There's an unspoken rule of reviewing games: You finish the game before you review it. It doesn't matter how good, how bad, or how buggy the game is — you do your damnedest to see the credits.
I will never finish Dark Souls II.
Since attaining my review copy of Dark Souls II I have ranted. I have raved. I have screamed obscenities at my Xbox 360. I have slammed my hand on my desk in rage. I have drank. I have become resigned. I have shut off the console in a fit of rage. I have ruefully turned the console back on mere moments later to try my hand once more.
"This is Dark Souls," the game reminds you upon your very first demise, the achievement popping onto the screen like an extra punch in the face. Like its predecessors, Dark Souls II is an ultra-hard third-person "action" game where you'll spend quite a bit of time dead, staring at loading screens.
You're cursed, a person who feasts on other creatures' souls to hold onto your humanity. Even fifteen hours into the game I have very little clue what the story is — something about a magic kingdom of Drangleic that crumbled to ruins. You'll wander through these ruins, looking for something important.
Mostly you'll fight your way through a veritable army of enemies that want you dead. These enemies range from small demon pigs to enormous serpents that spit fire at you. Combat is fairly realistic, governed by a stamina meter that always runs out right when you need it most, leaving you to get murdered by a giant's ill-timed sword blow.
Condemned to repeat it
For two hours, Dark Souls II became the same stretch of ruin for me. First I'd run up the stone stairs from the bonfire I'd lit, which served as a respawn point. I'd murder the waiting giant with the longsword. Then I'd walk up more stairs and get murdered by the giant with the oversized mace.
Finally I killed the giant with the longsword so many times he disappeared forever. This is a new mechanic in Dark Souls II to prevent players from grinding low-level areas for hours on end — after you kill enemies a certain number of times they disappear. Each enemy is different, clearly, since once I defeated the giant with the mace a single time he never came back.
So then Dark Souls II became run up the stairs from the bonfire, run past these two empty areas, run past the giant with the longsword who wouldn't attack unless I got too close, sprint down the crumbled remains of a once-proud walkway, and enter the circular arena area.
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