Dark Souls II Xbox 360 Review

Dark Souls II has been one of the most publicized and critically acclaimed games of 2014, cited for great gameplay, stunning visuals and replay value. However, I struggled to understand what all the hype was about. It’s not because of how difficult a game it certainly is, but because I genuinely didn’t find the things within that most critics have praised it for so ferociously.

The game is conceptually fair in terms of visuals, set in a world reminiscent of a typical fantasy RPG or fantasy film. But I think the graphics are severely outdated. To me, it looks like a game released during 2007, not being on par with even the likes of BioShock and Mass Effect. I had high expectations of the visuals; especially after the opening FMV, which was nicely done. But concerning in-game graphics, there just isn’t a great deal that stands out. Besides some unique-looking bosses, most enemy and character designs leave a lot to be desired. Looking closely, the game is also in a somewhat unpolished state as well, which especially given visuals as outdated as these, is unacceptable.

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There’s nothing outstanding about the visuals, and in my opinion, the same can be said about how the gameplay. Dark Souls II is a hack and slash RPG, comparable to games like Fable and Darksiders. Before I played it, I expected I would be deterred by its difficulty. But whilst it is very hard, I grew bored of it quickly. Combat doesn’t feel very fluent, and repetition must set in for people who have played it extensively. But one of the biggest gripes I have with this game is how each boss operates. Although a few of them stand out in a conceptual sense, like The Rotten or the Duke’s Dear Freja, a great many of them don’t. A lot of them are simply knights in different sets of armour, who all attack extremely similarly, and by that token, require more or less the same strategy to take down. Given all the faults I’ve highlighted, it seems insane to me how so many people have taken such a liking to it.

Although it was a technique used to heighten the difficulty, I found the game’s controls were somewhat annoying. It seems that bigger enemies are more agile than the player character. I spent twenty minutes trying to kill an ogre, but it seemed like it was faster than me, which gave the game an extremely unrealistic feel to it. However, apart from this, there are no other problems, and more intrepid players must master an intense learning curve in order to progress, which is one positive thing I can highlight.

Another positive I can emphasize is that the game lasts a long time. One playthrough can take up to 40 hours, but this game was designed for multiple playthroughs, which for gamers who may find it more enjoyable to play than me, can get over 100 hours out of it.This game works better for others than it did for me. It depends if people are willing to brave the game’s relentless difficulty and can look past flaws like the outdated visuals.

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The story follows a customisable character on his/her journey to find a cure for an undead curse they are afflicted with. Though that is the basic premise of the story, it does unfold into something a little bit deeper, and it’s fairly well done as far as RPGs go. And there are also a few small plot twists, which give the game a theme of morality towards the end. Those few story features at least save this game from being terrible; and even average.

I didn’t find the game to stand out greatly from a gameplay perspective, having been able to draw many similarities with Fable, Kingdoms of Amalur and Kingdom Under Fire. But what makes this game unique to a small extent is a level of challenge that is rarely seen in video games today, and other gamers with different tastes will welcome it with open arms.

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In Summation, Dark Souls II is not a terrible game; it’s just not for everyone. It works better for many other people than myself, but I really struggled to find what it is that so many other people see in it. Though it lasts a long time and provides a decent challenge, I think it really needed an extra push on top of what the game contains. I would describe it as just above average, but that’s as far as I’d go.

6 out of 10