Monday, July 11, 2016

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin (Everything, 2015)

Time for one of the most hopeless, nihilistic, negative games I've ever played. But seriously, this game is quite gripping.

Started this right after I finished Bloodborne, and the similarities are strong.

Choice of classes. I had no idea which to go with, since they seem to have much more of an effect on the gameplay than Bloodborne's "classes" do. Ended up going with Swordsman for the dexterity bonus, thinking dexterity affected speed. I wanted to be able to roll a lot like in Bloodborne, because using a shield isn't my style. Well...I got through the game the first time without a shield, but it wasn't easy. Also, dexterity doesn't affect rolling, ADP does. Regardless, I like the class choices here.

I create a moor with bright blond hair. Here he is wearing a scarf as pants.... for the ladies.

At the outset you get to choose an item to take with you; I had no idea what to go with, but Homeward Bone sounded useful (and also...for the ladies). Unfortunately it's a one-charge item. Gates you to your home point. It IS useful, regardless, but the Human Effigy is a rarer and more sought-after item. ProTip, I'd go with that one.

Wow, that's a lot of stats. Most of this is fairly self-explanatory. The sheer volume of information to pay attention to is impressive, regardless. In an era where things are constantly dumbed-down (or accused of being dumbed-down), this is a refreshing change of pace.

Playing this on the PS4, and right off the bat I'm blasted with 60 FPS INTENSITY. It may not be as pretty to look at, but it has twice the framerate of Bloodborne.

Also..."Things Betwixt"? Like...ladyparts?

Another awesome thing the PS4 does well: Light effects. Here we see some sunlight beaming in and very realistically illuminating a wall. Move in the path of the sunlight in any way and you'll interrupt it, casting a shadow along the floor and wall. It's so cool.

The source of the light is the sun, seen here over the town of Majula. The sun NEVER SETS in this game; you can play for sixty hours and the time of day will continually be what you see here. That seems like a bit of a step back in this day and age where most games of this nature have time cycles with night and day.

Basically, the objective here is to slowly fight your way through various mysterious lands. Some are incredibly dull, some are awesome. You defeat enemies to collect souls, but watch out, because death runs the risk of losing your collected souls if you don't carefully retrieve your corpse. It's very 1999 Everquest.

I meet my first death while fighting a swordsman. The fight was entirely optional but I wanted to give it a shot. Not many games will give you a trophy for dying.

The weaponsmith is a hardy dwarf giant with a lot to say.

This game has a lot of NPCs who are actually rendered and visible, unlike Bloodborne lazily putting all the NPCs behind walls/doors (seriously, there are a lot of areas where Bloodborne scales things back from this game, even though I think Bloodborne is better overall). Here's an NPC who sells priest magic like heals and lightning bolts. I like that this game has magic; being able to be a sorcerer or a priest gives it a ton of variety that wasn't present in Bloodborne. Whenever I get to Dark Souls 3 I'm going to do a paladin-type character by choosing Knight and putting points into faith/miracles.

As you die, your character visibly deteriorates until they're just a corpse. So basically, they look nothing like the character you created for most of the game. It's almost as bad as Destiny giving you a character creator and then immediately covering you up in head-to-toe armor that looks the same on everybody. Man, Destiny is boring.

Oh, as for this shot...I found an eerie boat docked in an underground harbor.

Some of the environments are super-memorable, like this ascent up a giant stone sword. Most of the game seems to transpire around this harbor.

The first boss is...The Last Giant. This didn't make much sense to me at first and it wasn't until later in the game that I realized the significance of this boss. It's the last of a race that once caused mass destruction.

A bit later is the first boss that really gave me grief, the Pursuer. It's waaay too agile for its size. It's also representative of many of the boss fights in this game, as there are a lot of giant armored knights.


The pantless wonder walks into the local item shop, ready for action.

"Oh Yeahhhh."

In most games, finding a cache of upgrades is an awesome thing. In this game, it's a mega awesome thing because you need every upgrade you can get. Unfortunately, if you aren't playing a heavy armor wearing fighter class, most of these upgrades are lateral. What I mean is that as a caster or a light fighter, your armor selections are very limited, and given how most of the lighter armor sets aren't any better than the others, it's hard to find real upgrades. For a caster, the Lion Mage Set is where it's at, and everything else is just sorta there.

Having a bit of vertigo here. I got fairly lost early on in the game and ended up in some weird places. It's fairly non-linear in that there are a number of paths you can take through the game and thus it's never really the same twice. It isn't open-world really because you still need to progress through the areas in a set way, but there's some leeway as to the paths you take.

After many, many deaths, our hero arrives at the ethereal ship. What awaits on this ship? Ghosts? White Walkers? Linda Tripp?

Nope, it's worse than all that: A Dark Souls 2 boss. Flexile Sentry is like something out of Hindu mythology, and the meanest Siamese twin ever.

Taking in a quick vista. By this point in the game I had pretty much figured out what I was doing. It helps that if you kill any given enemy ten times, it stops respawning. There were a number of times when I had to do this with an entire area just to give myself a clear path to the boss.

Around this point I discovered the multiplayer component of the game (not seen here). You can summon people (and NPCs, seen here) to help you, and you can also warp to the games of other people to help them out. It's awesome, and tremendously useful for bosses. Some of the bosses are so difficult that it appears they were designed for multiple people to tackle. I wish I'd done this with Bloodborne, but I was intent on finishing that game by myself. I'll just say that Dark Souls 3 is going to be a very different experience now that I get this series.

For a 60 FPS game, it sure is tough to get a blur-less screenshot during battles.

The primary goal of the game is to find the four Primal Bonfires and light them, leading to the final string of areas. Each of these special bonfires is behind a particularly tough boss. Aside from these four bosses, most of the boss fights appear to be optional. I still went out of my way to take them all out, including the three huge DLC packs. Those DLCs are debatably the best part of this game and well worth playing. Casters beware though, because they're clearly designed for meleers. DLC enemies have super-high magic resistance.

There's a dragon stationed across a bridge here, and I'm pretty sure this wasn't in the original version of Dark Souls 2. They added a lot of new enemies and enemy placements for the Scholar of the First Sin version, including this one. The dragon is a bizarre encounter because it doesn't move, it simply stands there and breathes fire constantly.

I read helpful notes left around by other players that the dragon can be sniped, and I try it. Indeed, one can stand here and fire a bow at the dragon for ten minutes until it eventually keels over, and it can't reach you since it's immobile. You can't take it out any other way because of the constant fire breath.

...that was really bizarre. No idea what the developers were thinking with this particular encounter.

Editor's Note: On New Game Plus I actually managed to run across the bridge between fire breaths and have a real fight with the dragon, so it IS possible. Was much more rewarding.

Another tough boss is Old Dragonslayer, who I had to recruit accomplices to take down. He sports a powerful halberd, which I then added to my arsenal.

The Blue Knight Halberd ended up being my weapon of choice for like 90% of the game. It's a lot like the Hunter's Axe in Bloodborne in that it has a big spinning attack when you charge up or dash-strike. Does huge damage, has a lot of range, awesome overall.

Quick reminder that PS4 does shadows really well.

This game isn't exactly forthcoming with a story, so it's intriguing when I come across a room like this that clearly has a story behind it. What's with the giant book, and why does it look like someone was just here?

Levels reach ridiculous proportions in this game. I have no idea what the max level is (Editor's Note: Looks like it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 800). At this point I re-specced my character to re-arrange 95 levels worth of points, and it was a blast now that I really knew what I was doing. I re-arranged points many more times before I finished the game (which was around level 200 on New Game, level 230 on New Game +, and level 240 on New Game ++)

The dark side of PVP is that sometimes other players can invade your game and make you battle them. And they're usually better than you, so be prepared to get murdered. NPCs can also "invade" and give you a hard time, as seen here with me being accosted by a vicious dwarf.

The Belfry Gargoyles were a weird fight for me. I didn't have any help for this one so I pretty much ran from them the entire fight, hitting them with drive-by spin attacks when I could get away with it. It took a while and it felt pretty gimpy, but I won. This rooftop battlefield reminds me of the Martyr Logarius fight in Bloodborne, but the fight is actually a reference to another boss entirely: The rooftop gargoyles in the original Dark Souls.

I really enjoyed this game...up until Black Gulch. It's full of poison-spitting stone monoliths, and they're extremely cheap. Bee-lining through the area isn't even that effective because of the sheer volume of statues firing at you. At least the area is short, but it damn near made me quit playing.

The boss there is one of the easier bosses in the game, especially for a Primal boss, but I was so frustrated after that horribly-designed area leading up to him that I was in no state for a fight of any kind, and lost a bunch of times.

One thing is for sure, being done with this gulch is incredibly welcome. Onward and upward.

I like the next boss fight a lot. It involves a horde of undead, led by...

...White Walkers a trio of skeleton lords. They're menacing, but their HP is quite low and the spin attack tears through them. They're nothing compared to the Shadows of Yharnam trio in Bloodborne, the closest thing I can compare them to.

Moving on, I encounter the closest thing this game has to a character with sex appeal. Alas, this colorless world has no room for love.

It does have room for some really atmospheric vistas, though. That ruined windmill tower is brimming with personality; best thing is that this is a gameplay shot rather than a cutscene shot. Gonna bring this post to a close here, but I'll do more on this tomorrow.


  1. Speaking of hopeless, nihilistic, negative games, apparently Hatred came out recently! It's funny---it was one of the most controversial games around when the news was abuzz, with it being taken down and reuploaded to Steam, but now that it's actually one seems to care. I guess it's a lot more fun to complain about things before they happen.
    As for its quality...I don't know. I haven't seen any playthroughs.

    1. It's funny, I've been pointing out lately how Terminator Genisys is a month away and huge amounts of people online seem determined to hate it before it even exists. I'm all for hating things when one has a legitimate reason to, but hating things before they even exist is pretty lame. Especially if it ends up hurting sales of something that isn't bad to begin with.

  2. Gotta love the full sets of armor with the same name.

    Taking a boss's weapon greatly appeals to me. Regular boss drops are great, but this is even better because you get to see the weapon built up as something special since it did a lot of damage to you.

    Particular considering that this is a PS3 game up-ported, the screenshots are quite impressive looking.

  3. Surprised to see so many new games on here because it's such a retro blog. I like DS2 a lot though (only played the PS3 version) and it's cool to see it being talked about. If you think the scenery and layouts are good in this game, you'll like DS1 because it trounces this one in both areas. DS1 has some of the best world-design I've seen in a long time.

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