Dark Souls II – Impressions – Part 2
I usually prefer to get all my impressions collected into one post, but new stuff has come to light for me since I made the first post, so I figured that instead of editing that, I’d just make another, shorter, one.
I also kinda felt like I didn’t do enough justice to stuff I liked about the UI, and the game in general, so let’s try to rectify that.
Let me start by saying being able to quick-climb ladders is something I will forever miss when going back to Dark Souls 1. It looks silly as can be, but I got used to it really quickly. Hold B (would that be O on the Playstation? I never remember if which of circle and square are on the left or right) and push forwards to boost upwards at the expense of stamina, or downwards to slide down like you could in the first one. Tapping B now apparently just makes you drop off the ladder, which conceivably could just get you killed.
And it really can’t be understated how nice it is to not have to deal with Games For Windows Live’s super-awful system for online functionality. If only they could patch that out of DS1.
I already mentioned that you can equip more rings, but it also lets you have three weapons/shields equipped for each arm for quick-swapping. They of course all add to your equip load, which I assume is part of the reason why the cut-off for quick roll is now 70% instead of 50%. Having to mess about less in menus is nice, but I also kinda feel like this is a compromise for having weapons break faster. You can also have up to 10 consumables equipped now, which honestly feels like a bit too much to cycle through. I still stuck to five or less. I suppose having more options that way isn’t bad though. Each to their own, and all that.
And being able to go into the menu and use more than one of a consumable at a time is really, really nice. When you want to cash in all those loot souls you find it is so handy to not have to use them one by one, since even in Dark Souls 1 you could have dozens of each if you saved them for later in the game. Having a bank of souls you don’t lose when dying was a nice idea for the original, and one they thankfully kept for the sequel, and improved upon.
Now I shan’t claim that the UI is completely free of impenetrable shit. Like Soul Memory. How on Earth is a new player expected to have any idea what that is for, and why the game keeps track of it?* But overall the menus present everything more clearly, and when it comes to the equipment screen, it shows items in a grid rather than a list, with easy access to descriptions on the side to ease the rather cumbersome navigation you’d end up with in DS1. Now I didn’t look at everything, but as far as I could tell, the tool tips you can bring up for a quick explanation of what a stat or bit of info means, have a much clearer explanation this time around.
I felt this was especially relevant during the level-up screen. It seemed more clear on what each stat does, and when browsing through the major stats for upgrading, it would also highlight all of the minor stats that would be affected by boosting that stat, even before you put any points in. I would assume it’s probably still hard to read for newcomers, but I appreciate that it offers more, and clearer, information. Like having an actual visible stat for cast speed on spells. (It also makes more sense to tie that into attunement rather than dexterity, if arguably less useful.)
As a downside, I am not a fan of having to go back to the Emerald Maiden to level up. That’s probably easier on the PC, considering the loading times tend to be shorter, but that’s still two loading screens you have to sit through and four-five lines of dialogue you have to skip through, just to be able to select Level Up. I get that that’s similar to how they did it in Demon’s Souls. Dark Souls‘s system was better. Why break what was fixed? Especially when all it’s doing is costing you extra time, as you’re basically free to warp back at any time if you have to visit a bonfire anyway. So why not save players that time and let them level up at the bonfires like before? Just keep her as a recipient of Estus Flask Shards**, and possibly tie Sublime Bone Dust*** into her as well.
I have also been updated on what Adaptability is actually for. It is not, as I assumed, just a renamed Resistance, which was DS1‘s most useless stat, but it is actually quite important. Adaptability gives a slight boost to poise, it increases the amount of invincibility frames you have while dodge-rolling, it increases the speed at which you use items, which includes drinking Estus and how fast that health recovery is, and it determines how quickly you raise your shield and recover from being staggered. Which just seems like it’s going to massively fuck with muscle memory and remembering timings. I suppose this is their excuse for having a staggered player just stand there for like 10 seconds (it’s probably more like 3-5, but it feels like an eternity), while enemies generally recover in just 1 or less. “Just level Adaptability and you can be less of a chump!” I think this is another major shift in design philosophy between the development teams of the two different Dark Souls games.
Long story short, Adaptability is incredibly useful. It just really shouldn’t be.
A rather small thing this, but… I am not quite sure why they’ve made the animations for opening doors and chests take longer now. I mean, I can kinda understand it for the big metal chests, but doors are just excruciating.
And speaking of chests, mimics are kind of a joke now. So long as you’re diligent and giving each chest a whack before you open it, it seems you can typically kill a mimic before it’s even able to unfold fully, so you just get a glimpse of its full terrifying form before it perishes. Though I can confirm that mimics can be disguised as both wooden and metal chests. And I’m not sure if they have any tells any longer. Certainly no chain to tip you off, and the ones I found never seemed to be placed in particularly conspicuous places. A bloodstain right in front of the chest can be a tip-off, though. Or a player message warning you.
The trapped chests just seem like a dick move though, even for Dark Souls. I was never able to get far enough away to avoid it once I saw it trigger, though I was never instantly poisoned or anything, so maybe I got far enough away to just catch part of the cloud? Of course there is no way to detect or disarm these traps as far as I am aware, outside of player message warnings. Are there any traps besides poison? This is an honest question, because the poison ones are the only ones I remember.
Oh! And wooden chests can be broken with three hits, which reduces whatever was inside to rubbish. Blech.
Right, I think that’s it for now. I shan’t make any promises either way, but should any more information reveal itself, I might feel like doing a part 3 as well.
*For the record, it’s because of instead of being level-based like DS1, co-op and invasions now rely on Soul Memory to find out who you can be matched with. Soul Memory is just a number say how many souls you have ever collected. I assume this was meant to deal with the problem DS1 had of people who would go through the game without spending souls on levels, get super-good gear, and go back to earlier areas to gank players just starting out. It also seems like something that can screw you over if you keep dying without being able to recover your souls, so while you have collected a lot of souls, you might not have been able to really spend them.
**Estus Flask Shards are how you gain more Estus uses in Dark Souls 2. When you’re first given the Estus Flask, it only has one use per recharge, causing you to rely more on Lifegems for restoring health, and early-game those are also pretty limited. But as soon as you find enough shards to get 4-5 uses or more, the usefulness of Lifegems drops to more of a backup thing, and at the same time you’ll be finding them at a much more regular pace. Doesn’t strike me as that much of a well thought-out system. A lot of Estus Flask Shards are also quite easy to miss, especially early on when they would be really useful.
***If you burn these in a bonfire, you will get stronger Estus that restores more health, in the same way that offering a Fire Keeper Soul to a Fire Keeper in DS1 would do. I believe I got up to Estus +5 by the time I got to Shrine of Winter and stopped playing.