Dark Souls II : a hollow’s journey

Contains spoilers?

Nope/ Slightly / Some of them / Get out of here!

Dark Souls III shook the world, attracting a huge amount of new players to the saga. Meanwhile, I just finished the first one and was starting Scholar of the First Fin. It’s hard to tell the reason, but Dark Souls II felt very uncomfortable at the beginning: maybe it’s because of its smoothness compared with the first one or the messy inventory system (until you get used to it). Thing is, at the end, I found myself enjoying the game way more than I though. Eventually Drangleic got me hooked with the atmosphere and the bosses.

FromSoftware did an incredible job with the development of a fantastic, mystical world. Places like the Heide Tower or Dragon Shrine were gorgeous and got me astonished at the very first look. However, Majula managed to get a place in my heart: it felt warm, calm and peaceful (something hard to find in Dark Souls). It only felt tedious at the first hours to visit the Emerald Herald (one of the Internet’s favourite waifu) in order to level up. But, as everything, I got used to. Moreover, I ended enjoying my trips to Majula after slaying titanic bosses. It felt like the true reward (poetic alert).

Enemies are amazing in this title: they have cool looking designs and move sets, but only accomplish their task partially. Honourable players enjoy one tough enemy way more than ten at the same time, but this is Dark Souls and no one said it was necessary to play fair. So sometimes it’s necessary to speedrun a zone or repeat it until enemies disappear, which brings me to the next point: I definitely thank FromSoftware for this addition (same goes with the fast travelling). Being able to clear completely a zone to gain free access to its boss is a useful way for players who struggle to do it the “normal” way. Not saying it’s the easy mode, because when the path is free of enemies the boss comes and one shots you without blinking (Blue Smelter Demon flashbacks). But, as I was saying, some enemies felt like their lost their purpose.

I don’t know how many players did finish the game without looking at guides, but for me was completely impossible. The amount of information, zones and things to do was so damn high I needed the wiki as much as oxygen to live. Which is not bad, of course: means that the world is so complex one needs time and experience to overcome it. Exploring every zone in depth is rewarded with lots of items, some of them very interesting. I particularly find funny the different rings that suit for online trolling, like the Ring of the Living or the Ring of the Dead.

Speaking of these rings in special, I must point out Dark Souls II multiplayer is amazing. Its matchmaking works wonderfully and the cooperative works flawlessly. I did the whole first run with a friend and we barely had connection problems. The Ring of the Binding was an item that let us play anytime we wanted without any kind of problem (of course we were considering Soul Memory). In this aspect I’m kneeling down. Bravo.

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Covenants finally managed to shine here: indicted players are often visited by Blues, orbs work most of the times and dragon summoning marks still appear in Drangleic. Actions like camouflage are still useful (and no intelligence stat is required) and people can fight and troll in an infinite ways (bravo for the Seed of Giants trick). But “humanities” or as they are called here, “Human effigies” are usually short of numbers, and when cooperating can be wasted fast. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is where DLCs shine.

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Multiplayer at its finest

I was very sceptic about them in Dark Souls I (except for the Artorias fight) but in this one the DLCs certainly had something to offer to the mechanics of the game. Not only some amazing bosses and zones (and some terrible too…) but a very interesting concept: saying bye to the hollow transformation!

Despite being zones considerably hard to enter (without guides, again) and a bit hard, the DLCs felt rewarding when I finally got the Crown of the King working. Forgetting about human effigies for the cheap price of a helmet is indeed a nice trade. I felt so relieved when I got the crown I suddenly started invading a lot and not worrying about losing (also known as hiding, dressing as a NPC or inviting hosts to fist fight with me) and guess what: I had a great time even when being defeated. The combination of the crown with a smooth working multiplayer is a point the previous Dark Souls lacked.

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Getting back to the main adventure, I’m one of those who weren’t expecting Vendrick to be… Well, Vendrick. In the game we defeat a lot of colossal enemies, having in mind that they have a powerful king who is waiting somewhere else for us. But when we finally get to his room, crossing an enormous corridor full of tough enemies, we find this.

Where is the epic music for the fight? And the glorious, proud king Vendrick? I only see a hollow here, walking round the room hauling a big sword. He even doesn’t respond to my provocations.

That was my first impression of him. Then after some research I gathered the giant souls and finally slayed him, granting him the eternal rest he was waiting for. Then I remember some quotes from the Emerald:

“This ring is the symbol of the King.
Use it to gain passage, through the King’s Gate…and venture to the far east… 
Bearer of the curse, if you are to be the next monarch.
Then, one day, you will walk those grounds…without really knowing why.”

That was frightfully marvellous. The mix of lore, music and defeating Vendrick gave me the chills and was the factor that pulled the trigger in my mind. Dark Souls II is incredible.

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Senkou was my loyal partner through Drangleic

Of course, not everything is perfect, though. We find re-skins of enemies in unnecessary places (the two king pets… Why, FromSoftware?) and some geological mistakes like placing a lava zone above a windmill, but I guess this point has already been exploited. However, despite liking a lot Dark Souls I this one managed to be of my taste too. I had a lot of great moments (and frustrating, of course) with it and the New Game+ is still waiting for me.

 

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