Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin

New school? Old school? We all join the noob pool…

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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.

Crushed op­ti­mism

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.

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