- Xbox 360
- PlayStation 3
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
The first summarized feeling that I can express is that it seems to be bigger and a bit longer than original; but to my suprise Steam's statistic shown nearly exact same number of 66 and 62 hours for sequel and first installment respectively.
Before we go further I must warn you, that this comes from PVE-carebear who finished this game once and has no intention to do all those crazy NG+ stuff like many hard-core fans seemingly would. I died… well I can't really say a lot, but that's mostly because I summoned two phantoms for every boss and high-faith-lightning-spears-throwing build seems to be incredibly overpowered for beating AI. And I switched to it immediately after things got a bit tough.
Before that I approached the same leveling as I did in first game: lots of strength and relying on heavy two-handed weapon (I bouth Pursuer's Ultra Greatsword). That was halfway through the game if you're wondering. I already killed Old Iron King, did both Belfrys, and made it through the Warf, Forest and Bastille. I even finished Grave of Saints. Anyway, it was a pure-melee character. And I encountered those flaming lizards, you know them, if you finished the game. It doesn't matter if you know them, if you didn't. They were hard for me. Like really hard. I did little to none damage to them, but a few tries and that rolling around did the trick: I killed the first one, and then the second one. Third one stomped me. The narrow passage, the death-bringing fire spits, the horros, the wrong time to drink Estus. You know how this happens. The whole way back from the bonfire I hoped that they are treated like mini-bosses, and don't respawn. They did. I realized that either I can spend another hour trying to beat what seems like the hardest challenge I met in the game or I can visit them later. Some poison-arrows, some ranged stuff, which I was lucking. And that's where things got interesting. Rather than finishing later there is third option in sequel, one which original lacked. You can just redistribute your spents souls. And my inventory was crawling with all kind of stuff suitable for caster. And in a thirty minutes I was newly-born battle-cleric.
That sweet feeling of smartly overcoming the problem is good enough for me. It may be not as challenging in terms of perfect reaction, precise directional control and ability to automate sequences of same movements, but it doesn't matter for me. What I like in metroidvanias is that little hidden secrets left by developers. And in that sense Dark Souls is a proud member of the genre. Hidden walls, locked doors, smart usage of enemy attacks for opening new passageway, vulnerabilities of certain enemys — and most of those things not only present you with another glimpse of actually rich lore but make you more powerful or capable with dealing with some problem. And that's it, you just have to think and look for clues.
Second game's world became a bit more widespread, more star-shaped like with a central hub, that's it. It feels slightly more sensible or easier to decipher, but and in a many ways sequel actually is. Ability to change character build was already mentioned. And then there's less-restrictive weapon upgrading, and special rings that increase your chance to be summoned by your friend rather than stranger. It never goes as far as forcing you to navigate through complete dark area with deadly cliffs all around. That was what first game did. And while I admire this non-compomising approach of the developers, it was not fun. Yes, you could actually find a source of light before heading there, but that was so obscure, that I didn't. And I seriously doubt anyone on first playthrough without a guide would. So Dark Souls II changed a lot of stuff, that wasn't fun. It still sometimes isn't, but at least it doesn't irritate, and that's good.
It's steal hard to the limit, that I felt satisfaction beating it. It required time, dedication and work of thought. And it was worth it. It still is in a lot of ways beautiful. With that oblique beaty, that you won't find on the first look. This style develops with progressing in the game, rather than trying to blaze all guns at you at the first second. Of course it's technically crappy, and some locations look even horrible, but the overall design atones it all. It comes a long way from minimalism to grotesque staying true to itself and game atmosphere. And despite all transformations it never looks like an eclectic mess.
This post-apocalyptic fantasy world is still deep, depressing and has a lot of history it doesn't really want to share. Or at least it won't if you won't work for it. But that's okay. That's how metroidvanias work.