PS3 Reviews: Dark Souls II Review

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Dark Souls II Review

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Graphics:

 

8.4

Gameplay:

 

8.7

Sound:

 

8.8

Control:

 

8.1

Replay Value:

 

9.0

Overall Rating:       8.5

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Namco Bandai

Developer:

From Software

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

RPG

Release Date:

March 11, 2014

The world of Drangleic beckons. It doesn’t invite you to casually explore its many mysteries. It doesn’t extend a helping hand to guide you across the diverse, intertwining landscape. In fact, it doesn’t care in the slightest if you sink or swim. And yet, this unforgiving atmosphere is strangely intoxicating; you continue to take risks because indeed, every action is a risk. This constantly invigorating balancing act between life and death drives you forward, impelling you to discover and conquer. It’s an experience that demands patience and perseverance and if you meet that demand, the rewards will be great.

The opening cinematic is one of the best you’ll see on last-gen hardware. It’s meticulously detailed and designed, and it sets the stage for the epic quest laced with just a smidgen of hope. The in-game graphics aren’t quite as stellar, of course, but From Software focused on creating a highly engaging and immersive world, full of intrigue. In that, they succeeded. Glorious sunsets, dark, dank dungeons, creepy forests, gothic-style arenas; it’s all begging for your participation. The lighting isn’t all that dynamic and the textures aren’t overly impressive but again, DSII excels when one analyzes the whole, as opposed to individual pieces.

The sound is even better, because it solidifies the forbidding environment with every step you take. A haunting score accompanies your exploration, and the soundtrack kicks up a notch during periods of intense struggle. In addition to stellar music, we get capable voice performances that complement the game’s palpable aura, which permeates every nook and cranny. The NPCs have this solemn tone mixed with a subtle hopeless irony that clearly says, “Oh, you won’t get out of here alive.” Special effects are a big highlight, too, as every strike of a weapon, every roar of an enemy that puts your teeth on edge; it all just works.

Death is inevitable. How you choose to approach your situation after you succumb to the forces of evil is what matters. When you begin your harrowing new adventure, you will select your class (I chose Knight) and set off on a journey filled with uncertainty and countless dangers. One of the first immense dangers you face is a grayish-white beast that resembles a cross between a bear and a manatee. I figured I’d give him a few swipes with my sword. "Maybe I can take him,” I stupidly said to myself. Well, he picked me up and ate me and I just laughed. At the same time, I got that ol’ familiar “okay, now I gotta kill this thing” feeling.

Shortly after, I came across three old hags in a little house. They told me vague things about my upcoming quest, gave me a little personal effigy, and sent me on my way. Their cackling was a little unnerving, but not half as unnerving as watching something eat me as if I presented no danger whatsoever. Over the course of the next few hours, I died many times. I wanted to fully explore each area and in doing so, you often come across horrifying foes that rip you to pieces in seconds. Therefore, you start to work on a systematic approach: Take down the enemies you can, spend their souls on new equipment and abilities, and keep pressing forward…carefully.

The kingdom of Drangleic is the star of the game. It’s chock full of secrets and enemies, and you always want to see more. The combat is relatively easy to understand but not as easy to master, as you need to properly execute evasive maneuvers such as the step-back and dodge-roll. Then there’s the dash and jump, which isn’t perfectly implemented in my opinion (I hate using the L3 button), but it’s still essential. If you chose a ranged character, such as the Sorcerer, you’ll want to steer clear of just about everything, casting magic from afar. This sounds more difficult than using the Warrior or Knight, but that’s not necessarily true.

One of the best parts of DSII is the excellent distinction and balancing of the classes. Sure, the up-close-and-personal fighters can withstand a lot more, but they have to be in harm’s way at all times. That’s not the case with other classes, though, as it’s actually easier to use a ranged character at the start of the game. That doesn’t hold true in the latter half of the adventure, though, so no class feels especially underpowered. No matter what, you have to keep an eye on your health and stamina, because they’re all that’s keeping you from going Hollow. As fans know, Hollow form happens when you die.

Your stats take a hit and in fact, in DSII, you continue to lose a bit more max health every time you die in Hollow form. Eventually, you’ll bottom out at 50 percent of your character’s maximum health when still a human, and that’s a big problem. Another difference is the enemy respawn system: In the first Dark Souls, all the foes would respawn all the time. In the sequel, some foes will permanently disappear, which has a two-pronged effect. On the one hand, it feels as if there’s less grinding involved (and fewer obstacles when you set out again), but on the other hand, you don’t always have a surplus of easy enemies to dispatch.

You shouldn’t ever feel completely stuck, though, and that’s a testament to the game’s excellent development and balance. Furthermore, the inclusion of other human players is more dynamic than ever before; what began with simply leaving messages and joining quests in a limited capacity in Demon’s Souls has blossomed into something much greater. Cooperation isn’t that different but invading a player’s world is a major part of the online experience and it can be downright terrifying. That player, who you will see represented as a red phantom of sorts, is a huge threat, and you might just have to be cagey about taking him out…

Dealing with deadly AI opponents and potentially deadlier human opponents makes this a truly challenging adventure from start to finish. However, there are a few technical missteps, and I feel too many critics are giving the game a free pass due to its immensely involving nature. I can’t look the other way, though: The game really does chug too often, as the frames per second rate often seems to drop down around 15 or so. Maybe it’s just the PS3 version, but it’s a frequent and serious issue that can’t be ignored. On top of which, the camera isn’t always your best friend. You’re basically forced to lock on to an enemy; if you don’t, that camera can be an annoying hindrance, especially in cramped areas.

And once again, I’m not all that impressed with the story. It always has lots of potential, but the developers are clearly more interested in the gameplay. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but as you progress, it starts to feel more like an MMORPG than a scripted, single-player RPG. Some people prefer the latter, of course, and I understand that. But choose one or the other. If you’re going to implement a story, it should be a little less vague, a little more compelling, and above all else, a little more visible. This keeps people interested in the narrative. For the most part, I’m willing to bet that most players don’t care about the story at all, and I consider that a detriment.

On the whole, though, Dark Souls II is a fantastic achievement for those who desire a hefty challenge. To be more specific, you want to enjoy that wonderful sense of accomplishment you only feel when the challenge is steep. You want to face and overcome, and you want to become lost in an amazing, mystical virtual world. You accept the inevitability of dying but at the same time, you embrace the determination that follows. This is the key to loving such a game. In doing so, you’ll likely overlook the technical miscues I mentioned above, even if they remained somewhat grating for me. For the fans, there’s no doubt they’ll be entranced.

The Good: Overall incredible environment and atmosphere. Great sound effects and a haunting score. Accessible, reliable control. Taxing from both a mental and dexterity standpoint. Deep and extremely rewarding. Exceedingly well balanced. Multiplayer is dynamic and tense.

The Bad: A low frame rate we can’t ignore. Camera isn’t perfect. Narrative just isn’t engaging.

The Ugly: “…I just died and my last bonfire is a long way back. Son…of…a…bitch.”

3/13/2014 Ben Dutka

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Comments (37 posts)

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 10:54:34 PM
Reply

How many times did you die during your playthrough?

Demon's Souls made me contemplate seeing a shrink. I haven't touched the Dark Souls series yet, I'm that afraid of it.

Oh and FYI, your review of Demon's Souls is what made me shell out $60 for it. It was like having really amazing sex with someone that has aids.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 11:53:44 PM

Oh, I have no idea. And I didn't finish.

I must've died at least fifty times already.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

xenris
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:27:32 AM

I found Dark souls easier than Demon souls for the most park LV. I wouldn't be too afraid of it. Yes it has some intense and terrifying sections but overall an easier game.

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LimitedVertigo
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 11:40:19 AM

Ben, that's not too bad of a death count.

xenris, I'll check it out since it's rather cheap now. If it's easier than Demon's Souls I only expect to die 1000 times.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:30:25 PM

LV: Yeah, but you have to understand, I'm usually VERY cautious when I play games. And I'm not too bad at them, either. ;) For me to die 50+ times is pretty freakin' ridiculous. LOL

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WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 10:55:23 PM
Reply

No.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 3 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 11:00:23 PM

Puuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuusy

Agree with this comment 6 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 11:03:15 PM

Damn right.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, March 13, 2014 @ 11:12:07 PM

This game demands a Game Genie/Game Shark. DEMANDS!

Agree with this comment 7 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Advent Child
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 12:32:33 AM
Reply

You guys are no fun. I platinumed Demons Souls but this game is already looking to be significantly harder. They reduced the amount of frames your invincible while rolling. So far I have died about 20 times trying to punch the ogre in the first area to death. Still haven't figured out my timing.

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CrusaderForever
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 9:37:18 AM

There it is right there. You sir, know the soul games well. It's a language that has to be learned. Timing is everything. I went through Demon's Souls twice and the second time was WAY easier since my timing was fine tuned. I haven't finished Dark Souls yet. It's in my backlog. I am just glad DSII was created and is waiting for me down the road. I am hoping DS comes to PSNow. That would be a great game to play on my PS4/Vita.

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tes37
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 12:37:38 AM
Reply

I didn't make it very far in Demon's Souls before giving up.

I watched some developer diaries about the making of Dark Souls 2 and I was pretty impressed with the whole team at From Software. They are a very talented group of people and I'm tempted to give this game a shot. I'd like to see something a little different from them in the future with the same brutal difficulty and buying the game will help make that possible.

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kraygen
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:14:10 AM
Reply

I really enjoyed Demon soul's, and dark souls was good, but I didn't care for the "open world" as much. It wasn't really very open, more like a bunch of mazes that linked together.

So I have every intention of playing this for many hours, which is why I don't want to read the entire review, I'm really picky about not wanting too much info. However I would like to know if this is more open world than dark souls or if it goes back to being like Demon souls.

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xenris
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:30:21 AM

Its all connected like dark Souls however with fast travel from the get go things feel in ways more like demon souls.

They took a step back by making it so you have to talk to a lady to level up instead of just doing it at any old bonfire. I find this very frustrating because the load times are a little long and it makes no sense why they added that extra bit. If you get to a bonfire you can get to the lady 100% of the time so why add that extra step.

Anyway yeah this game is good, much harder than DS1 in my opinion.

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kraygen
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 10:01:02 PM

awesome, thanks for the info. I would try to just find it, but I always end up finding info I would only want to find in game.

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trumpetmon65
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:21:05 AM
Reply

I haven't run into any frame rate issues in my ps3 version. Is there a specific area?

I must say I disagree with your comment in the story. The speculation is part of it. The old inhabitants give the sad details of their loss and the past grandeur of the decaying kingdom almost flippantly; too preoccupied with their loss... yadda Yadda Yadda. I love having to infer and piece it all together.

Just my two cents.

Agree with this comment 3 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 10:58:24 AM

I'm sorry, but in this case, "having to infer" is just code for lazy writing. You can't infer much of anything; it's all far too vague and I guarantee 99% of people playing really don't care about the story at all.

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trumpetmon65
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 4:27:30 PM

It isn't lazy if there is actual content to take away from, and I'm finding it. It's in the item descriptions, the dialogue from talking to n.p.c.s and the environment. But I get it, it's not your cup of tea.

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xenris
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:33:21 AM
Reply

Good review I agree with it except for the story part. I like the weird vagueness but that is because the community for this game is so rad. Because after a couple months there is all this speculation, and people trying to piece things together from lore bits from the game, and bits that NPCs say etc.

I personally like it, I know how it could be a turn off though.

My only other beef is that the combat feels a little off, or delayed. Not sure if its just because I haven't played a souls game in a while but it feels floaty kind of. I just have to get used to it. Its nothing terrible but it just feels a little different to me.

Otherwise I'm really diggin the sheer scale of this game. Every area I enter I'm like OMG I want to explore everywhere but that is stupid because I end up dying or making a train of enemies... and then dying :P

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Knightzane
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:48:01 AM
Reply

No framerate issue on my end. then again I really have no idea how far I am in the game. I just reached the valley of defilement meets catacombs meets tomb of giants area. Its awesome. Also Ben, ng+ is "post game" and has a different ending and more narrative. How do I know? My friend whose on his 4th playthrough already told me lol

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 10:59:01 AM

Who cares about a different ending if the story is basically nonexistent to begin with?

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Kiryu
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:49:02 AM
Reply

Out of the souls games Demon Souls was is and always will be the Best game.Unless Sony tops it with a sequel.
Story was amazing too.

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___________
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 5:22:03 AM
Reply

such a shame to see some really clever game design and such attention to detail on combat and enemy environments, spoiled and destroyed by cheap lazy design.
its so rare these days we see a game that actually makes you feel like your on a adventure, its so rare we see a game with such grand and varying environments, its so rare we see games with such tactics and varying enemies, its so rare we see such attention to detail and complexity paid to something as simple as a dodge and block mechanic, not to mention the weapon system!
so pisses me off to see all that completely destroyed because of the games stupid cheap annoyances.
and they were not bad enough in the first game you died, you lost your progress, you had to start all over again, that was punishment enough.
now you loose a large portion of your health too!
seriously?
your in a dark cavern, quite high up with edgeless cliffs, you turn the corner, a enemy is there hits you and you fall to your death.
hows that fair?
how are you suppose to know theres a enemy there?
so, when do you unlock that reading the future technique?
exactly why i f*cking HATE this game, it forces you to make decisions without having ANY information, than cuts your head off for making the wrong one.
in the first game it was frustrating as hell because you had to constantly keep doing the same sh*t over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, but now you have that, AND you loose a good portion of your health permanently until you find a very rare item to restore it.
WTF!
yea, way to spoil what is such a amazing attentive attention to detail!

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xenris
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 10:30:58 AM

You are still looking at death the wrong way when you play these games. The game doesn't want you to read the future, it wants you to learn from your mistakes. Running into a dark room and getting hit off of a cliff? You probably didn't enter the area cautiously with your guard up.

Doing the same stuff over and over again makes you better at the game if you can learn from your mistakes. If not then you shouldn't play these games.

The health lowering is not that big of a deal. It was the same in Demon souls only it didn't slowly go down, it just got cut in half when you died. This way is much more forgiving.

The game is still amazing if you could chill out and play the game more carefully and not throw what sounds like a temper tantrum every time you die. Death is part of the game get used to it.

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___________
Saturday, March 15, 2014 @ 8:57:10 AM

thats exactly the problem though you cant be expected to walk around the whole freaking game like that!
its so cheap and pathetic to force people to know whats going to happen without giving them any tools to do so, than cut their head off when they dont.
sorry but that just gets really frustrating, and being punished for some impossible thing is the definition of cheap, and the definition of f*ck it im taking this back i dont want to play anymore.
punishment is all well and good, but it needs to come at the cost of ignoring things.
do you ground your child for coming home after 10 when you told them to be home by 10, or do you just expect them to read your mind, then ground them when they were unable to do that?
if you could hear your enemies or had something telling you what you had to do, then you ignored that, than fine.
but thats the problem you dont.
traps for instance most games you can see the wire and obviously you need to avoid it, so why cant that apply to everything?

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xenris
Saturday, March 15, 2014 @ 3:00:36 PM

Why can't you be expected to walk around cautiously? That is what the game asks of you and if you don't do it it kills you. You know the rules everyone who steps into a Souls game at this point knows that you have to be cautious.

"its so cheap and pathetic to force people to know whats going to happen without giving them any tools to do so, than cut their head off when they dont."

So you die once and then you think about what happened. For example if you walked into a room and got stabbed from the left, then you know now to check left and right when entering a room. This should stick with you for the rest of the game. So it is essentially the game telling you to be home at 10 oclock and punishing you for being late.

If you don't notice it when the game is telling you to be home at 10 then that is completely on you. The signs are there and yes some are a little harder to see but they are there.

Is it to much to ask for one game out of like every game out there to tell us to expect the unexpected and actually deliver?

I am 12 hours into the game and haven't seen a trap that wasn't activated by a floor plate that is visible, and you can hear the noise when you press it. Still who cares you die and you now know where the trap is..problem?

"if you could hear your enemies or had something telling you what you had to do, then you ignored that, than fine."

This is exactly how the game is. I am in the belltower and prior to this area, all the enemies made clinking noises or groaned when they were around a corner. There is even a "trap" that if you rush through it, an enemy will explode and kill you. But you can see blood spots on the ground, and you can hear an enemy moaning, so I put my shield up and moved forward slowly and BOOM it went off in front of me. If I was reckless then this would have killed me, if I wasn't cautious and did die, then its not all in vain because I now know there is a trap there.

So I really don't see what you are talking about here. Give me the exact example you are drawing from, because I have played a good portion of this game and I'll see if I can help you out.

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berserk
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 @ 8:25:34 AM

The game was nt designed for you , simple as that .

" your in a dark cavern, quite high up with edgeless cliffs, you turn the corner, a enemy is there hits you and you fall to your death.
hows that fair? "

Something tell me you ll die quick in a dangerous situation .

Since when someone who want to ambush you make noise ? Also , it s not cheap if you could easily have checked around the corner before turning there ( 3 rd person ftw ) .

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MRSUCCESS
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 9:31:48 AM
Reply

So far I have yet to play too much because frankly I get home from work too tired to focus and enjoy the game and that's hard to do when your eyes are strained from computer use all day. From what I've played it seems it runs at a consistent 30fps but the graphics could have been better. This series has always been about gameplay and enjoying the punishement that awaits around the corner.

I'll have to play more to see how this one compares to Dark and Demon Souls. I played nearly 300 hours combined of the previous two games so we shall see if it's the same for this one.

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CrusaderForever
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 9:39:02 AM

I agree game play and atmosphere the DS universe has in spades.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 11:41:59 AM
Reply

I'm surprised people aren't seeing the frame rate problem. I usually don't notice; it has to be pretty bad for me to acknowledge it, and it's BAD at certain points in the game.

I read a relatively decent user review where the player gave the game a 3 because the frame rate essentially broke the experience. He wasn't the only one to say that, either.

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LimitedVertigo
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 11:51:37 AM

People are noticing it, just not around here evidently. The biggest complaints I've seen about the game is the graphics and the frame rate issues. The textures sometimes look like they belong on the PS2.

BTW can you believe we're two generations away from the PS2 now?!

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 1:31:40 PM

No, no I CAN'T believe that. Well, I can, but I don't want to. ;)

Yeah, those textures can get really ugly at times, and the frame rate can also be a serious problem. I'm just surprised that people around here aren't seeing it. I'm usually the LAST one to see it; I'm not as picky about those things.

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Teddie9
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 7:37:05 PM
Reply

I think this review is a little more sober than some that I've read but 8.5 is still a great score and considering I loved both of the previous souls's games this is a no-brainer.

I just hope to be in Drangleic asap, cause it might not be till the end of april, after exams.

I like trumpetmon65 really enjoy piecing the bits of lore and enigmatic dialogue together.

Last edited by Teddie9 on 3/14/2014 7:39:26 PM

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PlatformGamerNZ
Friday, March 14, 2014 @ 8:49:40 PM
Reply

i think this will be a gud game but won't pick it up for awhile yet

happy gaming =)

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Banky A
Wednesday, March 19, 2014 @ 6:49:15 AM

You don't need to think anything. Ben and other reviewers did it for us.

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Kai200X
Saturday, March 15, 2014 @ 1:35:42 PM
Reply

I'm still waiting for the sequel for Demon's Souls

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Shauneepeak
Sunday, March 16, 2014 @ 7:21:18 PM
Reply

I keep hearing complaints about frame rates dropping and I have witnessed almost none. The biggest area I keep hearing about is the shaded Woods and I spent a TON of time there as a Sun Bro and only noticed one minor hiccup, which compared to Dark and Demon's Souls was absolutely nothing and if it hadn't been for the wonderful frame rate prior I wouldn't have even noticed it. I have had hardly any of the issues I keep hearing about.

I am not sure if it is random or the only other thing I could think of is I have a 7200rpm Hard Drive but I didn't think that would have any affect on actual game performance.

This is two days late but if you see this Ben what areas did you get frame rate drops in? Also without giving any spoilers how far in are you have you got the 4 Large Souls yet? If not how many have you gotten? Honestly game is great from the get go but doesn't really hit its stride till around the 20-25hr, mark could take MUCH longer depending on skill for example a 1st time Souls player and playstyle such as you said cautious. Though honestly being so and avoiding deaths probably evens out the time.

Also textures aren't great in some areas but "PS2 level" is a term being thrown around WAY to much people need to pop in one of their PS2 games to see how bad those were. XD


Last edited by Shauneepeak on 3/16/2014 7:33:47 PM

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