I finally got DSII running reliably after doing some minor repairs on my computer, and it’s really nice to be able to play it at last, being a big fan of the first one. By this point, the initial hype and subsequent backlash have all more or less subsided, which is nice going in, if mostly for the sake of having reasonable expectations. I’m not playing it expecting it to play exactly like or be as good as the original, but I’ve heard it’s good on its own merits, and so far I agree. This will have a lot of comparisons between the two games and minor spoilers for both.
The biggest immediate difference for me comes in the number of larger enemies you’re up against from the start of the game. In the first game, you don’t see many enemies that are much larger than your character for the first several areas of the game, and most of these are treated as minibosses who don’t respawn. The sequel throws large enemy types at you from the very start, even having them in the tutorial area. This generally changes the pace of combat, as these enemies typically have much longer and wider reach than their smaller counterparts, forcing you to do be more defensive even than in the first game and sneaking in your own hits between theirs.
The combat itself is streamlined slightly, feeling like a smoother version of the original’s. Your character moves a bit faster, and attacks seem to have more weight, both when you attack and when you’re hit by enemies. This makes it a really satisfying, if sometimes frustrating, combat system to get a good hold of, and it builds nicely on the elements that made Dark Souls so enjoyable to play.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the game is its comparative linearity, and it’s definitely a well-founded one. One of my favorite things about Dark Souls was its world design. Nearly every area in the game felt like it had a purpose, and had the atmosphere to match. They felt like they could be actual places (well, a lot of them, I don’t know of any real-world equivalent to Lost Izalith and praise the sun for that). In the sequel, it feels less like you’re exploring locations and more like you’re progressing through levels.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Even in the first game, some of my favorite areas, such as the Painted World of Ariamis and the Duke’s Archives, had a more linear progression. It’s a style of design that lends itself more to combat-heavy gameplay, which is far more the focus of the sequel, and the additional polish added to the combat makes the areas a lot of fun to play through even if they are more linear.
What does turn me off about a lot of the areas so far, though, is that they can just feel generic. Everything has a polished, almost shiny look to it, even areas like Lost Bastille, which is a fairly decrepit place. It’s a far cry from the dingy, decaying locales of the first game. And that’s part of what made Dark Souls feel so great. You can just see Lordran falling apart before your eyes. It gave the game a real sense of time and the feeling of a world that still remains standing after any hope for renewal has been lost made it a poignant place to explore. So far I’m just not getting that kind of gravitas from this world. Granted, I’m only 10 hours or so in, so there is plenty to go and I look forward to seeing what else I have to uncover.
So some good, some not so much, but I’m still freaking addicted to this game. More as things progress, but as for right now, I have a lot of stuff that I need to do this weekend that I’ve been neglecting, so I’d better stop procrastinating.