Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin: B team flame
The Soulsborne series was (and still is) a revolutionary series. It has spawned countless interpretations, discussions and has a profound effect on culture as a whole. I am of course talking about Dark Souls 1, 3 and Bloodborne. What about the second entry into the series? Most of you properly have forgotten about Dark Souls 2. Because it is pretty much what one would expect from a title like that. A by the number sequel that is perfectly fine. But also very forgettable and mediocre in comparison to the other entries in the series.
You are the Barer of the Curse. A being cursed with undeath, you are seeking for the cure to the affliction. Because that’s what you do if you are an immortal being. But in all honesty, it is kind of a bad sort of immortality, the sort that causes you to slowly lose your humanity every time you die (death is temporary see). As a result you have come to the strange kingdom of Drangleic (also known as not Lordarn) in seeking the cure. Pain and screaming become an common occurrence. Out of all the Soulsborne games I have played thus far. DS2’s story is not good, often times mediocre and boring.
I would like to talk about positives first before I get into the things I dislike, chiefly that there are some good From-equse moments. Like the time when you finally meet the King (who gets hyped up for the a majority of the game). Instead of a grand, mighty royal warrior, we get a shambling undead. So pathetic that Vendrick isn’t even referred to as “King” in the boss fight. Just Vendrick. The player is allowed to link the two together through context. The reveal of King Vendrick’s fall is quiet and understated, showing the tragedy of his reign and his own collapse. The atmosphere for the Lost Sinner boss fight is awesome, suggesting a dozen possible reasons for her imprisonment. What the insect was or who she was before getting locked up. DS2 does succeed sometimes at delivering the compelling Fromsoftware narratives that made Bloodborne and DS3 special.
There are two characters that I would like to look at, namely the Baneful Queen and the (infamous) Covetous Demon. Links to the sources are included in the names. “Eating is an expression of desire. There once was a man whose deep affections were unrequited. He transformed into the Covetous Demon, which only made him lonelier than before.” Covetous Demon. “ Mytha was the fairest queen in the land, until something unhinged her. Was it the poison found deep within the earth, or the passion that consumed her heart? The Queen sought the King’s affection, even poisoning herself to attain beauty, despite the monstrous consequences.”
Both of these characters are outdone by their love for person A or B. Both lead to destruction, but both do very nonsensical things in order to achieve this destruction. I mean, who on earth eats and gets to fat in order to attract a mate? Not most guys I tell, gluttony as an expression of love is very stupid and doesn’t any more sense then knowingly and repeatedly drinking poison. We never see through context that the poison rejuvenates or much reason for her delusion (think Aerion Targaryen from A Song and Ice and Fire for example). All we have for context is that she decided to poison herself for the small chance of gaining attention.
But more often than not, any sort of context is absent. We never know why the Prowling Magus is a thing or why such an easy non boss is in the game. Why are there two different types of Smelter Demon? Don’t know and the game doesn’t care either. Why is there a Rat society in a Souls game? Don’t know and the game doesn’t care as well. Instead of giving context behind many of the bosses or environments. DS2 simply throws bosses at you which are not explored within the themes or story. Would have Ludwig the Accursed have been such a memorable boss if he was just dumped randomly without any of the context or story behind him? I doubt that very much. But, in DS2 all too often, bosses appear with the all the context of a Monty Python sketch.
DS2 is pretty identical in terms of gameplay to the rest of the Dark Souls series. Hard as nails combat, exploring vast levels featuring a world in various states in decrepitude and most importantly, the strange and awe inspiring boss fights. There are some changes, changes which I think have caused a fall in the game’s quality. I hope I will explain these points well.
They track your movements
BB was primarily focused on dodging. DS3 was concerned with a mixture of blocking and dodging (depending on your build naturally). DS2 appears to reward those who block the most. I have heard that DS2 also rewards mages as well (considering the sheer amount of spells and staffs you pick up that might be true). I was a two handed Bandit, a build that I personally think was a mistake, as I couldn’t use shields. You start to notice that if you dodge the thing hitting you will properly hit you regardless. The invincibility frame in dodge rolling is so small and impossible to gage. This was a major source of frustrating and one of the many insistences of cheap difficult that infects DS2 like a cancer.
Ranged attacks are even worse in this regard. Because enemies are often placed in such a way (narrow pathways). There doesn’t appear to be any way one can dodge the arrows effectively. In DS3 or BB one could dodge to the side or through the projectile. There doesn’t appear to be any such solution to DS2’s projectile problem, whether or not they hit you is in the hands of the little baby Jesus, and much like the baby-dodging doesn’t seem to do shit. The problem is made all the worse by a certain location, Shrine of Amana. Simply that I cannot get close enough with my bow without multiple spell casters locking onto me. They spam their heat seeking magic missiles at me relentlessly from multiple different angels, and you can’t seem to dodge anything. Again, it is cheap difficulty.
Spawning more of the buggers
Dark Souls combat system greatly favours one on one encounter. I suspect the devs knew this and to make the game quote an quote difficult. They decided to have ever enemy encounter be a group of at least three. Once aggroed, they will chase you to the end of the bloody earth, as a result the game forces you to waste time and resources fighting the same fools over and over again in order to get anywhere. This is even more annoying when you have get to the same boss room over and over again. That is to say nothing of the boss fights that are just collections of random minions or spawn minions to cover up how disappointingly basic the actual boss fights are. This is another example of cheap difficulty, you just overwhelm the player with foes that stun lock and kill yo ass.
The boss fights
A majority of the boss fights are gank bosses. Meaning the boss is either made up of multiple different units or the boss is surrounded by lesser minions. This is not a bad thing on its own, Shadows of Yharnam and Deacons of the Deep all offer great thematic and mechanical challenges for the player to enjoy. However they tend to be the exception rather than the rule, not so much for DS2, who populates the world with 1: too many bosses and 2: too many gank bosses. At worst these bosses are a cheap means of creating difficulty. The Executioner’s Chariot for example sends hordes of skeletons after you until you kill certain units. More often than not you will find yourself dying to the minions (who overwhelm you) as opposed to the boss itself, which turns out to be rather easy.
In fact, from a purely gameplay perspective most of the bosses are very simple. Unlike the complex changes in patterns and styles found in DS3 and BB. The bosses are rather static in terms of attack patterns, a swipe or two, a heavy slam there, a special ranged attack. They rarely change their attack patterns, and if they do it is hardly by much. The Royal Rat Vanguard will vomit poison but that is it. The Looking Glass Knight will summon an AI or real player but that is it. Personally, about half the bosses could have been cut and the experience would have improved immensely. No one would have missed the Covetous Demon or the Royal Rat Authority.
The difficulty curves
The difficulty curve is all over the place. Some bosses like the Covetous Demon, Prowling Magus and Royal Rat Authority are childishly easy, to the point where the common enemies leading up to the boss fight are harder and require more skill. Others have (the Black Gulch for example) have an easy level traversal but have extremely hard boss fights. There is no consistent escalation one finds in BB.
Granted, there is some inconsistency in DS3. Where the Deacons of the Deep and Ancient Wyvern are seated right to the Nameless King and Pontiff Sulyvahn. But they were the exception, and still were relatively challenging in their own right. The Prowling Magus is one of the pitiful boss fights I have seen as of yet, an embarrassment towards Dark Souls and those who follow in its footsteps. Coupled with the lack of invincible frames and attacks locking onto the player, you end up with a game that is not only inconsistent, but also one that is frustrating.
Differences in levels
DS2’s level design is more of a linier affair in comparison to its predecessor and or it’s sequels. Linearity is not a bad thing per say, but in the case of Soulsborne games, making the level design more linier is missing one of the biggest draws to the series. That being a thrill to exploring the environment, getting lost and discovering the secrets of a dying civilisation. Sometimes there is some exploration and other times (like Shrine of Amana) where the level is a vast empty map with a single line to the boss fight, broken up by a couple of islands with chests. DS2 doesn’t have the sense of adventure that other entries into the series have. Instead, there is very little reason to go back once you have cleared the bosses. As a majority of secrets and items are picked up along the way.
Art style and graphics:
The landscapes are very unique and rather pretty in a way befitting the grim beauty of Soulsborne games. They varied (not over reliant on gothic cathedrals) and offer an air of majesty that is once again befitting Dark Souls. I do have a problem in that the game relies too much on armoured humanoids. It becomes rather repetitive and dull to fight the same kind of dudes in amour, with the same move sets and animations. It is rather boring and uninspired in a game that might have some interesting vistas.
There are worse distractions to the grave. But there is no reason to really play this game either when there are so many better Soulsborne games. It isn’t even required when understanding the Soulsborne story line. It is a completely separate game in world that doesn’t affect Dark Souls 1 and 3. A curiosity but not much else.
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