Dark Souls 2 feels like it is always giving you something to look at, use, or bash an enemy with. It is tough to describe, but there is just more in this game. The character progression is faster and more lenient. There is an item which allows you to re-spec your character so if you decide you want to try a different build this is an option. Hexes have taken over the dark magic we saw make an appearance in the Dark Souls DLC, and give casters a third school of magic to add to their arsenal. Hybrid builds are more viable with the immense amount of armor, weapon, and spell combinations. Characters can equip four rings now, which opens up a plethora of ways to play a character.
It is important to note since this review is a week or so after the release date, it gives me the advantage of actually being able to comment on the online play of Dark Souls 2. I think a review without online play does a disservice to the game, as I feel the multiplayer component to the game is pivotal to the experience. Playing through Dark Souls 2 solo is not a good idea, nor is it fun. Playing Dark Souls 2 offline so you don’t get invaded is also a bad idea. Limiting yourself in this manner removes an essential part of the game - phantoms! Without phantoms Drangleic is a quiet place so get out there and start summoning/invading.
I’m going to focus on the co-op aspect of the multiplayer instead of the PVP side of things because it’s what we do here at Co-Optimus. Summoning works almost the same in the previous games with the normal rules applying: 1. You have to be human to summon an ally and 2. Human and Hollow players can be summoned using the White Summon Stone. Dark Souls 2 also adds a Small White Summoning Stone which allows you to enter the world as a shade, and is based on time rather than finishing the area boss. Another change to encourage co-op play and less boss-camping is the way you become human. Instead of just killing the boss and changing from Hollow to Human, your transformation is now based on the amount of time you spend in another world as a phantom. This is a small change, but it is nice to see the emphasis on co-op play.
There are covenants to help funnel people into jolly co-operation (Praise the Sun), and even covenants helping those who are being invaded by evil phantoms. During my time in Drangleic there was never a lack of people to summon, with the obvious hot spots being around a bonfire or right before a boss door. I was always running with an ally or two, and when I didn’t have a full party there was a surprising amount of NPC phantoms I could summon to my aid. If you’re not playing Dark Souls 2 with others, you’re not doing it right. Then comes the proverbial question everyone had in ‘how do I play with my friends?’ I’ll let you know I think you should play with strangers, but for those of you needing someone you know on the other end there is a solution. Dark Souls 2 has a ring which allows you to summon your friends. I tested this flawlessly over the past week and I could always summon my partner in crime, Cubninja. It’s one of the first items you can get and I’ll be putting out a guide on how to do it exactly. So there, you can play with friends now.
I could continue on and spout off all the cool things I have found so far, but I would rather people explore and discover things for themselves. The world is huge, and each new area gives countless branching paths to wander down. If you ever feel stuck, you can hit a bonfire and transport to a different area - making the whole experience less intimidating. I never felt like I had hit a wall, as there was always something new to find or an area to check out. The natural progression of the world will prepare you for (almost) anything.
Dark Souls 2 is not simply more of the same. It is a totally new living, breathing world that is yours to conquer. Make sure you bring a couple friends along and you’ll be fine. If you have been too intimidated to check out the series, I would encourage you to take the plunge with this game. It brings out a cacophony of emotions providing a journey like nothing else. It is stressful and frustrating at times, but the reward for players is insurmountable.
Now go die.
The Co-Op Experience: Join in jolly co-operation with up to three players. Summon each other throughout the land of Dranleic using your white summon stones, receiving tasty souls in return for your help. Don't go in alone!
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.