Review: A Return to Dark Souls 2

Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin Review

Platforms Released on: PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4
Platform Reviewed on: PC
Release Date: April 01, 2015
Review Date: August 2018

So after a long break from the Souls series and after finishing Dark Souls: Remastered, I decided to give Scholar of the First Sin another try. My initial exposure was when I bought this game after having bought the original Dark Souls 2 and after buying and completing all of the Lost Crowns DLC packs. Let me say with confidence that SotFS isn’t just improved graphics, (*cough* Dark Souls: Remastered *cough*) there are brand new weapons, a whole new armor set, new enemy placements and a bunch of other tweaks to in-game lore descriptions. It also comes with all the DLC pre-installed.

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Dearest Majula, I’ve missed you so…

So right off the bat my biggest gripe with Dark Souls 2 is the abundant lack of Playable Classes. There are 8 instead of the usual 10 and personally I don’t feel like they massively stand out as unique as most of these are returning classes from Dark Souls 1. Props for familiarity but no points for creativity. I went with Sorcerer 🧙‍♂️, naturally, as i prefer a ranged damage dealer playstyle.

The Total starting level for Dark Souls 1’s Sorcerer is 82 while your actual starting level is 3. Whereas in Dark Souls 2 the Sorcerer class gets 64 total levels starting at level 11. What this means in simple terms is that you have it a lot worse in the early game in Dark Souls 2 than in other souls titles because you have less attribute points and have to spend more in-game currency(souls) to get those points from the get-go. On top of that, Sorcerers usually suffer from low damage early game due to lack of stat investment and proper equipment.

Your stats and equipment can only take you so far in this game however, as a lot of making it through any Dark Souls comes down to personal skill. (Or you find a rapier and spam R1 but that’s only for filthy casuals). Learning when an enemy has openings in it’s attacks for you to retaliate or heal safely is a core part of combat.

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This game has some of the best visuals for magic I’ve ever seen

That being said, the first few areas of the game were manageable enough with patience and proper use of consumables and it wasn’t long before I found a new spell and had enough levels to be able to use it. The first boss I encountered was fairly straightforward with the help of some friendly NPC Summons.

Once the boss was defeated, I took a detour and started exploring the area before moving on and found one of scholar’s other major changes was new high-power enemy NPC invaders. He caught me fully by surprise and gave me a swift death. While Dark Souls is known as a franchise to kill you at a moment’s notice, this encounter really drove that point home for me and I knew I could come back to this area later to deal with this new foe, so onward i pressed. In another area, appropriately named Heide’s Tower of Flame, there was another major rework of enemy placement. With a massive fire drake blocking one of the paths to a boss and one of the game’s PvP Covenants.

It gave me the impression, like the invader before, that SotFS has very much reworked it’s accessibility to early game areas. Things like the invader and the dragon come across as living, breathing “come back when you’re higher level” signs that better define the path you’re meant to take. Don’t let this stop you though, if you have enough skill to get somewhere early then you reap the rewards of it. It’s one of my favourite gameplay aspects of Dark Souls in that it won’t hold your hand but it also won’t hold you back.

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This isn’t even a boss fight…

Boss Encounters are usually indicated by a fog wall the player has to pass through before the boss fight begins, and while the player base for Dark Souls 2 is dwindling, there are still plenty of in-game characters you can summon to help out with your adventure. SotFS actually adds so many new NPC Invaders and Summons to the base game and they’re all very unique in they’re abilities and equipment. Some are made to tank damage for you, while others can really pack a punch while you play the role of live bait. Whatever the occasion, it’s never a bad idea to pick up a summon sign if you see one.

The area bosses themselves in this game, like most souls games are very unique and integral to the in-game lore. You’ll face everything including, giants, dragons, giant dragons and even a frog demon! So much face to beat and so little time. It gets even better if you’re like me and enjoy delving into the why of how things came to be then you’ll love seeing how it all comes together in the form of bosses and item descriptions of their weapons. Oh yeah, did I mention you can make weapons out of bosses?!? It’s so satisfying to use the weapon of the thing that was minutes earlier caving your skull in the very weapon you now hold.

The multiplayer aspect still comes in it’s usual form of one player (summoned) placing a summon sign and another player (summoner) activating it. Although, at this point the active online community is pretty much non-existent. You do get the odd Human invader too,  but if i can warn you about any real threat in Dark Souls games it’s hackers and cheaters. Accepting items that shouldn’t exist naturally in the game like Lightning Binoculars+10 for example, is a very easy way to get yourself banned from the Dark Souls servers. It affects your whole Steam account so you can’t get back online in game ever again. I cannot stress enough, DO NOT ACCEPT ITEMS FROM STRANGERS. Instead, do the honorable thing and either kill them if you can or leap off the nearest cliff. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

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Such Style…Much Gesture, Wow.

Overall I feel that Scholar of the First Sin does much better as a standalone title rather than a direct sequel to Dark Souls. But in saying that it somehow remains my favourite of the 3 Dark Souls games. It’s one I constantly find myself coming back to even if just to get my butt handed to me it’s always a laugh. Recommended with friends!

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