Welcome to the land of Dark Souls. You will die. Get this in your brain. You will die, and die, and die, and die, and then die again. You will rage, throw your controller across the room in frustration, and then pick it up again and die some more.
This is what makes Dark Souls II a brilliant game.
For those unfamiliar with the sequel to one of the most difficult RPGs ever created, this is a game that is meant to test you, to push you to your limits – both physically and mentally. This is a game for those who are sick of having their hand held by modern games and are willing to embark on a journey that is pure man versus machine. Don’t believe me?
In order for you to progress, you need to collect souls, level up, kill bosses and advance through. Standard procedure, eh? Listen up.
Each time you die, you lose all of your souls, a chunk your health and go back to the last checkpoint. Is that checkpoint an hour back the way you came? Did you have 20,000 souls? Is your health almost cut in half? Too bad. You go back. And every enemy respawns. You cannot sell your weapons for more souls. You can’t save up your souls. You either have them or spend them.
If you do die, you have one chance to redeem yourself: If you can get back to where you died (with less health, less resources and facing each enemy again), you’ll get your souls back. If not, then they’re gone forever, and you can never get them back.
So why the hell would anyone want to play this? Dark Souls II gives a feeling of reward and accomplishment that few games can ever attempt to provide. There is nothing more satisfying than killing that boss that stood in your way for so many hours and caused so many deaths. The incredible feeling of journeying with a friend or stranger in co-op and hacking your way through a difficult challenge is immensely fulfilling. But that can vanish in an instant if your partner suddenly turns on you, stealing your souls and wiping your progress away.
The world is a morbid, yet subtle one, filled with hopelessness and despair, though with tiny flickers of hope on the very horizon. Travelling through this dark fantasy world and its bizarre locations, disturbing lore and vicious enemies is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else. I’ve been gaming for a decade and a half, and never has a game ever been so rewarding, so daunting, so brutal, so rich, so unforgiving, and so utterly addictive as Dark Souls.
If you have the dedication, the willingness to fight, the strength to get back up on your feet every time you’re knocked down, and – most importantly – the skill and patience, then Dark Souls II will reward you. That I can guarantee.
Prepare to die.