have an awfully bad feeling about this game.
 
Haven't been watching trailers to save the game for myself, but I am LOVING the lighting in what little I have seen. Makes such a huge difference than if it wasn't there.

Now just to wait long enough for the PC version. :(
 

Vazra

irresponsible vagina leak
Your videos on DSII are pretty much the reason why I fear for the game. So I can't wait to read your final review of it. I don't want to read reviews that just endlessly praise the game, when they are actually just afraid to call FROM Software out for bad design decisions. From respeccing, to bonfire teleportation, to non-respawning enemies...I just want reviews to not gloss over all of this, just because Dark Souls is "in". So you are 100% right. You have my attention, and I agree with you on everything you say, so yeah your review is the one I'll be keeping an eye out for... I have an awfully bad feeling about this game.
How do you know they are bad design decisions when you haven't played the game. You are forming opinions without trying it and setting yourself to dislike those things in the game without even trying it. Chill and wait a bit more.
 

F0rneus

Tears in the rain
How do you know they are bad design decisions when you haven't played the game. You are forming opinions without trying it and setting yourself to dislike those things in the game without even trying it. Chill and wait a bit more.
I've already tried to articulate a lot of my fears about the game in other threads. I think that Dark Souls's design was so pitch-perfect and in harmony with itself that the slightest of changes threathen to tear the whole thing apart. And by the very nature of this design, I feel we can judge these changes from previews. A lot of what's I've read is either A) It's Dark Souls! So awesome or B) They changed a lot of it, and might have lost the flavor by doing so (like Eurogamer's recent preview).

Keep it mind that Dark Souls is one of my top 3 favorite games of all time. The game is insanely close to my heart. Being logical towards a sequel of a game that means that much to you, is impossible IMO.
 
Not hyped. Remain reserved.

Dark's Bonfire system just look a lot of the thrill out of the PvE side, and pure invading sort of died out too with the map layouts and expanded online bits. Always a chance the new game will remedy that, but most people seem to dig the changes.

What I really want is a better looking Demon's Souls, with a few quality of life improvements and more players. But it would be unfair to judge the new game off that.
 
I've already tried to articulate a lot of my fears about the game in other threads. I think that Dark Souls's design was so pitch-perfect and in harmony with itself that the slightest of changes threathen to tear the whole thing apart. And by the very nature of this design, I feel we can judge these changes from previews. A lot of what's I've read is either A) It's Dark Souls! So awesome or B) They changed a lot of it, and might have lost the flavor by doing so (like Eurogamer's recent preview).

Keep it mind that Dark Souls is one of my top 3 favorite games of all time. The game is insanely close to my heart. Being logical towards a sequel of a game that means that much to you, is impossible IMO.
Your fears may or may not be vindicated by the final product, but it is simply not the case that we can judge the introduction of respec (as you do in your comments) based on the previews when the previews don't reveal how respec works. We don't know that "[n]ow every character can be anything at anytime." Maybe respec will be unlimited, and maybe it won't.

The Eurogamer previewer's comments suggest he is, like you, a pessimist. That doesn't mean he's wrong about the game, but I think we should consider that the first few hours are hardly going to demonstrate whether unlimited fast travel has affected area design or if the game lacks "a mournful sense of foreboding." The author was expressing concern about these things, but that is all he could do at this stage.

EDIT: I should add that I understand where you're coming from. When you like how a mechanic works, any change is likely to be concerning. I think Estus was a perfect healing mechanic in Dark Souls. A low-charge Estus flask combined with slow-healing gems sounds like an obvious downgrade to me. But I can't know for sure until I've played the game, and there's no sense stressing about it now.
 
So how can I be sure this isn't a bullshit review by bullshit people?
You can't since the review isn't out there yet, but M!Games is made by good people. I'm sure we'll get some quotes tomorrow.

The mag exists since 1993.
I don't know about that man, GameStar has been around since 1997 and that's a complete train wreck on life support by now. CBS is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year as well and that's always been a despicable mag.
 
This is my translation of the review by the German magazine Mgames (something like a less industry focused Edge). I spoiler-tagged the big spoilers, but there is a lot in the review that many will consider a spoiler, so please know this going in.

The review is written by another reviewer than DS1, not sure about DeS. All screenshots are in German and from the (near?)final build, a lot of new screenshots which I can’t post, but I can tell you that
the Gargoyles on the Rooftop are back as a boss, but according to the reviewer, something unexpected will happen during the fight.


INTRODUCTION:

He summarizes the Souls series as “if your hero dies, try sucking less”

he’s happy to say that this mantra applies to DS2, even tough From made it easier to get into/less obtuse.


STORY:

Fan’s of long cut-scenes or a easy to follow story won’t be happy, other than the impressive intro that has become a staple of the series.

The Story is told by the NPCs, in most cases as a monologue

(surprisingly) not much has changed in the storytelling department

You play someone cursed by the “Curse of the Undead” who thirsts for souls

The central hub (think Firelink, Nexus) is called Majula, the land is called 
“Drangleic”

In Majula, several shop-keeps sell you weapons, armor, items and you can learn magic and pyromancy from teachers

The female character called “Emerald Herald” let’s you level up your character

=> the reviewer states that all the vendors/teachers are located near Majula or at least another bonfire; this is one of those points where the word “convenient” applies, it won’t make any difference other than your own time



LEVEL-DESIGN:

similar structure to DS1, Majula acts as the central hub. You can visit different areas. The reviewer praises the diversity of the areas:

gloomy ruins of a castle, foggy woods,
underground tombs, a gloomy dockyard, a quarry that is filled with poisonous air*

*[there’s a picture where this area is shown, the view distance is very short, you can see huge enemies towering in the not-so-far distance. You can see the poison-level-indicator and the blurb beneath the pictures warns “to watch out for the poisonous wafts of mist”
=> this seems to be the new “Vally of Defilement, Blight Town” :)

Since a lot of the areas are very dark, the torch becomes your best friend. With the torch in hand, the immediate surrounding area get’s lit (think Tomb of Giants)

you can kindle stationary fireplaces that stay lit (Zelda-style).

Fast-travel is available from the beginning of the game.

Like the areas themselves, the enemies that inhibit them are diverse, interesting to fight and as deadly as ever:

Zombie-knights, wild bloodhounds, poisonous giant spiders, jungle-warriors with a lion-mane!?, axe-wielding dwarfs, fire-demons that fill the whole screen,...


COMBAT-DESIGN:

the reviewer describes it in detail, but it’s par-for-the-course.

It’s precise and let’s the player build his/her own combat-style, parrying or blocking is as important as ever

Magic and Archery use up stamina

You can assign up to 3 weapons/shield to each arm and you can use the D-Pad to change them at any time



LEVELING-UP:

Souls still act as the universal currency [items, weapons, leveling up,...] and you lose them all when you die, with one change to get them back.

The choice of character type you make at the beginning doesn’t really matter, you can build your own character like in DS1/DeS.

The only way to level up is at the “Emerald Herald”, but don’t forget, there’s fast-travel

Each new level gives you 1 skill point. You invest those skill points in the stats that you need.

you can re-spec your character via an item called “soul vessel”. It’s a rare item, but it will let you re-spec all your skill points

You can make your 60+ hour warrior into a full-fledged sorcerer if that’s what you want.

This will makes things more interesting in NG+(+++++...)


Bonfires can be leveled up from the beginning to give you more Estus flasks or you can throw in items that make the enemies in the area tougher. Great for grinding, bad for farming items because the enemies only re-spawn a certain number of times.


Upgrading Weapons, Shields and Armor is more user-friendly.


You have to find “attribute stones”, e.g. “fire, poison, magic”. You visit the blacksmith and than you use this ONE STONE to enchant as many weapons, shields and armor as you like (probably for a lot of souls). After that, you can level if up further with ONE KIND OF TITANITE.

nice tidbit: You can use all the souls you find as times (e.g. in DS1 “soul of a Nameless Soldier”) at once



MAGIC:

the three types of magic return from DS1 and there’s a new, 4th type called “witchery”. You can use each spell/miracle a certain number of times before having to get back to a bonfire,
but in DS2 there are herbs that let you refill your spell/miracle (probably like the Grasses from Des)



REPAIRING:

Everything gets repaired for free at the bonfire. If you want to repair something will away from the bonfire, you’ll need repair powder. Once an item breaks, you’ll have to visit the blacksmith.



ONLINE: [the the review code didn’t allow them to play online, all based on info from FROM]

it’s a game that even die-hard-single-player-only players like to play while online.

You can leave and read messages, offer and get help, and invade or be invades.

You can summon up to two other players when you see a summoning sign. The stay until they die or you defeat the area-boss.

There is optional voice-chat,
but you’ll each need to have a certain item in your possession for it to work

If you play off-line, yellow phantoms can be summoned near certain bosses. The AI is serviceable, but you will most likely use them to divert the boss’s attention away from yourself.

Online is server based, you can select a region

There’s a “Server AI” that determines your likelihood of being invaded:

people who often invade other players > people being in a co-op session > players in human form > players in hollow form

The are supposed to be dedicated PVP areas like in the DS1 DLC, but the reviewer didn’t find them

You use a certain ring to play with your buddies.
You engrave the name of 1 of 10 gods onto the ring. If your buddy has the same name engraved, it’s more likely that he will see your summoning sign.

Frequent Invaders are automatically place in the book of sinners, the invaded player no longer needs to make the decision



COVENANTS: [pretty much what is already know]


Some covenants want you to kill other players, some want you to help protect other players, some want you to protect a specific area.

You can change your covenant, but like in DS1, sticking with one covenant will give you access to exclusive items etc.



HOLLOW VS. HUMAN: [ pretty much what is already know]

You can only summon in human form, but you can be invaded in both forms.
Every time you die in hollow form, you lose some of your HP (up to 50%)

You can restore humanity with items called “human effigy” at any time, not just at a bonfire


GRAPHICS:

Overall, it looks better than DS1, but there's a stark difference between beautiful, detailed areas and areas which muddy textures and a uninteresting design.*

He didn’t come a cross any area where the frame-rate get’s as bad as Blight Town.

*[he specifically called out an area called “light-stone-bay” and the picture in the magazine looks like the area is muddy, has a low poly-count and could use another texture pass. ]



SOUND:

I don’t think he mentioned a word about it, so it’s probably very similar to DS1





overall: 90%

breakdown:

Graphics:7/10
Sound 7/10
Singleplayer:10/10
Multiplayer: was not available for the review


Summary: “Congrats From, you made the game more user-friendly WITHOUT MAKING IT EASIER”: The weapon upgrading is less obtuse but still offers the same variety, fast-travel between bonfires is availabe from the beginning of the game,... Not much has changed when it comes to the battle-system and leveling up. It's a shame that some areas look worse than other, but DS2 will offer the player an incredibly motivating, addictive experience none the less


my two cents:

Have fun with the review, but Dark Souls fans: PLEASE DON’T FREAK OUT OVER ONE WORD THAT YOU MAY NOT LIKE (“convenient, less obtuse,...”) It’s just my translation of a review by one German mag, there will be many more reviews which almost certainly will contain stuff you don’t like, please save some of that rage for the reviews yet to come ;-)
 
Thanks for the translation. I didn't find a whole lot in there that I didn't already know, but I'm not sure I like the change to upgrade materials.
On the one hand, it'll be more convenient to upgrade whatever you have on hand and (assuming they follow the same rules) unique items will be a hell of a lot less annoying. On the other, you won't be able to easily make a variety of weapons...for example if you don't use Divine weapons as your primary it didn't mean anything to just craft up a divine weapon for the catacombs. But now you'd need to use actual resources to do so since it's all the same kind of titanite. Anything beats Pure Bladestone though I guess.

I like the idea of having all vendors and blacksmiths back in town. Always bugged me that I had to run through Anor Londo just to talk to the giant blacksmith, at least Demon's Souls everybody important was either in the Nexus or right at the start of a level. Also makes it less likely that they'll die by accident or collateral damage in an invasion - I know there's a lot of edgy griefers out there but as an invader I would hate accidentally screwing over a host permanently.

edit: Really really wish he'd gone into more detail on the Soul Vessel.
 
I'm a little disappointed that the Soul Vessel grants a full respec with no penalty. Oh well, as long as they're something you find a limited number of - hopefully only once - per playthrough, I'm not too bothered by it.
 
Frequent Invaders are automatically place in the book of sinners, the invaded player no longer needs to make the decision
Good change. No one in DS ever used indictments because they were afraid of being seen as poor losers - that made no sense. Indicting gives the invaders and Dark Moons more opportunities for PVP. It was a reward more than anything else. Now that invaders end up in the book of sinners automatically it's no longer a question of "deserving" an indictment, it just happens.

I'm a little disappointed that the Soul Vessel grants a full respec with no penalty. Oh well, as long as they're something you find a limited number - Hopefully only once - per playthrough, I'm not too bothered by it.
This. I don't care so long as it can only be used once.
 
I'm a little disappointed that the Soul Vessel grants a full respec with no penalty. Oh well, as long as they're something you find a limited number of - hopefully only once - per playthrough, I'm not too bothered by it.
That's the only questionable design decision I got from this review and as you said I'm surprised that there is no penalty for such a thing. Also it's weird that the reviewer didn't mentioned at all the life gems.

A big thanks for the summary to takoyaki! :)
 
Edit: Thanks for the translation takoyaki.

From made it easier to get into/less obtuse.]
Amazing. Well done there.

The Story is told by the NPCs, in most cases as a monologue
Same as the first one: If it works, don't fix it. Good.

the reviewer states that all the vendors/teachers are located near Majula or at least another bonfire; this is one of those points where the word “convenient” applies, it won’t make any difference other than your own time
That is huge for me. It is not just convenient but will exponentially make it a much better game. Remember running out of homeward bones then having to warp and backtrack for 5 minutes? Fuck that shit, I want that out of this game. Glad that they fixed that issue.

Since a lot of the areas are very dark, the torch becomes your best friend. With the torch in hand, the immediate surrounding area get’s lit (think Tomb of Giants) . You can kindle stationary fireplaces that stay lit (Zelda-style).
That's cool. It adds a new layer of strategy and planning to the game.

Fast-travel is available from the beginning of the game.
My favorite thing about Dark Souls II so far. Good job From.

Magic and Archery use up stamina
Which balances out the gameplay. Nice.

you can re-spec your character via an item called “soul vessel”. It’s a rare item, but it will let you re-spec all your skill points
. You can make your 60+ hour warrior into a full-fledged sorcerer if that’s what you want.
This will makes things more interesting in NG+(+++++...)
Absolutely! One of the main reasons I got burned out upon reaching NG+ was that leveling up took exponentially longer than on NG and trying to raise all the stats that you neglected on your first run would hardly be significant at all. By respeccing you're basically able to re-run the game by conveniently switching your build from the get go withoout loosing any of your previous progress. I also am glad they decided to make this accessible only through a rare item. Yet another good reason to explore every corner in the game. Perfect.

Upgrading Weapons, Shields and Armor is more user-friendly.
A much needed change. Very nice.

Everything gets repaired for free at the bonfire.If you want to repair something will away from the bonfire, you’ll need repair powder. Once an item breaks, you’ll have to visit the blacksmith.
I really like how that sounds.

I'm honestly shocked at how they basically read my mind and changed some of the worst things that the original had. I had a gut feeling that they knew they fucked up in many ways and wanted to polish the experience as much as possible and that's exactly why I pre-ordered. There's a lot of wasted potential in Dark Souls 1, yet with all these new changes I can truly say I can't wait to play it.
 
Thanks for the translation. Didn't read spoilers, well maybe a peek!


REPAIRING:

Everything gets repaired for free at the bonfire. If you want to repair something will away from the bonfire, you’ll need repair powder. Once an item breaks, you’ll have to visit the blacksmith.
I guess it doesn't matter really, but I can't think why they changed this other than if you were unable to repair because of the limited respawns of enemies and had no souls, if that's all enemies not respawning (haven't kept up on info on that).


I really like how that sounds.
? - Repair powder was in DS1.
 

Soriku

Junior Member
I guess it doesn't matter really, but I can't think why they changed this other than if you were unable to repair because of the limited respawns of enemies and had no souls, if that's all enemies not respawning (haven't kept up on info on that).
Repairing in Dark Souls 1 costed almost nothing. They just cut down the extra step needed to get your stuff repaired (going into your inventory through the bonfire). Good change.
 
? - Repair powder was in DS1.
I bolded the incorrect part of the quote. I meant I liked the idea of free repairs upon reaching bonfires. I never found the low repairing fees significant at all so it's only logical they rendered them obsolete.

Repairing in Dark Souls 1 costed almost nothing. They just cut down the extra step needed to get your stuff repaired (going into your inventory through the bonfire). Good change.
Precisely.
 
Good change. No one in DS ever used indictments because they were afraid of being seen as poor losers - that made no sense. Indicting gives the invaders and Dark Moons more opportunities for PVP. It was a reward more than anything else. Now that invaders end up in the book of sinners automatically it's no longer a question of "deserving" an indictment, it just happens.
Oh, I indicted any invader who attacked me while I was bowing. But this will probably be a better system.
 
Free repairs at bonfires and visible equipment durability suggests that they'll play around with equipment damage a lot more this time around. Scraping Spear 2.0 incoming?
 
Free repairs at bonfires and visible equipment durability suggests that they'll play around with equipment damage a lot more this time around. Scraping Spear 2.0 incoming?
Heavy strength weapons do extra durability damage. Unknown how much and I doubt it'll be as stupid as the scraping spear, but at least if all your gear gets broke then you're not screwed.
 
I don't know what there is to be disappointed in a respec potion really. Stat allocation is about the least interesting thing in the games, and being able to go in without having to tell yourself that the character you start off with is going to be screwed lest you decide to min-max from the start is a relief. RPGs with competitive elements like this just make the act of actually testing out character builds a monotonous endeavour, so I welcome the ability to allow for more casual experimentation and rapid results.
 

Creamium

shut uuuuuuuuuuuuuuup
Upgrading Weapons, Shields and Armor is more user-friendly.


You have to find “attribute stones”, e.g. “fire, poison, magic”. You visit the blacksmith and than you use this ONE STONE to enchant as many weapons, shields and armor as you like (probably for a lot of souls). After that, you can level if up further with ONE KIND OF TITANITE.
This is something others might complain about, but I love that they handled it this way. Pleasantly surprised to read that. Same for all the vendors gathering in Majula. It'll truly be a safe haven where you do every bit of upgrading.

Thanks for the big write-up takoyaki
 
This is something others might complain about, but I love that they handled it this way. Pleasantly surprised to read that.

Thanks for the big write-up takoyaki
Kinda reminds me of Guild Wars series' approach to equipment. If it increases experimentation and decreases farming, I'm all for it.
 
Free repairs at bonfires and visible equipment durability suggests that they'll play around with equipment damage a lot more this time around. Scraping Spear 2.0 incoming?
Yea, but they did say that you have to go visit a blacksmith if your equipment is broken though. That could carry a hefty price if you let your equipment get to that point or if there is an equivalent of the Scraping Spear out there.
 

Lost Fragment

Obsessed with 4chan
I don't know what there is to be disappointed in a respec potion really. Stat allocation is about the least interesting thing in the games, and being able to go in without having to tell yourself that the character you start off with is going to be screwed lest you decide to min-max from the start is a relief. RPGs with competitive elements like this just make the act of actually testing out character builds a monotonous endeavour, so I welcome the ability to allow for more casual experimentation and rapid results.
You're not gonna get much more casual experimentation or rapid results since the respec item is supposed to be very rare. A once-per-playthrough thing I reckon, and you'll need to go to ng+ and beyond to get more, if that.
 
Demon's Souls confirmed for bad game, it's all over.
Except Demons Souls never had an inter connected world and lol at repseccing. You would have to die at the FINAL boss like 80 times to that one move or had a friend who had the patience. In Demons that was handy to respec a few levels. DS2 on the other hand seemingly allows for full character respec and quite easily it seems.
 
You're not gonna get much more casual experimentation or rapid results since the respec item is supposed to be very rare. A once-per-playthrough thing I reckon, and you'll need to go to ng+ and beyond to get more, if that.
Casual probably wasn't the right word, but even if it was a once per playthrough find it does open up the ability to just try out whatever without feeling like you need to invest 30+ hours to try something else, or that you've ruined your character. Get to SL120 with a build that you just made on a whim, stockpile 3 or 4 respecs from the NG+ playthroughs then try mixing it up from there and solidifying what you want the character to be. Far more expedient than needing to get to 120 manually for each attempt.
 
Except Demons Souls never had an inter connected world and lol at repseccing. You would have to die at the FINAL boss like 80 times to that one move or had a friend who had the patience. In Demons that was handy to respec a few levels. DS2 on the other hand seemingly allows for full character respec and quite easily it seems.
Why assume it's easy? He says it requires a rare item, but given the general anti-farming attitude that Dark Souls II seems to have adopted, I doubt it's something you can easily stock up on like humanity in the first game.
 
Repairing in Dark Souls 1 costed almost nothing. They just cut down the extra step needed to get your stuff repaired (going into your inventory through the bonfire). Good change.
I suppose, like I said it doesn't really matter - I guess it's just a part of the overall streamlining. It's all good.
 

Evolved1

make sure the pudding isn't too soggy but that just ruins everything
If respec is limited to a one-time use it isn't. If it lets mayflies run around with whatever build they want for 5 minutes at a time before changing again it becomes an issue of balance.
Idk... I think it just saves possibly hundreds of hours of my freetime not having to re-roll new characters and play the beginning of the game over and over just to try new things.

I honestly don't care either way... I'm just saying, I don't get what the big fuss is about.
 
I still don't see why respec is a big deal...
If it's very limited or very expensive, it's not a big deal. But if you can do it a bunch whenever, wherever it really cheapens the game for me. I hated that free infinite respect stuff in Diablo 3. Just made me feel no real connection to my character. So cookie cutter and boring. Coming up with builds and committing to them for better or worse should be a part of these games. I want to be able to fuck up.
 
Warping being available from the beginning and all vendors being in the same spot will mean the game can never reach the heights of Dark Souls for me. Multidimensional level design is my favorite thing in videogames, and every element that you remove from having to consider with the level design so as to make the design of the game more compartmentalized and convenient, the less potential it has to be an integrated artful whole.

As far as respec, I would be happiest if it was limited to a PvP covenant, or at least held back until near the end of the game.