Dark Souls II

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“Dark Souls II” for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 is not a pleasant game—at least not in the traditional sense. It will unapologetically and periodically pulverize you into dust and take everything you have worked so hard to obtain. Half of the time, you may not even know where you are or what you are supposed to be doing. As melodramatic as that sounds, it is the essence of the “Dark Souls” experience. While this may not sound like a positive experience, hardcore fans of the series swear by the unforgiving and sometimes highly frustrating atmosphere.

These frustrations and the feelings of triumph or defeat that may follow are the “carrot on a stick” that continues to pull players into the “Dark Souls” universe, even after leading them to the edge of smashing their controller against the wall. “Dark Souls II” has managed to continue walking this fine line between frustration and reward, while also providing new players with as safe an entry point as possible.

“Dark Souls II” is a game about death as much as it is a game about slaying just about anything that moves. Even the smallest enemies pose a very real threat for anyone bold enough to rush into the situation unprepared. From rolling around in a light set of armor to swinging one of the game’s excessively large, ultra great swords, everything feels exactly as expected.

While at times some of the game play may be what some would call “clunky,” only a handful of player deaths can be attributed to poor game design. Usually, the deaths are the result of poor player judgment. Whether a mistimed dodge, an overzealous charge or a failure to inspect surroundings, players should anticipate being caught off guard often. Between the sense of accomplishment that comes with progressing through the game and the insane level of difficulty, “Dark Souls II” offers a game experience unlike any other, remaining a formidable challenge for returning veterans while accessible to new players.

Recommendations: “The Witcher 2” or “Severance: Blade of Darkness”

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