I Have Died 23 Times So Far in Dark Souls II

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I have played Dark Souls II for nearly 10 hours so far after receiving an early review copy from Namco Bandai last Friday. I have leveled up to 47. I have defeated three bosses (though only one gave me a trophy so I guess the other two must have just have been mini-bosses). I have died 23 times. (And counting, of course.)

I don’t remember such a feature being available in the previous game (maybe it was hidden somewhere that I never found?), but one of the neat things I have discovered early on in this sequel is a monument located in the main hub area which keeps track of the number of deaths. The death tally in Dark Souls II, like its predecessor and Demon’s Souls before it, is like a badge of honor. Having a high death total isn’t looked down upon given the demanding level of challenge, but managing to scrape by with a low number of deaths is the mark of a skilled adventurer. The sense of pride gained from a valiant death can be every bit as strong as mustering up the intestinal fortitude to take on an intimidating foe and landing the killing blow after a tense battle.

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Overall, I’m fairly pleased with my 23 deaths. It’s been a while since I last played the original Dark Souls so I was a tad rusty right out of the gate. The online servers were also not available ahead of launch so I have not had any aid from blood stains, player messages, or multiplayer interaction. In that way, this has been the first game in the series that I have explored completely blind. I’m sure a number of deaths could have been avoided had I received proper warning of surprise attacks in a few spots. Seriously, how the hell was I supposed to know that climbing a ladder up to the roof area of a keep wall would lead to a giant bird flying overhead and dropping a giant knight down that would go on to kill me in one hit? Or that four locked and loaded ballistae would be waiting to fire upon me as soon as I stepped into a room? Oh well, I guess someone had to be the guinea pig.

Yup, this is Dark Souls alright!

Within a couple hours, though, I slipped back into a groove of recognizing ambush points and enemy attack/movement patterns, remembering that every area is basically designed to anally rape me with a rusty bastard sword, and forcing myself to be cautiously patient. That’s really the key to these games. It’s always rushing through a doorway or going for that one extra hit on a combo string that leads to peril, when you should have just played it slow and steady by taking baby steps through uncharted territory and cutting short attacks to reserve stamina for the next block/dodge/attack sequence.

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Even through all the deaths, in many ways Dark Souls II seems a tad more accessible this time around, at least in terms of allowing you to get off to a quicker start and significantly cutting down on a lot of the unnecessary tedium. Things like quick travel between bonfires are available immediately this time around. Bonfires in general seem more abundant as well. Monsters still respawn whenever you rest, but there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much backtracking to worry about. The main hub area is set up like a town populated with NPCs who provide access to shops, covenants, and blacksmithing much earlier on in the game than before. Basic items and equipment are also more abundant. For example I have somewhere around 30 lifegems stocked up, in addition to the rechargeable Estus Flash, from enemy loot drops alone. I already have all four ring slots filled with attribute boosting jewelry as well, whereas rings in the last game were a whole lot harder to come by from what I remember.

I still have a long way to go–and a whole lot more deaths to suffer–before finishing the game and posting a full review, but my main takeaway so far is that Dark Souls II is a whole lot more of the same, only further refined and I would say far better balanced than ever before. That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

Check out the new launch trailer, titled “Locomotive Breath”!

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!