You wouldn’t expect a game where the key selling point is that it drives you into a controller-snapping rage and just gets harder the more you screw up would get a sequel, and yet, here we are with Dark Souls II. The game is a lot of fun, but make no mistake: It’s going to kick your ass until you fall over, and then it’ll kick you in the junk. Here are a few tips for getting through with a relative minimum of death.
For those unfamiliar, the Dark Souls series is an action RPG based on the good old days of game design, when you weren’t really making an effort until you had forced the player into a frothing rage. We could relate the story, but no one cares. It’s all about trying to not get killed while solving ridiculously obscure, brain-bending puzzles. So, basically Fez with more homicide.
Remember That The Game Is Actively Messing With You Constantly
I bring this up because there has never been a video game more rife with seemingly innocuous moments that are actually nasty little traps, solely because the game won’t tell you what you need to know. For example, there’s a well in the opening area of the game that has some planks laid across it, and items on the plank. Jump down and get the loot, right?
Wrong. You’ll die. Until you’ve leveled up and can find the right item to jump down that well, you might as well forget about it. Essentially, if at any point something seems obvious or clear, assume there is something lurking just off-screen to kill you; this is a game that loves riffing on tropes and going against player expectations.
Don’t Pick Fights
One of the key saving graces of the game is that you don’t necessarily have to just blunder into fights. If you see an enemy, all of which are fully capable of killing you, and they don’t see you, either back away or look for a way around them. This is especially important because the game has a combat system where in each time you die, you start with fewer hit points. Oh, and you also lose your souls, which you can regather, but are the only way to level up. Die twice without saving and you lose them all.
The only other mercy this game offers is that if you kill a creature enough times, it doesn’t come back. So, tread cautiously, and assume that the fight you can easily win doesn’t exist.
Look Around, And Look Closely
More than most games, this is a game that rewards very careful examination of the environment, exploring, and experimenting. Granted, half the time this will get you violently killed; this is a game that loves hidden monsters and switchplate traps. But the other half of the time, you’ll find hidden paths and other useful little tidbits. The game is packed with secrets and goodies if you take the time to look, and a lot of them really help you as you play through.
Pay Attention To Graffiti And Bloodstains
The “hint” system still persists, and it’s still useful. Graffiti is usually a message from another player, something along the lines of “Watch out for the trap up ahead” or “There’s a bonfire nearby.” Bloodstains are usually where another player has died horribly, or solved a particularly obnoxious puzzle, so you can get a hint as to what to do.
Think Of It As A Puzzle Game. A Violent, Gory Puzzle Game.
As tough as the game may sound, the truth is that if you go in thinking you’re a very squishy human and not Superman, you’ll have an easier time of it. It’s a counterintuitive game mostly because games like this are bare-chested, iron-thewed brawlers, and this one is a game of thought, timing, and strategy. Use those and you will still die a lot, but probably a lot less than the guy who figured there was no way a rat-creature could take him out, right?