After I completed Dark Souls' Artorias of The Abyss DLC last year, my total play time for the whole game adds up to around 200 hours. I decided it's time to put it away for a while...
But that doesn't mean I've had enough, oh no.
The "Souls" series is one of my favourite new IPs to emerge this generation. I've been thoroughly engrossed by its horrific-yet-alluring, repressing-yet-beautiful world and its enigmatic denizens...not to mention all the grotesque evil things you can stab and set fire to!
Now, obviously a sequel to Dark Souls fills me with a childlike excitement and glee, but also some trepidation. Things are being shuffled about and tweaked in Dark Souls Ⅱ, as is natural for any sequel, though I'm paying particular attention to the shuffles and tweaks to the formula for the next game.
And so, like any good obsessive, possessive fanboy would, I have been scouring previews, interviews, videos and collating everything we know so far about Dark Souls Ⅱ to try and build myself a picture of how the game is turning out so far.
Probably the most significant change took place behind-the-scenes; new directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura, are taking over the responsibilities of Hidetaka Miyazaki, (mastermind/overlord of the first two games), which many fans were/are understandably wary of. This wasn't helped by the perceived disagreement
between the new guys on how to convey the story in the game.
Wary, but not worried myself. Miyazaki is still loosely connected to the development and he has reassured us that; "Everybody knows what the core of Dark Souls is – the dev team does, the fans do, the media does – and that will never change." [http://www.edge-online.com/news/miyazaki-insists-dark-souls-ii-will-stay-true-to-what-fans-expect/
Like I said, tweaks and alterations will be made, but no sweeping overhaul to the gameplay and mechanics. It makes sense that they won't alter it too much; the series is too young to need much more than a little refinement.
Another thing that had people concerned are the talks of "streamlining" and "accessibility" being added to the Dark Souls experience.
Some people assumed that these words meant "dumbing down" or "simplification", to appeal to a larger audience, which isn't something us Dark Souls fans are likely to welcome, though Yui Tanimura clarified that it isn’t the case; “we wanted to, after a lot of feedback from the community and fans, streamline the experience so that we take away a lot of the tedious or, pain in the ass aspects that were in the original Dark Souls,". [http://www.destructoid.com/dark-souls-ii-s-director-talks-freedom-and-accessibility-251275.phtml
More recently, Yui Tanimura made extra effort to quash any doubts and apologised for any confusion using those words had caused. On top of that, Producer for the project Takeshi Miyazoe assures that this was “a mistranslation”
on their part.
Ok, so despite the misunderstood messages about accessibility, and behind-the-scenes change of lead personnel, I do think the game is in good hands and judging from previews it does seem like it's heading in the right direction, with the core of Dark Souls intact.
So, what can be done to improve? Or rather, what do I hope will be done...
A little less obfuscation, a little more explanation
One alteration I would like to see is the game being a bit less secretive, less vague than in terms of ridiculously obscured optional locations and the effects of certain items.
For example, the requirements to enter the Painted World of Ariamis are pretty convoluted. Chances are that, upon finding the entrance, most people won't have the required “key” to enter, and you are given no clue as to what it might be or where to find it. The “key” itself does give a hint as to it's use, but finding it involves some thinking outside the box. Also Ash Lake is pretty hard to find if you don't know where to look.
I suppose the idea is that those who figure out how to enter will discover a new area as reward, though it seems daft that these whole areas, though optional, should obscured so thoroughly. I'm not saying make it blatantly obvious, just a few more hints here and there regarding hidden locations.
The item descriptions for things such as the Dried Finger gives no clue as to its effects when used. Not until my second playthrough did I look on the Dark Souls Wiki to see what it did, and even then I found there was still confusion about it amongst the community.
The multiplayer aspect of Dark Souls Ⅱ is receiving several major alterations. The fact that there will now be dedicated servers is very welcome; one of my main frustrations with online play was due to simple lag, the bane of any online component in a game, and difficulty connecting to other players. This will hopefully result in less latency, and fewer rubber-banding incidents as red phantoms lunge to stab out my souls.
The news that you can now be invaded even whilst “hollowed” (or undead) in Dark Souls Ⅱ was initially perturbing to me. In Dark Souls it was easy enough to stay hollowed and run no risk of being invaded, with the fair penalty of being unable to summon other phantoms yourself. Furthermore, if defeated in hollow form players lose a portion of their max health bar (similar to in Demon's Souls) further disadvantaging them against malevolent phantoms. This time, no matter what condition your character is in, you're at risk of invasion whenever you are connected.
The reason I was concerned about this when I first heard of it is that I found random PVP in Dark Souls to be rather unbalanced. While the threat of being invaded by another player is a feature that fits well into the Souls world, my experience with these hostile encounters has been mainly of frustration.
The highly damaging “back-stab” technique in particular, where invaders could seemingly warp behind you simply by moving close to your flank and back-stab without having to be directly in position, made for some unfair fights. This was made worse by the aforementioned latency problems, making it more difficult to avoid being back-stabbed.
The fact that NPC enemies in the game will ignore invading players (even if attacked by them) in your world is annoying. It enables players to use dishonourable baiting tactics to lure you into an area full of creatures, or they can fire projectiles while standing safe amongst stationary enemies, both of which have happened to me several times.
I'm not sure if this was an oversight or intentional design choice, it seems strange for invading players to have such an advantage.
Thankfully, measures are being taken to balance PVP, for example the “hitbox” area on characters in which a back-stab can be performed is being reduced making it more difficult to pull off and there is also a covenant that the player can join which will summon a “Blue Sentinel” ally to assist whenever they are invaded.
Having seen all the recent trailers and screens, I can still safely say that my anticipation for Dark Souls Ⅱ is still somewhere between the give it to me now!
” and “why don't I have it yet?
” stages, and, with just under two months to go until release, I look forward to more good news regarding the development. read