Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin
New school? Old school? We all join the noob pool…
Sadly, mankind has not yet invented a device that can suitably erase memories. Or if we have, it’s been used on us and we’ve forgotten already. Our point is that when you’ve learned something, whether that be a rumour about a colleague’s photocopier antics, or that the delicious meal you’ve just eaten while at a swanky restaurant is actually made of sea lion testicles, you can’t unlearn it.
With that in mind, an Xbox One re-do of Dark Souls II could only ever be a quick dip into a world we’ve already picked clean, right? Wonderfully, that is not the case. Developer From Software has worked magic to ensure that even those most experienced in the convolutions and conundrums of Drangleic will most definitely want to book a return ticket.
Because the thing is, knowledge is power in the worlds of Dark Souls. Whereas your regular RPG protagonist can leap back to square one with a simple restart or even by dropping all of his gear off in a box somewhere, in Lordran and Drangleic your cursed avatar is given power through you and your experience passing through the world. It’s why, whenever a player enters a new area, they’re likely to have a shield raised and their back against the wall rather than leap in with a zweihander hollering about some chap called Jenkins. It’s also why we trotted into the game’s first proper area, the Forest Of Fallen Giants, with nary a care in the world. Surely, having bested this area many times over, we were now going to breeze through it quicker than a curry through a goose…
Within moments, we were backpedalling away from a giant face-eating troll cyclops who wasn’t there before. Like a punch to the gut, From Software had flattened us. “No,” it seemed to say. “That won’t work again.” The surprises keep coming, too, though we won’t spoil them here.
Dark Souls II has always consisted of a three-part exchange that involves you 1) being smooshed by something, 2) learning how to deal with it, before finally 3) becoming a well-oiled master of this once harsh and unforgiving land. By repositioning many of the enemies, with often surprising new complications arising as a result, Scholar ensures that everyone is back to square one again. It’s a delicious feeling. You know how you feel jealous of someone who’s about to start a game you love for the very first time? That, but with none of the jealousy.
But chances are you’re not just here for the hearty new enemy layouts, integral though they are to making
this an essential re-purchase. With Xbox One power comes sultry Xbox One visuals, and every aspect of the game’s looks have had the requisite nipping and tucking done. The first thing your eyeballs will thank you for is the solid new 60fps framerate. The on-screen action runs so smoothly that you might find yourself initially at a disadvantage. Having ploughed so many hundreds of hours in the first iteration, suddenly we found our button presses translating into on-screen action just that smidge faster, and we had to alter our play rhythm ever so slightly to keep up.
In terms of the resolution and textures, it’s certainly a lot crisper. The subtle texture of your Falconer armour, for example, can be appreciated in all its stitched-up glory, while the rivets of a Buckler, should you be working on your parry hand, look like actual rivets, rather than indistinct smears.
But what’s that phrase about polishing a poop? Dark Souls II was crafted in an ancient engine and suffered as a result. Its brilliance in all other areas ensured we forgave it when it got properly ugly. Be prepared to do so again, because, for all the visual tweaking, there are some areas you wouldn’t touch with someone else’s.
Before we get too baneful, there is one other arrow in Scholar of the First Sin’s new-fangled bow to celebrate. The lighting system that was so widely shown off prior to the release of the original version – and then got cut out – is back. Now, whenever you enter certain corners of the world, the light around you dims to impossible-to-navigate levels. To adequately see, you’ll need to swap out your precious shield for a torch. Doing so, however, means putting yourself at a supreme disadvantage in combat. Given that there are often new enemies, these inky instances are almost always sumptuously challenging.
Another winning reason to get involved is the fact that this includes all of the DLC expansions. This might be a side-dish bonus for most other games, but these three generous quests, each taking you to a new area filled with new enemies and terrifying boss fights, are essential. If you’ve never played a Souls game before and are keen to get involved, then this is the place to start. If there were complaints made about the first edition, most of them have been ironed out. If you’ve already bested Vendrick a million times, however, there’s still plenty of reasons to poke your binoculars in Scholar’s direction. Now, where did we put that zweihander? OXM
“Scholar ensures that everyone is back to square one again”
New NPC phantoms will invade you at key points. And by ‘key’ we mean ‘when you least want them to’. Publisher Namco Bandai / Developer From Software / Format Xbox One / release date out now
Think you know No-Man’s Wharf? Think again. The sconces you see scattered about are all unlit upon initial entry.
If you’re familiar with the Pursuer then you’ll know that this scenario is not going to end well…
Aim for the ankles. To be fair you’d have a hard time reaching anywhere else.