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Games : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $24.78 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 79.99 In Stock
Release Date: March 11th, 2014 Movie Release Year: 2014

Dark Souls II

Overview -

In 2009, Atlus elected to bring a game to the West that though in popular in Japan, debuted to little fanfare in the US. Within a short time though, the word began to spread that 'Demon's Souls,' a third-person action/fantasy RPG, was offering an experience not in the typical modern hand-holding style of game. And that was just the beginning. By the time that the spiritual sequel, the Namco Bandai published 'Dark Souls,' made its western debut, a huge fan base was waiting, having watched the Japanese version online and eager to tackle the game's many mysteries. The announcement and release of 'Dark Souls II' has seen the franchise rise to heights unconcerned with going on sale the same week as 'Titanfall.' Concerns do abound though as this time around changes in the team at developer From Software and possible concessions made for a larger audience have worried fans. An even bigger cause for concern is that this is the first of the 'Souls' titles to debut directly to a Western audience. Under such scrutiny, can 'Dark Souls II' possible deliver, or should it just prepare to die?

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
VIDEO
AUDIO
Tech Specs & Release Details
Video Resolution/Codec:
720p
Audio Formats:
5.1 Dolby Digital
Release Date:
March 11th, 2014

Video Review

Ranking:

And here's where the quantity focus hurts the most. I expected lots of ugly textures, seams, light leaks, reskinned characters, items, and objects. I also expected that the art design would trump most these typical game concerns. Sadly, the quality of the game's visuals really wanders. There are a few impressive vistas, reveals, and interesting designs for bosses and characters. Mostly though, the game is a step down from its predecessor when it comes to visual fidelity and art design. It often exhibits even less sizzle than the 'Dark Souls' expansion.

Dark Souls II

The texture resolution on many of the backgrounds makes for the kind unsightliness to suggest the notion of anti-demo material. Much of the game's UI elements and enemy set are recycled from the previous game, and overall the art style can feel imitative and less inspired and polished than past efforts. The new torch mechanic while sometimes fun means entire rooms of low-light that typically only receive a point light after being cleared out.

I noticed frequent trouble spots between areas and a noticeable chug at many points when pulling an enemy as the game unloaded one area and loaded another. While running through complicated areas both quickly and slow, there were many moments when holes in the world, missing geometry faces, or other similar environmental artifacts became visible or noticeable. These issues did not affect play, and never where bad enough to fill the screen. They are only glaring when specifically searching for them.

The PC version should (if players are lucky) alleviate issues like texture and shadow depth, while future patches many help the console version's tricky streaming bugs. (Images here in the review are stock and seem to be taken from the PC version.)

Audio Review

Ranking:

When it comes to audio, the game is terribly effective at what it sets out to do. Whether it's the limited use of music or the jingle of chains of a enemy hidden behind a secret door or the terrible voice of a riled and formerly friendly NPC, the sound design bends nearly every rule in an effort to subtly build tension, and this with a mostly recycled set of sound effects. Rarely ever in games are the surrounds engaged to simultaneously fool and inform the player, and 'Dark Souls II' never relents on this audio assault. Let a large enemy chase you, and you'll find that their loud steps have just the right break between to cast doubts about their continued pursuit... until you turn around.

A few things, like barrel combustion, can make the volume jump alarmingly. Walking on sand is even louder than splashing water.

Be it desperate, crazy, or sanguine, voice acting for the NPCs retains an exaggerated quality. Somehow, when combined with the limited and often perfunctory conversation loops, (key for extracting story details) the result just seems even more perfectly suited for this installment than the last.

Final Thoughts

For much of my playthrough, I kept thinking that if I had to choose one of the 'Souls' titles to play or recommend, it would be 'Dark Souls.' And yet 'Dark Souls II' was clearly meant to entertain the veteran 'Souls' player with a depth beyond its predecessor. Though parts of the game feel like a poor rehash, everything that make the series thrilling, challenging, and enjoyable is here along with revamped online options that dare to tempt even the most solitary player. Hunting down items, NPCs, bosses, areas, shortcuts- I gorged myself on it all, and still I'm ready to jump back in for more as the replay value has been pushed to new heights. Detractors of the series (those that have actually played a title) can be comfortable opting out, but everyone else should see that death is only the beginning, the preparation necessary to live.