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Why Dark Souls 2 is worse than Dark souls: and why I still hold out hope


The Scholar of the First Sin DLC is coming to Dark Souls 2 (or has already arrived depending on when you read this/when I can be bothered to publish this) with a bevy of improvements, most of which seem like they will help make the game better than when it first released and add some story improvements as well. And that got me thinking about something that had been on my mind since I had finished the game. Dark Souls 2 came out last year to good reviews, and seems to have sold pretty well. Yet if you were to ask most people, they’d probably say that they still prefer Dark Souls to Dark Souls 2 and I find myself falling into that camp. I’d like to talk about why, and in so doing hopefully target what the DS2 team can do to improve and make something on the level of at least Demons Souls.

A major departure

Hidetaka Miyazaki was the director of Dark Souls, Demons souls and the upcoming, fantastic looking Bloodborne.

And more important to consider than that impressive pedigree, is that he was not the director of Dark Souls 2. Now this might seem a bit unfair to the director of DS2, but to me it’s very important because it seems Miyazaki was a major driving force in making the previous games as rock solid as they are. I will delve into the different aspects in more detail, but ultimately I think his influence and vision are an important part of the divide between DS and DS2, and it needs to be considered throughout the discussion. There’s a lot missing in DS2 that could perhaps be due to other team members on Bloodbourne, but without knowing the specifics, the face of the studio has to be given the main credits. 

But without further ado….

Graphics and framerate.

This one is an easy win for Dark Souls 2, and even if they did lie in the trailers-which I find distasteful in the extreme-about the final graphical quality, it’s still a pretty good looking game. Lighting is pretty good, everything looks nice, and the game runs at a glorious 60fps. Dark Souls…has not aged super well, with somewhat poorer lighting, and worse looking textures. Its framerate is a bit choppy, and it has some glitches and problems. To be fair to Dark Souls, it was never planned for PC and only came to consoles, but it’s a very good improvement, and I applaud the team for it.

Unfortunately, this is the only real colossal improvement I find. Minor tweaks here or there help improve the games feel, but ultimately it’s the only thing I can unreservedly say is better.

Aesthetic and world

And here is where Dark Souls begins its roaring rise to the top of the hill. For all its ugly features and graphical problems, I still think this game looks better asthetically than Dark Souls 2. The game has more interesting locales and one of the key parts of that is that the world feels like a unified one rather than a disjointed stitching of disparate parts. In Dark Souls the areas tie into the lore and all are linked to feel that they belong together and fit into one beautiful picture. There are odd locations, but their placing makes sense and they feel like they link in some way to similar to the area before. The areas also tie into the lore and even the items build the lore of the area, solidifying its place in the world and explaining its presence to a degree.

Dark Souls 2, on the other hand, suffers from its world design not feeling cohesive or built well. A poison swamp leads to a poison filled windmill-fair enough.

Then that leads to a freaking iron castle sinking into the lava of the land it was built on. That’s the most egregious example, but it helps illustrate that the world feels more like levels created and stapled together than one cohesive world linked and interlinked together. One of the coolest moments in Dark Souls for me was seeing Lost Izalith from the giant’s tomb level, a small touch that solidified both places placement and their belonging in the world. Dark Souls 2 just feels oddly disjointed and certain areas feel like they could have been more fleshed out rather than being quick visual set pieces, ala the interesting tower area near the ocean that’s crumbling but lacking in real depth or areas and is more of an area to walk through than a deep area to explore. Areas are areas, and rarely get that much fleshing out to help build their place in the world, with some limp examples having info here or there, but not much else.


Items are also spread and try to build lore, but they feel poorly thought out and don’t build the world nearly as well as Dark Souls was able to achieve. Items in Dark Souls are tied to the wider story and world, so that each item was a reward to lore hounds as well as to your inventory, building a story in the background and leaving it there if you want to dig deeper. Even keys have lore, a small touch that adds to the world even more. Some Covenants in Dark Souls 2 are fine, and work in the context of the world but some feel like they don’t quite belong and are copy-pasted from DS.  They feel like someone’s just throwing stuff out there to seem deep but they feel hollow and too many items and spells are recycled as well. And hey, speaking of recycling...


Bosses also get recycled as well, with some being reskins or straight up copies of bosses from Dark Souls. This comes off as terribly lazy, and linked with the fact that most of the boss fights are less interesting or cheap in the hit detection it just takes off more points. Honestly, only a few bosses really made me go wow, as opposed to most of the bosses in Dark Souls, and were so bizarre that I fell in love with their design.

There are some good ideas here, like the royal rat vanguard or the prowling magus boss fights that are actually pretty unique and fun, but they shine all the brighter next to bosses that are either boring or irritating to fight due to special conditions required to fight them. Hitboxes on bosses make several fights feel much cheaper than any Souls game should, with hits that were clearly going to miss nailing you because the game demands it. The hitboxes thing doesn’t ruin the game, but it cheapens and further weakens the boss fights, formerly a highlight of the soul’s series. And besides the looks, because the areas are poorly fleshed out, the bosses are also poorly fleshed out, with some of the bigger ones just being put in the area because they needed to be put there, rather than feeling like a cohesive part of the world. The 4 main bosses’ thing is lifted directly from Dark Souls, but there’s less meaning to it. Those bosses felt like legends, built up and nestled in their domains, with lore adding context and ensuring you knew they were forces to be reckoned with.

Dark Souls 2’s 4 great soul owners are just big bosses, put in there because Dark Souls did it that way and so that’s the way it has to be, without any real buildup and poor lore building robbing them of interesting development. Pretty much the only somewhat interesting boss of the four is The Rotten, but even that is robbed of lore and characterization. It feels like some key lore is missing, and so the world and bosses are weaker for that.


Dark Souls 2 continues to imitate to it detriment, as it too is about you taking over a kingship after beating four big bosses and then one final boss who is one of the previous rulers of the land. You are chosen…blah blah blah...you get the point here, right? Remember Dark Souls storyline? Just that, but less well built, executed, and handled. This ties into the item lore and the buildup of the world, because that’s a massive part of the previous games story and many of the games mechanics tied into the wider story. Bonfires were tied to the undead, as were estus flasks, and bonfires also dealt with the fact that the world was slowly falling into darkness. Dark Souls 2 has no real bigger idea like that behind it, and suffers for the comparison. If they had altered the story more, and focused on a central theme the game would have been better for it. Maybe it feels like I am being harsh here, but nevertheless I am being harsh because this was their chance to really differentiate and create something uniquely their own, but Dark Souls 2 couldn’t help but wallow in the success of the former here. They had chances to make this game more their own, but it just feels like a lot of copying and disjointed story beats with no payoff. I expect better, and actually...

Hope for the future

I really have hope that the team that made Dark Souls 2 gets another crack at the soul’s series. Look, I’ve spent this article tearing down Dark Souls 2, but that’s because it’s a good game at its core. I tear it down because I want to expose the weak points and hopefully show what should be improved so that this team can create a souls game without leaching off their predecessor’s success. I enjoyed the game, but I would have enjoyed it more had it tried to be itself and embrace new ideas more. I want the team to have another go, and them introducing a patch to fix the lore indicates that they understand mistakes were made. It takes guts to fix lore and try and add more to help flesh things out, because it basically admits you made some mistakes. But fixing that gives me hope that this team can create something new in the soul’s series, make it their own and perhaps create another game truly worthy of the soul’s name.

I sure hope they do…because Bloodbourne is probably never coming to PC, and I needs my fix.

Thanks for reading!!!


- “If you don't like bacteria, you're on the wrong planet.” ― Stewart Brand

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About Gamemaniac3434one of us since 11:25 PM on 02.01.2013

Who am I? I'm an avid gamer, beer snob, coffee snob and aspiring microbiologist. I love all sorts of different genres of games and different games from different years and as of recent years I've tried to get more into multiplayer games. I also really love microbiology and if you get me started on it, you will never get me to shut up about it.
-Gamemaniac3434 on everything, but Nintendo services