Dark Souls 2. Criticized for it’s lack of creativity when it comes to boss fights, boss arenas and areas in general, when compared with the original Dark Souls. Criticized for it’s game changing fast travel system which is accessible from the start of the game, slashing apart the chance for a naturally entwining and linking world. Empty box rooms plague Drangleic, as do randomly scattered enemies who feel like they have no purpose being where they are. All of these criticisms that Dark Souls 2 receives, and more, however I still love this game nonetheless. I feel that while the original Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 share similarities in the charm that it emits onto the player, Dark Souls 2 has a very unique aura about it. Characteristics which are unseen in the original game or the third, however just fit right in with Dark Souls 2. A different director overseeing Dark Souls 2, was obviously going to have an effect on the games direction and was going to give the game a unique personality. It’s also important to remember that Dark Souls 2 had a rough time in development. Director Tanimura quotes:
“Yes, this game actually went through quite a troubled development process. Due to a number of factors we were actually forced to re-think the entire game midway into development. We really had to go back to the drawing board and think once more about what a Dark Souls game should be.” – Design Works Interview.
Immediately, when you begin your journey through Dark Souls 2 you find yourself in a dank and dark cave, a very familiar location description after playing the original Dark Souls. Light is seeping through a crack on the other side of the cave, and within a few minutes you find yourself basking in that very light in a beautiful sun set safe haven. The surrounding waters serenaded by the golden glistening sun, under the evening sky. This gorgeous location is called Majula, and is your safe haven as well as a checkpoint between very important areas within the game. As you enter, the sound track that played at the start of the game repeats, however this time at a higher pitch. I believe this correlates to the increase in light that is exposed unto you, as you enter Majula from Things Betwixt. An increase in the softness of the sound track, when an increase in light occurs. They compliment each other very well in my opinion. Connecting areas such as Heide’s Tower Of Flame and Forest Of Fallen Giants are also day time orientated, and this leads me to speak about the charm that I think is created partly by the day-time and more colourful areas of Dark Soul 2. Yes there are day time areas in the original game, places such as Undead Parish see sunshine trying to burst through the clouds unto Solaire and the player, however Dark Souls 2 is a much more colourful game with a deeper emphasis on the colour schemes in certain environments. This was of course to be expected, because Dark Souls 2 came out later, and so was developed with better technology. However nonetheless I feel that having bright and colourful areas such as Forest Of Fallen Giants, in innocent and relatable seeming places such as a forest, suggest that there is no escape from the harshness of Dark Souls 2. Enemies aren’t just coming at you in a crypt, the abyss, or a fear instilling cathedral, but instead a Forest of bright beauty. A forest, also being a place that one might find themselves in within the real world, makes the experience that little bit more believable.
Continuing on, after the player traverses their way around the Forest, they will encounter a boss called The Pursuer. This fights arena takes on the aesthetic properties of Majula. The evening sun returns in full force to cover the dance like fight in a glaze of gold. This light hearted, gorgeous, and romantic arena, is heavily contrasted by a brutal and hate fueled fight. Dark Souls always shines at creating paradoxical scenarios in which the player questions while scratching their head in confusion, but as I mentioned, I feel that Dark Souls 2 had a unique way of doing this, with some of its unique environments combined with a more popping colour pallet. In Dark Souls 3 for example, we have the chance to explore Archdragon Peak. An area that basks in mid day sunlight, however Dark Souls 2 brings us these areas in a unique kind of way, that I guess I just can’t completely put my finger on.
Often I see Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 grouped together as similar games in the series, while Dark Souls 2 is set aside as it’s own experience. A failure in many peoples eyes. Unique features and gameplay mechanics such as Life gems, very fast weapon degradation, unique parrying, Pharro’s Lockstones, Fragrant Branches of Yore set this game apart from the others. While many of these features aren’t the best ever seen in a souls game, they give Dark Souls 2 a very quirky feel which I have learned to fall in love with. Dark Souls 2 certainly isn’t my favourite game in the series, however it is special to me in a unique kind of way.