Review: Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
Is The results of what seems a long lasting collaboration between Namco Bandai and From Software, Dark Souls has become a flagship for the Japanese publisher which emerged a year ago as Dark Souls II. With its success, the game was strengthened by a series of three DLC during the summer of 2014. So without much surprise that last November, Namco Bandai announced a complete remake and remodeled version of the game on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC under the name of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. In addition to enhanced technical features, did the content change enough to justify another purchase?
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is primarily the opportunity to enjoy the power gain of the current consoles, a trends by publishers to highlight games of the previous generation that didn’t get the full treatment. Upon my technical assessment, things are broadly positive: the kingdom of Drangleic got its 1080p face-lifts, with a hint of anti-aliasing added, improved management of light and shadows as well. Rendering on consoles is equivalent to the basic PC version, with small visual changes that even puts it just above that level (Things are rather fluid and without major hitches on PlayStation 4 in comparison to the Xbox One version). This is especially noticeable when you enter the darkness and make use of the torch to light the areas, giving the perfect visual suspense. I just regret the excessive use of bloom and the fact that the off-plated decorations were not retouched. In one way or another, this is undoubtedly the most complete version on the technical side.
When it comes to the story or campaign, certain elements that will split the players, especially when it comes to the fact that you can’t import your save to continue your adventure from the previous generation. First of all, the three released and bundled DLC have strangely stayed intact. The only difference, instead of receiving the access keys to additional areas directly in your inventory, you will rummage Drangleic for those same keys. The main changes are of two kinds: the first concerns the placement and number of monsters, the second is the key exploration itself. Regarding the latter, it is now more directive in the first part of the adventure, so you can make use of them later. You will gain access to key elements much earlier in the adventure, like for example discover the second blacksmith in the first few hours of game. The other overused gimmick is the proliferation of petrified characters that hinder the player’s progress, and unfortunately without apparent logic. The intention was clearly to increase the challenge, but not artificially.
So you thought you could find a shortcut to save by the campfire? If you missed a statue blocking the way, you will be forced to go around and spend a considerable amount early in the game to buy objects that saves you from petrification. Of course, the level design remain the same and if you have already played the original title, you will soon realize that by finding these core objects, the lifespan of the game is lengthened considerably for beginners and shortened for regulars. I therefore regret this choice, because the player will feel like being punished for having explored more than you should, which goes contrary to what the original title had taught us. These changes, once gotten used to, give a little more coherent progression, which was one of the weak points of Dark Souls II. If frustration is felt the early hours for the veterans, just accept it and relearn every corner by heart.
If frustration is felt the early hours for the veterans, just accept it and relearn every corner by heart.
Moreover, this reissue seems to inflate the difficulty by adding monsters in each area. If the desire to show that the new console can handle more is quite understandable, it is still a pointless addition. Each zone will now add anything between two and three times more enemies, whose type and locations have been modified. Considering the coherence of the universe and the respect of lore, these changes are going in the right direction and I do encourage this. It is nice to see zombies guards go after the bodies of giants. Too bad that I sometimes enter in arenas that clearly were never thought to receive such a large and mobile enemy. The rise of the dragon sanctuary will become a nightmare for its part.
If the veterans will enjoy this revised challenge, it will be difficult to encourage beginners to continue. Without dwelling too much on the very unfavorable timing of this output, I imagine that people who passed on the previous generation for a full version will be tempted to buy it. The real problem is not linked to these decisions, certainly debatable, but for known bugs that are yet to be corrected, and can sometimes block you adventure. The arrival in April of the PC version allowed the discovery of two deadly bugs: The first is the surreal drops switches between 30 and 60 fps and the rate of the weapon quality wearing off, which is somehow doubled.
If you add these two issues to the number of enhanced monsters, you create situations that sometimes put you in tricky and annoying situations. Specifically, each zone contains more monsters than your weapon durability allows. And while the basic game pushes to use up to three weapons, often only a few dozen meters after a campfire, our weapon are already in critical condition.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy of the game provided by Namco Bandai. The comparison between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One has been based on Digital Foundry’s analysis. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in both retail and online store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Huge and rich world to discover
• A game worth rediscovering for regulars
• The fights are ruthless as they used to be
• Almost better than PC
• Dual wielding weapons
• That useful torch
• The redesigned interface
• The new game + for those seeking a heartache
• A less coherent story
• Unfair for beginners
• To many enemies added for no reason
• No save import from old generation?
• A rather disappointing early start of the game
• Some technical problems are still here
• New bugs inherited from the PC version