Dark Souls 2 is a difficult game. Yes, the ‘Souls’ franchise IS difficult by nature, but no, this is a difficult game to review.
It’s remarkable just how much Dark Souls had changed over the course of its launch to the PTD (Prepare To Die edition, the final form the game had taken) launch. The game was a completely different species by the end. First time players and reviewers were jumping into a terribly unforgiving game with brutal, brutal difficulty. Online wasn’t as popular, stats were different, soul drops were lower, humanity drops were even lower. The PTD patch had changed a lot of things, and having started off playing the post-patch edition (and beaten it twice), I found myself stuck only a few hours into the pre-patch. Guides were something of a myth, YT personalities like EpicNameBro and Vitya weren’t so prominent and reviewers talked about the infamous ‘chain of pain’ email that they so desperately relied on (the article that details this struggle is absolutely fascinating, and is yet another example why Dark Souls was so remarkable at the time). I have no doubt Dark Souls 2 will face a similar evolution.
We have also confirmed that Dark Souls 2 New Game+ will be a nearly completely different experience to the first playthrough, and not only that, it will drastically affect the lore. Obviously the NG+ option is a part of Dark Souls that is so large that it’s considered criminal to ignore it, but again, this review only touches upon the first playthrough, as I had struggled to finish the game in time for release. In this light, I urge you to read this as more of a guide of whether you should buy it or not (and relative to your previous experiences with Souls games) and more of an exploration of the game and the base mechanics, and less of a detailed intrinsic analysis and exploration of the more advanced nuances of DSII, which is something I will definitely do a couple of months down the road.