Welcome to Part 1 of the Dark Souls II Diary where I’ll share my impressions (and struggles) as I play through the game. Stay tuned for a full review once I’ve spent sufficient time in the world of Drangleic. Please keep in mind that there will be spoilers ahead, so continue reading at your own risk.
Dark Souls II was finally released in Australia yesterday, so I did what any self-respecting Souls fan would do—I picked it up first thing in the morning, played it for an hour, then showed up late for work. Ok, so a true fan would call in sick and skip work altogether, but I’ve been too busy this week to indulge in such irresponsible luxury. I’d have to wait until 5’o’clock for the true marathon session to begin. Here are my initial impressions of my first hour with Dark Souls II.
“Your wings will burn in anguish, time after time… For that is your fate.”
The game opens on the prologue video that you can see above. This opening cinematic chilled me to my core. Not because of the tragic loss of what I assume to be my wife and young child, but in response to the foreboding omen spoken by a hideous old crone.
“Like a moth drawn to a flame, those branded
with the Darksign are fated to be consumed
by fire, over and over and over again…
This is the only fate permitted to them.
Your wings will burn in anguish, time after time…
For that is your fate. The fate of the curse.”
For the uninitiated, it would be easy to dismiss this warning as mere RPG storytelling fluff—empty words designed to set the scene. I know better than that however, having fallen to my death countless times on the narrow bridge when facing the maneaters in Demon’s Souls, or tasting endless, bitter defeat against the ruthless Ornstein and Smough in Dark Souls. Yet here I am again, like a month to a flame.
Following the prologue, I wake up inside a cavernous underground area with bright light beaming through a crack up ahead. Looking a little closer I find myself in an empty, grassy space. I take this rare opportunity to re-acquaint myself with the controls. Having not played a Souls game in a year or so, I initially feel awkward but get the hang of things pretty quickly. I decide to double-check the immediate area, rolling around in the grass as I go. That is until the darkness almost causes me to roll off a ledge. Almost. Well played Dark Souls II, but you are going to have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool me with the old ‘roll of the cliff’ trick. I remind myself that this game will take any chance possible to kill me mercilessly—then I press on.
I can see a bridge leading forward, but instead take a side-path to the left which reveals a large ogre facing away from me. Being completely unarmed, I resist every urge to punch the ogre in the back of the head and dash straight past. I’ll come back for him later once properly armed.
I join back up with the main path and head inside a cottage where I am met by three haggard witches who, more-or-less get straight to the point and tell me how screwed I am. They explain that constant death is my fate, and that I’ll lose my precious souls time and time again. At one point, one of the witches makes a remark along the lines of ‘you never know… he might make it’, but this glimmer of encouragement is soon snuffed out by cackling laughter from the trio. Ridiculing the player before they even begin? Yep, this is definitely a Dark Souls game.
After plugging in my name it’s time to create my character. The first important decision is which class to play as. In a moment of naive stupidty, I almost made my life even harder by choosing the deprived class, if only defy the old crones who said this quest would be too difficult. Instead I choose the sorcerer class for my first run as I do love a good soul arrow. Next came the stressful decision of which starting gift to select. I was tempted by some enigmatic items which came with no explanation, but shunned those as well as any single-use items, eventually settling on a ring that increases HP. Finally I had to create a look for my character so went for a wizardly white hair and beard combo that looks especially badass in hollow form.
After looting a human effigy from a chest upstairs—and wasting not one, but two life gems as I continue getting used to the controls—I leave the witches cottage and head out into a what basically amounts to a tutorial area. I come across a few undead who give me no trouble apart from one who gets a hit in after I misjudge the reach of my dagger.
As I forge ahead I soon come to a small beach with another ogre. This time, equipped with dagger and staff I approach. I figure the ogre is far enough away to spam with a quick soul arrow to test his mettle. Hey, I can always run away. Wrong. A second ogre comes out of hiding, blocking my path. He then precedes to pick me up an munch on my head, resulting in the first of what will be many deaths in this game. A trophy pops up on screen saying “This is Dark Souls”. Indeed.
Now armed with knowledge of the hidden ogre I head back for another attempt. I successfully roll away from a few attacks and back into the shallow water. The ogre swings and I roll again, this time of a sea shelf and into a deep, watery grave. I wonder if any other game has killed me twice just in the tutorial.
I head back to the beach for attempt number three as I assure myself that “tonight I dine on ogre soup!“. This time I avoid the edge of the water and put the beasts down quickly. Even this minor battle feels like a victory but I know it’s only the tip of the iceberg. At this point I notice a coffin-like boat sitting on the shore. Assuming it will take me out of the tutorial area and into the beginning of my quest I hop inside—only to get straight back out again. Where has my sweet beard gone? Why do I have breasts? Oh of course, it’s a gender-swapping coffin boat. Silly me for not guessing. I jump back in, restore my glorious beard and head back up the hill towards the light.
I make way outside and head down into the town of Majula where I see the sweet sight of a bonfire that will let me save my progress so far. Looking at my watch I realize that Majula and the rest of Drangleic will have to wait until 5’o’clock.
Dark Souls II is available now on PS3 and Xbox 360 with a PC version to be released on march 25. Stay tuned to LootChaser for more Dark Souls II Diary entries and our full upcoming review.