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Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Review

I can’t remember if I finished the original incarnation of Dark Souls 2, and I’m not really sure why. I really (really really) loved Demon Souls. I thought the original Dark Souls was amazing and added so much to the Souls formula. For whatever reason, though, I never really got into Dark Souls 2. Turns out skipping that entry was fine because Scholar of the First Sin improves on many aspect of Dark Souls 2‘s gameplay, adds in all the previous DLC and makes it an overall amazing experience.

If you’ve never played a Souls game, they’re essentially 3rd person action RPG’s that some would describe as brutally difficult. While I would agree that they can be difficult, they’re not hard in an “arcade cheap” sense, the game’s not killing you just to be cruel. I see it as more a series of tests of the players skill. Overcoming those challenges is really the true reward of playing through a Souls game. Sure, you level up, increase your stats and your in-game character gets stronger, but it’s you mastering the mechanics of the game that really allows you to advance. There are a ton of videos showing people playing through the game without dying which I think proves the point:

You progress through the game killing enemies, which give you souls when they die. You can then talk to an NPC and exchange souls to level up you character (you can also use souls to buy items from vendors). Leveling up isn’t automatic, you manually pick a stat (standards like strength, dexterity, intelligence, etc.), one stat per level. Each level up costs more souls than the previous, they essentially represent experience points and currency combined into one.

If you die, though, you drop all the souls you’re carrying. This sucks, and is probably the mechanic that can causes the most frustration when playing through the games. The one bright spot is that you can go back to the spot where you died and retrieve them. If you happen to die on the way back to retrieve your souls, you’re screwed. They’re gone forever. I really like this mechanic because it makes death matter, it makes you play cautiously and careful and it makes your choices as a player really matter.

Bonfires serve as checkpoints along the way. If you light a bonfire then die, you’ll restart there. Resting at one also restores your health and refills your limit use healing flasks. It also respawns all the enemies in the world (not including bosses). This system creates a sometimes difficult choice: do I go back and rest (but respawn all enemies in the area) or try to push forward and hit the next bonfire. You can also fast travel between bonfires, which makes getting around the huge world of Dark Souls 2 much easier.

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The world is made up by a number of different areas with different environments, enemies and challenges. Each area also has a number of bosses, some of which can be pretty fun and otherwise which can be an absolute pain in the ass. Luckily, you can summon both human and NPC players into the world (up to 3) to help you with the fights which can make them much, much easier.

Scholar of the First Sin brings a number of welcome improvements to the original Dark Souls 2. It includes all previous DLC, new enemy placements, better visuals.

I think I would sum up what I love about Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin, and the Souls series in general, with a few basic points:

  • A dark atmosphere.
  • A story that’s not forced on the player and not delivered through long cutscenes.
  • You can customize your character any way you want: sword and shield, two-handed club, magic user, duel wield, wear heavy armor and absorb damage or light armor but move faster and dodge attacks. It’s really up to you and any style is completely viable.
  • Tons of different areas to explore.
  • Lots of unique enemies and bosses to fight.
  • The difficult of the game hasn’t been reduced to appeal to a more general audience.

Overall I had a great time with Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin. I don’t know how much the game necessarily advances the already established Souls formula, but it certainly hones it to a higher degree than any previous entry.

Score: 91/100

Also, special thanks to FiGhTiNCoWBoY who put up 67 roughly 20 minute long video walkthroughs for the game which helped me a ton. That’s almost 24 hours straight which is insane

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