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Dark Souls II: An addictive puzzle wrapped in a nightmarish action game

Hayden Dingman | March 12, 2014
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.

Oh, and if you die the game just gets harder. Did I mention that? Each time you die, you lose humanity. This, in turn, leaves you with fewer health points. In previous games the tradeoff was that you couldn't be invaded by enemy players. As a result, many people played through Dark Souls in the "hollow" state to avoid online interactions.

Well now you can be invaded even while undead, and you'll have fewer hit points. So it sucks all around. Might as well burn those human effigies and return some of your humanity before it's too late.

Worth the wait?
The PC version of Dark Souls II was delayed until April 25, so I played on the Xbox 360. While Dark Souls has never been a graphical powerhouse, it's particularly jarring to go back to the old hardware now.

Even playing through my 24" monitor, Dark Souls II is rough. Screen-tearing and aliasing abound, and many textures are comparable to late-PS2 era. It's not something that will significantly impact your enjoyment — Dark Souls has always been more focused on mechanics than graphics — but it's something of note if you're debating whether to wait for the PC version.

It's especially frustrating because there's so much promise to the graphics. Ruin-dotted vistas look downright gorgeous in the pale-orange sunset glow of Drangleic. And then you move the camera and for a second it's an aliased, screen-tearing mess, and you wish you were playing on a better system.

Add to that a decent amount of frame-hitching even in the early areas, and I'd say you're well-advised to wait for the PC version. I can't say for sure whether anything in Dark Souls II gets as laggy as Blighttown since I didn't see everything in the game, but I'd rather wait for the PC version myself as someone who has that option.

Bottom line
It's Dark Souls. Did you like the original? Did you like spiritual predecessor Demon's Souls? Then I feel confident in saying you'll enjoy this entry also. It's still incredibly unfriendly and utterly addicting in a marvelously difficult way. In a nutshell, Dark Souls II is everything you'd expect.

Your only question, if you're planning to play, is whether to wait for the PC version or not. I haven't played it yet, as all preview events so far took place on consoles, but based on my time with the 360 version I'd advise waiting.

April 25 can't come soon enough. Maybe I'll turn on my ailing 360 just one more time tonight...


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