by William Thompson, reviewed on
The old crones mean what they say
Although the building is old and shrouded in mystery, the light glowing from inside is inviting. The adventurer walks nearer, anxious about who or what is inside. He walks up to the small bridge leading to the doorway and hears sound coming from the other side of the door. With trepidation, he quietly opens the door and moves inside, finding three old crones and a serving maid. It appears though, that he has been expected. The three sisters - like a scene from Macbeth - know who he is and continue to tell him that his task will be an impossible one. Welcome to Dark Souls II. At least they tell you right from the outset what to expect.
OK, so after the original Dark Souls, I was expecting Dark Souls II to be a challenging game. Local inhabitants will frequently remind you that what you are attempting to accomplish is unattainable. But attempt it we must. Our lives depend on it, as our journey involves searching for a cure to our hollow condition.
The first thing you will notice is that - clearly - the game has been ported from the console version. Controller prompts show the Xbox controller set-ups, which is nothing short of annoying when playing a PC game. Fortunately Dark Souls II does let you choose whether you want to use a gamepad or the keyboard and mouse combination. I tried both, but found the gamepad controls to be confusing, mostly due to the fact that the indicated controls weren't working as shown on the screen. I played the bulk of the game using keyboard and mouse and even those were unintuitive and took time and effort to get used to. Jumping for instance, can only be completed while sprinting. Where most games have the space bar as the jump button, Dark Souls II has you holding the space bar to sprint in the desired direction, following it up with the 'F' key to jump. It is an odd combination that perhaps could be explained away as an added feature to make the game even more difficult or frustrating than it already is. A few hours into the game I finally got the knack of the unique set-up, after which it ceased being an issue.
But it wasn't the only annoyance - the camera angle made sure of that. For the most part it works just fine, but when you do battling with a foe, the camera angles go awry. After swinging lustily with your sword - or other preferred weapon - the camera angle will often move, taking your opponent out of your line of vision. A secondary swing would then miss its desired location and leave your character vulnerable to counter-attack. Playing around with the sensitivity controls solved this inconvenience to a certain degree but never to the point where it completely went away.
It goes without saying in a Dark Souls game, that any enemy can kill you. As such, all combat - and especially melee combat - comes down to timing. Your character only has a limited amount of Stamina – which varies according to your class and the upgrades you have generated. Slashing away at foes with your weapon of choice diminishes your stamina, so it is important to make each hit count. Running and dodging also consumes stamina.
Challenging. Plenty of freedom to choose your path.
Camera angle can be annoying. Controls took awhile to get used to.