“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” The call of the abyss returns in Dark Souls II, and it is undoubtedly worthy of carrying the torch of the Souls series.
The events of Dark Souls have passed into legend and myth, as Dark Souls II takes place at least a millennia after its predecessor. The world of Drangleic is so far removed from Dark Souls that one might question why it is even titled Dark Souls II. However, in typical Souls fashion, the game deliberately yet vaguely hints at the connections between now and then. The story is almost completely between the lines, told between the scarce lines of dialogue (some of which are lies), item descriptions and even the character and level designs. The locales will take your breath away. From Software is still a master at visual storytelling, as every detail of the level design tells the story of a slowly crumbling world with hints of its past glory. Your twisted journey will lead you to towers above and chasms below, and everything in between will claim your life the first chance they get.
In terms of difficulty, the game is much more accessible to newcomers, but it presents a double-edged blade. For instance, an area can have up to five bonfires, though it takes away the catharsis and relief you get from, say, reaching the bonfire at the bottom of Blighttown in Dark Souls. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still die plenty of times before reaching the bosses; the level design and relentless waves of enemies will still do you in. Speaking of which, I was slightly disappointed at the 30 or so bosses, as only two of them gave me any real trouble. However, that was only the first run, and the game truly deserves the moniker of “Dark” on NG+, with new enemies that live longer and hit harder at every corner. Even on the first run, I have seen many a host die to these “easy” bosses when I am summoned to help fight them.
PvP has also  been tweaked so that backstab-fishing is no longer viable. This prevents the constant backstab-fishing that plagued the first Dark Souls, but it also prevents punishing players for making a stupid move. Sorcery, hexes and pyromancies are now rigged in that they may be cast almost instantaneously and deal insane amounts of damage. It seemed though that From Software wanted to make magic viable in PvP, but the end result is that melee-only builds are almost completely unviable now. Note that these changes are not necessarily bad, just different from the norm of Dark Souls.
One last qualm I have with the game is its soundtrack, which is composed by Motoi Sakuraba and Yuka Kitamura, a newcomer to the series. The tracks are all very short, most of which are less than two minutes, and few of them are as memorable. It pains me to say that none of them could match the orchestrated brilliance that was Ornstein and Smough’s theme, much less the beauty of the piano piece “Gwyn, Lord of Cinder,” which remains to this day as one of my favorite boss themes ever. I suspect the sheer amount of bosses in Dark Souls II meant that the composers could not spend as much time as they would like on a single piece. Additionally, it was unfortunate that the soundtrack was not fully orchestrated like its predecessor.
Nevertheless, Dark Souls II is still an amazing game. If you liked Demons Souls or Dark Souls at all, you need to buy Dark Souls II. If you’re intrigued by the series but too much of a scrub to play the series, the accessibility of Dark Souls II will ease you into the abyss. And the call of the abyss is still strong, “for the curse of life is the curse of want…and so, you peer into the fog, in hope of answers.”
PS. Dark Souls II is currently only on PS3/360, and the current version has graphical hiccups and an average framerate of about 25. You may want to consider the PC version releasing on April 25.


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