Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin Preview
For whatever reason, you missed last year's Dark Souls II. You got caught up with other games and you've been kicking yourself ever since. Well, have no fear, as From Software and Bandai Namco will deliver the ultimate version of the game: It's called Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin and it's headed to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on April 7. This revamped and updated bundle features the original game along with all previously released DLC packs (Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and Crown of the Ivory King). It will also boast 1080p visuals and 60 frames per second, a definite upgrade from the 720p/30fps numbers in the PS3 and 360 versions.
Now, you might assume there's nothing more to talk about. After all, developers have been doing this for a while; releasing graphically improved iterations of existing titles for new hardware. But Scholar of the First Sin goes well beyond a simple visual transformation. The developers have implemented a multitude of fresh features and challenges that will make current Dark Souls II owners green with envy. This is one of those products that could very well entice those who already purchased the game, simply due to the gameplay additions and alterations. For instance, did you know that enemy placement has been completely revised in all areas?
Yep, it might feel like playing an entirely new adventure. From Software says this changes the gameplay because you'll have to prepare differently for each section. On top of which, you'll have to contend with better AI; the designers took that extra step and enhanced the intelligence of your already-dangerous foes. For instance, you may recall the zombies in the Forest of the Fallen Giants. These guys weren't difficult to evade but now, the zombies will continue to chase players until they catch them, which makes that section much more challenging. In short, you really need to be careful when running around, because you never know what you might encounter.
This also means that seasoned players can't rely on their memories. Safe areas might no longer be safe and as such, their tactics and strategy will have to be altered. In addition to the extra gameplay difficulty, there's the inclusion of new NPCs. The first, aptly named Scholar of the First Sin, will give you extra pieces of storyline to flesh out the compelling virtual world. Another is an NPC that can actually invade your game. This may sound irritating but if you can deal with him, you'll earn some unique rewards (which the developers aren't willing to talk about just yet). There's also the possibility of brand new items and equipment, which you could earn by taking down some of the game's tougher opponents. It's not confirmed yet, though.
The multiplayer gets an upgrade, too, as instead of four players in a group, up to six can now join. However, From Software opted to leave out direct communication and messaging, which has been an oft-requested feature from fans for some time. I'm sure they've got their reasons for not delivering such an option; perhaps it's because it'll make things too easy...? I don't know. But I do know that we'll have to content with enhanced AI and even more enemies, which is good news for all die-hard fans. If you've never played Demon's Souls or one of the Dark Souls games, you better be sure of your intentions: You want a serious challenge, right? If you're up for it, than Scholar of the First Sin is the game for you.
The timing of the release isn't bad, either. Not much is scheduled between March and April besides Battlefield: Hardline, so you'll have a bit of time before the likes of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (May) and Batman: Arkham Knight (June) arrive. As for whether or not the new version of Dark Souls II appeals to those who already put a lot of time into the original installment, I couldn't say. I just provide the info; I'll leave the purchase decision up to them, as always.
2/17/2015 Ben Dutka