In the realm of video games, the genre of role-playing games is divided into two entities: the Japanese role-playing games, or JRPGs, and the Western role-playing games, typically referred to as RPGs. JRPGs are usually developed by Japanese studios and are much more story-focused than RPGs, while RPGs developed by Western studios are much more character-focused. In addition, JRPGs tend to have a more colorful and anime feel to them, while RPGs tend to go for the more realistic and cinematic feel.
Interestingly, “Dark Souls II” is a stylistically Western RPG — having a large focus on exploration and character development — made by a Japanese studio. This gives the game elements of each faction of role-playing games. Like many Japanese games, there is a large focus on swords, staffs and other different fantasy elements. Like Western RPGs, there is a large focus on character customization and developing a character that fits the player’s unique play-style. However, “Dark Souls II” is a special game for being able to stand out from both categories of RPGs due to its open-world experience and insane difficulty.
“Dark Souls II” is set in Drangelic, a land riddled with various zones connected to one another. Each zone has its own distinct look, from the palace-like architecture in Heide’s Tower of Flame to the lush forestry in the Forest of Fallen Giants.
The player explores this world through a custom-created man or woman bearing the curse of the undead, never being able to truly die but constantly reanimating. The life of the undead is hard, sorrowful and unending; an undead’s only hope of being rid of this curse is by traveling to this land where he or she can cure this curse. It is up to players to decide on how their character will fulfill this objective.
There are no story missions for the players to reach this goal or any other forms of video-game hand-holding. In this game, players embark on their own journey, getting themselves into situations in which they have to learn and adapt to different types of foes, constantly challenging players to not only improve the stats of their characters but also improve how they play the game.
This constant challenge in the game makes dying an expected and oft-occurring event. Death is around every corner in “Dark Souls II,” making it one of the hardest games on the market.
Combat is a major sphere of “Dark Souls II” that only gets easier as the player increases his or her skills playing the game. The combat mechanics of this game are simple, with standard and heavy attacks as well as the ability to dodge. However, the game limits the number of attacks players can strike and the number of dodges rolled in a short time through the implementation of an on-screen stamina bar. The faster players attack and roll in succession, the more the stamina bar depletes.This makes pacing and time two important factors for a success in this game.
However, while difficulty is one of the many praises this game has received, there is some needed clarification on how this difficulty should be praised. Ineffective strategies or poorly timed attacks are punished with death, illustrating that difficulty is a commendable aspect of “Dark Souls II” as it rewards skilled players.
On the other hand, there are many instances in which the game puts players in situations in which deaths are not their fault but the game’s. Players might lose health to an enemy whose attack was out of range or due to a disorientating auto-lock that causes a wobbly camera. In this instance, “Dark Souls II” can also be a highly frustrating game that seems to require a certain amount of luck for players to progress.
Therefore, while this game is both engaging and unique, the constant pressure of death awaiting around the corner may inspire and attract some players and annoy and frustrate others. As a warning, this game was not made for casual gamers but only for the hardcore, difficulty-seeking gamers who are ready for a new challenge in a truly open-world RPG.