Critics Corner: Dark Souls II

dark-souls-ii-headerWhat happens when the most hyped game of the generation (so far) is beaten out on critical acclaim by the sequel to a mercilessly difficult cult hit? Well, I doubt it’ll lead it to being a sales blockbuster like the most triple of triple-As but I’d imagine that the critical acclaim of Dark Souls and Dark Souls II along with the praise from gamers would result in more copies of DS2 ending up in consoles than DS1.

While there was some talk about making Dark Souls 2 friendlier for new players, that doesn’t mean that the game is easier than its predecessor. There is more clear language in what various weapons and abilities do but that doesn’t make the game a cakewalk. Other than that and a little work on exposition, if you loved the first Dark Souls, chances are you’re coming right back for more.

But enough of what I have to say. Here’s what the critics think of Dark Souls II.


“After our first fatal mistake, when the screen goes dark and we see the words ‘You died’ for the first time, the trophy popup says it all: welcome to Dark Souls.” – Edge (9.0/10)

“This is still a tough, often brutal role-playing game that requires intense concentration and persistence, but it sets about its business with more equanimity. Dark Souls dropped boulders and bosses on your head before you could get your bearings, but Dark Souls 2 has a gentler starting area, where threats are obvious and instructions are spelled out on tombstones.” – Eurogamer (9.0/10)

“Combat in Dark Souls II is familiar, but has some significant changes. The core blocking, rolling, sprinting, parrying, and attacking all rely on the ever-important stamina bar. You cannot mash the button and win; exhaust your stamina bar in the thick of combat and you are dead. Vigor joins vitality and endurance as a third key skill, so players have to spread their stat point allocations out a bit more. Rolling is still a viable and important tactic, but it no longer grants abusive invulnerability frames, so don’t count on it to pardon the length of a knight’s blade.” – Game Informer (9.75/10)

“After completing a short tutorial area (that’s completely optional), you’ll stumble across the town of Majula — a location that houses the core bonfire and a number of NPCs. From there, you can choose between five paths (only three are available at first), and embark on your adventure. Each path leads to a new area, which in turn will branch off into other areas, with secret zones and locations to find along the way.” – Destructoid (9.0/10)

“There are eight classes to choose from, representing the usual spectrum of RPG mainstays from the melee-heavy Swordsman or Knight through to the Miracle-slinging Cleric and the Sorcerer (who now gathers both spells and pyromancies under a single pointy hat). The reduced number of classes allows a greater focus, with less generalisation and a better opportunity to create a specialist.” – God is a Geek (10/10)

“Dark Souls 2 adds some tweaks that just make too much sense. Weapons and armor can still break, but they’re repaired automatically at bonfires, and without using any of your precious souls. Dark Souls 2 also provides three equipment slots per hand, which makes characters far more versatile without having to go into the menu to needlessly swap out weapons and items. Along with these larger changes come a lot of smaller ones to the user interface, controls, and enemy behavior that make it clear From Software understands the handful of tiny issues that made previous Souls game more of a hassle than intended.” – USgamer (10/10)

“It’s still a deep game with countless hours of content, replayability, and even a New Game+ option with even more content. Gamers looking for a challenge will find it here in spades. Each move will be more rewarding than the last, and regardless of how challenging something is, there is always the knowledge that no matter how alone you feel in the world, there are other people dealing with the same problems.” – PlayStation LifeStyle (8.5/10)

“Developer From Software went a little too far with a penalty that decreases your max HP every time you die. This can be counteracted by using a Human Effigy, but those items are few and far between in the early half of the campaign. While undoubtedly a hardcore feature, I found it frustrating because it slightly stifled my urge to explore the world with a fear of being too harshly penalized for failure.” – IGN (9.0/10)


“Unlike its predecessor, Dark Souls II does a fantastic job of explaining the plot in an interesting way. Even while light on narration, each piece of story and lore is gradually uncovered, with incredible cutscenes and engaging dialogue making this a much more accessible tale to invest in.” – Push Square (9.0/10)

“It begins with your nameless and faceless (for now) protagonist on a journey through a dark, gloom-entrenched forest. You are a Cursed Undead, bearer of the Dark Sign and destined to die over and over until the lest vestiges of your humanity are finally gone and you become “Hollow”. To stave this off, you make the pilgrimage across world to a land where the souls of the slain can preserve your sanity. The decrepit kingdom of Drangleic is beset by darkness, and freeing it might just be enough to change the fate of the Cursed.” – God is a Geek (10/10)


“One of the biggest changes to Dark Souls 2 is that, for better and worse, it has decidedly moved away from its more Gothic and drab color pallet it was known for. Now, vibrant grasslands, sprawling seasides and advanced lighting techniques permeate the world of Drangleic. Yet, no matter how lush the world looks, the air never leaves you feeling more than a few breaths away from death, especially as you dive deeper into the game. This wonderful design of atmosphere is sadly broken by moments where stark contrasts in quality can’t be missed.

“At times, certain character models or things in the world simply won’t stand up to the same standards set by other areas of the game. Hidden under wonderfully designed armor, a roughly textured face and a low poly body will constantly remind you that not everything is as it seems. Thankfully, even though you may be torn out of the experience at times, Dark Souls 2’s crushing difficulty remains intact and will easily be able to make you forget about the game’s polygon count.” – PlayStation LifeStyle (8.5/10)


“Dark Souls 2 is a refined, slicker version of what I consider to be the greatest video game ever made, and it is a title we’ll be finding more and more about post-release as its genius is fully uncovered.” – VideoGamer (10/10)

“While it may not always feel fair, you’ll be hard pressed to find a game that’s as intense and rewarding as Dark Souls II. The astonishingly deep combat, huge world, unique multiplayer, and amazing overall ambience combine here to create a phenomenal experience. It requires a heavy amount of investment to truly appreciate, but those who put in the effort will fall in love with this torturous title. It’s Stockholm syndrome at its finest.” – Push Square (9.0/10)

“For players new to the series, it’s a much better entry point than the first game, but Dark Souls grognards who proudly bear their scars will find it a touch too familiar and/or streamlined. That said, any title that manages to come even close to Dark Souls’ greatness is a success.” – OXM (8.0/10)

Note: These reviews cover the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Dark Souls II. The PC version is not available until April 25th.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on March 13, 2014, in Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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