The Beauty Of: Dark Souls II

Dark Souls

Dark Souls II had an unfortunate pre-release tease that displayed graphics unlike anything we’d get in the final product. When the fans got their hands on the game, it left many feeling disappointed and lied to. What we expected was the dynamic lighting and an absolutely suffocating darkness that the game’s early looks depicted. What we got instead, was a washed out and dull world that had only remnants of the trailers, and it was very disheartening.

Despite all of this however, Dark Souls II as its own game, has some absolutely gorgeous locales. There are many specific scenes that just captivate and shock me with their beauty or atmosphere.

I decided after looking at some of these places, to spawn a series. I will take a game and traverse the world end to end in search of the most beautiful or artistic moments. HD PVR in hand, I capture them for the fans. My first target: Dark Souls II. 

Things Betwixt
Things Betwixt – The simplistic beauty of this scene, with the intentional light offering a sense of hope in an otherwise dreary world struck me immediately.
Between Betwixt and Majula
The Path to Majula – I love the way that you traverse a dark cavern, and after nothing but hopelessness, you begin to see a glimmer of light shining through the cracks… What you see next is awe-inspiring.
Majula Sunset
Majula – Majula’s sunset, and the way it glistens on the water is truly one of the warmest, calmest vistas I’ve seen in both the Souls series and games in general. My PS3 does this art no justice.
Forest Of Fallen Giants
Forest of Fallen Giants – This area is an expansive introductory level, and while it has a massive castle to explore with secrets hidden all around you, this simple resting area contains more beauty and atmosphere than the entirety of the forest and castle combined. I love the way the light hits the bloody statue, and the trees that have seemingly taken back their land from the pillars and stone that make up the room.
Tower of Flame (3)
Heide’s Tower of Flame – Despite my capture card refusing to get a brighter image, Majula’s sunset combined with the blue and red hues of this area offers another calming and gorgeous vista. This time, however, you see the ruins of what was once an ancient, beautiful city.
No Mans Wharf (2)
No Man’s Wharf – It proved difficult to get a perfect image of No Man’s Wharf, as its darkness, lighting, and the complex design of the cave caused me to consistently shift to new areas, looking for the best angle. Despite these problems, No Man’s Wharf is always a sight to behold. The remnants of great ships hanging from the stalactites, the makeshift houses carved and built into the rock itself, and the rickety boardwalks leading no-where all build this area up into one of the most unique experiences in Dark Souls II.

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Huntsman’s Copse – It was very difficult to choose which area best represented the Copse as a whole, but I found the answer to this the moment I arrived in the Copse for the first time many months ago. This vista captures everything that makes Huntsman’s Copse a joy – and nightmare – to traverse.

Undead Purgatory
Undead Purgatory – This is another prime example of how the layout and overall design of a singular room can prove to be more chilling than an entire labyrinth. I cannot get enough of this area. This room gives off many vibes with its blood-splattered walls, dark hallways, candlelight, and of course, the grotesque creature to the right.
Shaded Woods (2)
Shaded Woods – This area is one of the most brilliant areas in all of Dark Souls II, and yet it contains nothing but fog and trees. Dark Souls, in essence, is about the darkness itself. They have wanted to make you feel squished and suffocated by the darkness and the world, and the fact that they can do exactly that without a single hint of black in Shaded Woods is commendable. You feel anxious just stepping two feet ahead, especially considering you are constantly surrounded by nearly invisible foes.
Drangleic Castle (2)
Drangleic Castle – You knew this was coming. The Souls franchise is famous for its castles, and Drangleic is no exception. It proved impossible to get a shot of the entirety of the sprawling towers and twisting corridors. Despite that however, the intimidation this castle gives off while you climb the stairs is a unique experience to say the least. The way the rain reflects on the objects in this area and the constant flickering of lightning helps build atmosphere.
The Gutter (2)
The Gutter – This is by far my favourite area in Dark Souls II. The Gutter is brilliant in that it is entirely black and full of creaking, broken walkways made of wood. As you go through, you light torches in the level that not only mark your progress and give you makeshift way-points, but build the level itself. Each torch lights up another piece of this intricately designed city, with the fire illuminating new pathways and traps, and the fact that you are the one doing it makes it an experience that is unforgettable. I dread and anticipate coming here every time.
Dragon Aerie (2)
Dragon Aerie – This scene will be recognized by any that watched the initial Dark Souls II footage, as it is literally impossible to look away. Wobbling bridges, dragons gliding through the sky, the castle resting on the peak of one of a nearly endless supply of giant rock columns. These are all examples of what make this area beautiful and memorable. Dragons have never felt more majestic than in this area, and I love every second of it.

Shulva (2)
Shulva – This is an extra image, as it is technically not from the base game. That said, Shulva’s creepy vibes and wondrous towers and pyramids cannot go unmentioned. The intricacy of this area is nearly unmatched in all of Dark Souls II, and the emphasis on feeling lost and confused adds to the emotion you feel while traversing the seemingly endless labyrinth.

New Bloodborne Gameplay Screams “Buy Me”

Bloodborne

Bloodborne, FromSoftware’s newest monster, has been given the ‘new trailer’ treatment at Gamescom 2014, and by Gwyn, does it ever hit hard.

Miyazaki dropping the more methodical approach of Dark Souls combat in favour of a more visceral, on-your-toes action game appears to be a smart move, as the action looks even more exhaustingly difficult and punishing than ever.

Imminent trailer ahead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WsqQtqwP9E

My gushing for all things FromSoftware never ceases. With that however, comes exceptionally high expectations. Luckily, it appears that Bloodborne is shattering all of them with every new video.

Only time will tell if this game can manage to surpass the absolutely ridiculous standards FromSoftware has set for themselves. If this trailer is any indication, they’re on the right track.

New Dark Souls II Lost Crowns DLC Screenshots

Dark Souls

The first Dark Souls II DLC expansion, Crown Of The Sunken King, comes ever closer to its imminent release. In anticipation of this, Bandai Namco has graciously released a slew of screenshots to fuel the ever-burning hype train.

The screenshots show a variety of new enemies, tight, dank corridors and chambers most likely filled with peril.

Crown Of The Sunken King is expected out on July 22nd, followed by Crown of the Old Iron King on August 26th, and Crown of the Ivory King on September 24th. Each piece of DLC content will cost $9.99.

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Project Beast First Gameplay Leaked

Project Beast

From Software’s upcoming Project Beast, rumoured to be a Playstation 4 exclusive, has had its first gameplay leaked this fine evening. Though this seems reminiscent of the first screenshots that were shown, this is high quality, and comes in video format. The images prior to this didn’t really do the game much justice, but praise the sun, as this is looking like it will be a gorgeous game.

Though the youtube link is nice, a higher quality version can be found here. I’d definitely recommend hitting it up if you want the ultimate viewing experience.

I can’t even express my excitement for this game. Dark Souls II was a fantastic experience, and I am hardly able to wait until E3’s hopeful showing of Project Beast.

Also, shotguns.

Dark Souls II Review

Dark Souls II

The most admirable thing about the Souls series is that it isn’t afraid to take risks. While most games hold the players hand and teach them absolutely everything, Souls lays out the bare foundation and sets you off on your journey. You are given naught but the basics and must learn the rest through exploration and experimentation, finding your own way through the dark.

I couldn’t be happier to say that Dark Souls II is every bit as challenging, rewarding, and utterly brilliant as its predecessors, even if a few of the changes weren’t for the better.

Dark Souls 2 2

Dark Souls II has you playing the role of an undead as he/she attempts to remove the curse that is cast upon him/her for reasons unknown. Like the previous entries in the series, the plot is told in an interesting way in that it denounces any sort of cutscene/expositional format, and instead has you searching for the answers yourself. This can be done in several ways, from engaging in dialogue with NPCs as they spout off vague clues, or reading item descriptions that tell tales of old and fill in the blanks.

The game never beats you over the head with what is happening, and you might even find yourself unsure of what has transpired after completing your journey, only to encourage you to delve deeper and find the answers for yourself. It is a very rewarding and mysterious way of telling a story, and it is enhanced by the wonderful characters introduced to you within your approximately 60 hour journey in Drangleic.

From the ever tricksy Mild-Mannered Pate to the crestfallen Lucatiel of Mirrah, you’re bound to fall in love with the eclectic cast of characters. Benhart of Jugo, the Scottish Knight obsessed with his beloved sword becomes a sort of friend and companion, while Gavlan, a bearded dwarf, offers you broken English and a place to sell your wares! You’re always hoping to run into someone interesting, and like the previous Souls games, Dark Souls II is no exception.

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Like the NPCs, the world design is colourful, grotesque, and fascinating. Each area feels as if it were torn out of a high fantasy novel and transformed into a macabre setpiece. From vast forests made from the corpses of giants, to a pirate cove built within a dank, dark cavern, you will always want to take a moment to ponder what you’re seeing. Sweeping landscapes with frightening, yet comforting horizons grace every corner, and utterly hideous sights are placed to contrast the beauty of Drangleic.

The enemies you will face in each area help keep that fragile atmosphere in check with their placement and designs. Each time you venture into a new area of Drangleic, you will run into a myriad of new enemy types. They never feel out of place, instead, feel perfectly natural, as if you just happened to encroach on their environment.

The bosses are much the same, in that they feel like the truly do live in this world. The design of the bosses in Souls are always a selling point for me, as the artists at From Software know how to make tired ideas captivating and frightening. Each boss you will face is more surprising than the last, and they all have their own subtle design and attack patterns that make them a thrill to fight.

Dark Souls 2 4

All of this is rendered within Dark Souls II’s updated engine. Boasting advanced lighting and particles, this game successfully shines brighter than ever before, though it comes at a cost. The textures in Dark Souls II are noticeably lower in quality, and it is jarring to walk into a beautiful castle with hilariously awful textures in some of the objects. I never found that the textures detracted from the atmosphere or design, but it is noticeable to say the least.

Luckily, the frame rate has improved drastically over Dark Souls, with no areas being even remotely comparable to the infamous Blighttown. It’s somewhat impressive considering the lighting they have crafted. Running through a corridor with a torch is often thrilling, as it seems like lighting was studied religiously before implementation. The shadows are wonderful and spooky, and walking into a new area just to see ash from a flame glimmer through the rays of the sun is breathtaking in some locales. These kinds of aspects really further the atmosphere, making dusty ruins feel filthy and untouched, and coasts of the seemingly endless shore feel tranquil and serene.

The music in Dark Souls II is as memorable and gorgeous as Dark Souls before it, and each track was made with respect for the environment and boss encounter it coincides with. You will have your typical God choruses and strings sections, but they do manage to transcend other staples in the genre, while offering a more bizarre twist.

Dark Souls 2 5

Beyond the more artistic side of Dark Souls II, the gameplay remains mostly unchanged. The combat is still weighty, deliberate, and offers visceral swordplay that few games achieve to this magnitude. There are still many builds you can create, from a Katana wielding Thief to a spell slinging temple knight. Magic has been overhauled this time around by allowing the player to essentially ‘level up’ spells capacity and damage, while giving mages the option of a strong and weak attack. Archery was also revamped by allowing a player to move while firing arrows. Little things like this have been expanded upon in Dark Souls II, and it makes a lot of the game feel even more refined in the end.

Unfortunately not all of the changes are for the best, as a statistic called Soul Memory has somewhat ruined the co-operative aspects of Dark Souls II, putting players not only behind a level wall, but a skill wall as well. Soul Memory calculates the collection of souls you’ve attained throughout your journey, and pairs you up accordingly. This sounds nice in theory, but makes summoning a much rarer activity. This truly becomes a problem when you attempt one of the bosses that are clearly designed for co-op, yet cannot find a buddy to help you. Though I could delve deeper into the numerous small changes, like most of the things in Dark Souls II, it’s best to explore and discover for yourself.

Dark Souls 2 6

Dark Souls II is an absolute colossus of a game. It features almost unparalleled amounts of meaningful customization, bizarre worlds to explore, repulsive bosses to conquer, and endless secrets to discover. It is not only better than Dark Souls, but it might be one of the best RPG’s I’ve ever played.

Vgamerz_2

Final Score: 9.5/10

Upset Fans Start Petitions to Fix Dark Souls II

Dark Souls

The launch of Dark Souls II has been overwhelmingly positive for From Software and Namco Bandai. The game has received staggeringly positive critical reception and the community has embraced it with open arms – for the most part.

Fans of the series have been starting petitions to get some of the more controversial aspects of the game fixed.

The first petition asks Namco Bandai to fix Soul Memory. For those who are unaware, Soul Memory is an aspect of the game designed to better pair you up with people of your skill level. The problem is that it’s so stingy that it’s now making invasions and cooperative play sparse and overly difficult, effectively sabotaging the community they wanted to pull in with Dark Souls II‘s new accessibility.

Finite respawning, also in the petition, is a new system in place to help people who are stuck at a certain area progress. In the original Dark Souls, you would have to kill the enemies to progress, but if you died, you’d start over and have to kill them all again. This repetition was frowned upon by many, but embraced by monster farmers. The problem is now that farmers have more trouble gathering precious loot, and some argue that it’s making the game too easy.

Dark-Souls-II

The second petition asks Namco Bandai to fix the timed cooperation. In Dark Souls, when you summoned a player into your world, they could help you progress through the level or take on a boss. This was not a timed endeavour and, as long as you both lived, could continue playing together. In DS II, there is a time limit to how long summons last, making exploration a thing of the past while engaging in jolly cooperation.

I have sunk over fifty hours into Dark Souls II thus far, and I tend to agree that these aspects need to be fixed.

New Dark Souls II launch trailer gets awkward

Dark Souls

Namco Bandai released a final trailer to promote the launch of Dark Souls II today, and it causes more cognitive dissonance than any other trailer for the Souls series thus far.

Dark Souls is famous for its crushing difficulty and grotesque atmosphere, so it should come as a surprise that the song of choice for this trailer is a Jethro Tull song. It’s jarring that it is placed over over what is potentially the best example of atmosphere in recent memory. Thus, any feeling this game is supposed to evoke has been crushed by such an awkward choice in music… at least, I think? The lyrics match up to everything going on to an almost poetic degree, but the song itself couldn’t feel more out of place in tone and style.

Beyond the song choice however, the trailer is interesting in that it shows off a few new bosses and enemies that until now, we haven’t seen. The actual design possesses a unique, macabre look as usual, and it’s really exciting to see what is beyond the dilapidated bridges of Drangleic.

Will you be picking up Dark Souls II? I regret to inform you that I will be quitting every aspect of my social life for it.

Top 5 Souls Bosses

Gaping Dragon

Bosses

To celebrate the launch of Dark Souls II, I have prepared my top five favourite bosses from the entire Souls series. These games do almost all of the bosses so effectively that it was truly a challenge to come up with the top five, but, I persevered and will explode your mind with my exceptional choices.

To make this list, each boss had to be unique, atmospheric, well designed, and have wonderful music to boot. They must also be a boss that cannot be exploited easily, a la Gwyn.

Maneater
Hey nightmare, where’d you get them teeth? 

5. Maneaters

Of all the bosses on this list, I have never been so enraged by a fight in the Souls series.

Picture this if you will: you traverse a hideously atmospheric tower of thinly crafted bridges, hidden elevators, and winged creatures that ambush you from all sides. After somehow making your way through the dark pathways, killing your beloved Yurt, and trudging through a vile swamp of red pus and pulsating veins, you find yourself atop the highest tower. You naturally assume that after the nightmare that is ‘Tower of Latria’, they’d throw you a bone and give you a pushover for a boss. This is not the case however, as you’re fighting two large, flying, snake tailed, lion headed creatures that are relentless in their combined assault. The devilish design of Demon’s Souls is never more apparent than here as you’re forced to fight them both at the same time on a narrow bridge, where one charged attack from either one will send you falling off the ledge into the chaos.

This is made even worse by the fact that as you’re attacking one, the other is either floating in the distance shooting dangerous magic at you, or out of sight, waiting in the shadows to ambush you from behind. There is no brilliant tactic for this fight, it’s simply a battle of attrition as you slowly chip away at them, while using all of your precious herbs to counteract their ridiculously powerful attacks.

It may sound like a nightmare, but it’s an utterly fantastic nightmare.

Artorias
I apologize for what I am about to do to you.

4. Knight Artorias

Knight Artorias was a boss that reminded me how effective a straight up brawl can be. He is a unique boss in that he isn’t a huge, towering brute, simply a skulking knight with a greatsword. That said, he is a ruthless, intimidating boss with immensely satisfying, unpredictable attack animations and a power up stage that will kill you in seconds if you do not stop it. What makes him truly interesting though, is that he has arguably the best sub plot in the game.

If you’ve fought him, you’ve probably noticed that his left arm is limp, and that he uses his two-handed sword with one arm. This is because he died to protect Great Grey Wolf Sif when he was just a pup.

Artorias and Sif have a connection that touches most people that play the Souls series, but witnessing all of the events that unfold – that I dare not spoil – make this fight feel very unfortunate. I never want to actually fight Sif or Artorias because they don’t feel evil or malevolent, just an obstacle that you must overcome to progress.

No+you+don+t+_0d6d1966b44400444415b11bbed86534
Where is your God now?

3. Manus, Father of the Abyss

Manus is a fight that I hate and love. I hate how challenging it is, yet love the feeling of completing it. He is like no other boss in that there is a specific pendant you can loot beforehand to defend against his dark magic attacks. It was an excellent design choice as it really changed up the pace of the Dark Souls bosses. To use the pendant, you had to equip it to your Estus slot, so you’re effectively swapping between Estus and the pendant making an already tough boss fight that much harder.

The other thing that makes him so memorable to me is his overall design. He’s horrific, grotesque, and he glows in a way that almost makes him beautiful. Those red eyes are the only thing that stands out in the endless black, so he has a sort of aura that he gives off that makes you feel uneasy.

What’s more, he has a massive arm that will repeatedly smash everything in the immediate area, and getting caught in even one combo will give you an almost guaranteed game over. He is excruciatingly hard, and the only thing that makes him easier is that you can summon Great Grey Wolf Sif.

Not only is Sif the best summoned phantom in the game, but this fight makes Sif and Artorias’ story all the better, and I cannot get enough of it.

Flamelurker
Come back alive, I need your business.

2. Flamelurker

Flamelurker was easily the best boss fight I’ve ever had in a game until I played Dark Souls. He is a bit underwhelming to look at as he is just a hulking beast that is essentially on fire, but what he lacks in design creativity, he makes up for with near-perfect design. He intimidated me so much from the fan outcry online that I literally gave up on Demon’s Souls for several years until I had the gall to take on him and the rest of the game.

Flamelurker starts off as an easy enough fight. He’s menacing and fast and can appear to be overwhelming, but he doesn’t do much damage so you can generally shrug off his hits without worrying… that is, until you actually start to win.

He is amazing because he ramps up in difficulty as the fight progresses. What starts off as a manageable encounter leaves you sweating, shaking, and heart pounding after you win or lose. He becomes more aggressive as you take off his HP, throwing fists, breathing more fire, and charging you like a bull. If this weren’t enough, the radius and damage of his attacks increase, essentially making it nearly impossible to get more than two or three sword attacks in before you have to run and hide to recover health, assuming he doesn’t trap you in a corner or do the aforementioned bull charge.

Good luck is all I have to say.

dark-souls-ornstein-and-smough
Oreo and Smores.

1. Ornstein & Smough

A lot of people must’ve expected this to be the number one spot, and that means that you understand the absolute perfection that is this boss. Like Flamelurker, O&S was the one encounter I was absolutely dreading in Dark Souls. They are notorious for being merciless and cruel, but everything about this boss fight is just perfect.

You have Anor Londo; the most beautiful area in Dark Souls that subsequently has the most vicious and menacing boss encounter. It is a perfect contrast to the appearance and warm atmosphere of the environment. Furthermore, the music is a dissonant god chorus that sums up the essence of O&S’s terror, making the fight with them all the more intense and nerve-wracking.

In the fight itself, you fight both Ornstein and Smough at the same time, but it is not simply a two on one encounter. Depending on the order in which you kill them, they have a drastic change of character that shocks everyone who has taken part in the battle. If you kill Ornstein first, Smough crushes his body with his massive hammer, absorbing the power of lightning to use against you. If you kill Smough first, Ornstein grows dramatically in size, making him Tower Knight 2.0 with lightning and agility.

This is incredibly daunting because you had just spent countless lives trying to kill them, and after a gruelling fight that drains your Estus and elevates your heart rate, just to have From Software slap you in the face for getting cocky.

It is this design that truly makes Dark Souls shine, and while I could gush more about this boss fight, I needn’t, as you have either experienced it and know of what I speak, or you haven’t played Dark Souls and should immediately.