Dark Souls II
Publisher Bandai Namco Developer FromSoftware Format 360, PC, PS3
Comparisons to its predecessor may be unflattering, but there’s no shame in not quite living up to one of the finest games ever. Being able to warp between bonfires from the get-go may have meant Dark Souls II lacked the remarkable sense of place of Lordran, but untethering From’s design team from logic let it deliver a world of dizzying variety, taking in the shimmering Shrine Of Amana, the majestic Iron Keep, and the giddying Dragon Aerie.
For all that it changed, this game repeated Dark Souls’ greatest trick: offering enough variety to power a dozen playthroughs, new builds and strategies offered up by a deeply engaged community. The covenant system abandoned the critical path and let you hunt down sinners, set fatal traps, or invoke the spirit of Solaire with some jolly co-operation. Then came the best DLC of the year in the Lost Crowns trilogy, a punishing, almost perfect expansion to another epic.