Extra PunctuationDark Souls 2: Of Missing Monsters and Bustling BasesExtra Punctuation - RSS 2.0
As I said in my Dark Souls 2 review, at the point when I wrote it I'd played about 30 hours, with three of the four big souls acquired and on my way to the fourth. I have now finished the whole game, it ended up at about 45-50 hours, and I have to admit, my opinions have updated a little bit, having gotten the full perspective of the experience as a whole.
For one thing, I'm surprised by the fact that, when monsters stopped spawning, I felt genuinely bad. If you're not familiar with Dark Souls, all the monsters (except bosses) respawn whenever you die or rest at a bonfire. It's like a reset button, and all you can do is throw yourself at a section again and again until you're good enough to take them all on. But in Dark Souls 2, monsters stop respawning after you've killed them a certain number of times. I think it's around 10 times. And first of all, one feels immediately patronized by that, or like the game has lost patience with you. "Are you still here? Christ, if I take some of these big meanies out of your path, will that help you shake a fucking leg?"
But apart from that, I'd actually feel guilty when I saw them disappear. Especially if (as was often the case) I'd been unable to recover my bloodstain the last time I died, and all the souls I had acquired from that monster's previous incarnations were now lost, unused. I felt like a kindly and noble hunter-gatherer, who traps an animal for his dinner but then ruins it while cooking or lets it spoil. And then feels the guilt of a man who has taken life senselessly. The silence of the lonely halls as I made for the boss door for another attempt only exacerbated my despondence.
Overall, though, I find my opinion has generally worsened since I finished the game. I guess the big issue is that it's a very sequel-y kind of sequel, if that makes sense. That should be obvious from the fact that it was called Dark Souls 2, when it was the third game after Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. A less sequel-y game would have continued the trend and called itself something like Deadly Souls or David Soul. And would probably have been almost completely unconnected to the predecessor, like Dark Souls was to Demon's Souls.
Y'see, Dark Souls was overtly implied to be taking place in the last days of the world. Dark Souls 2 taking place some time afterwards kind of undermines that whole thing. Maybe there was some kind of global collapse and enough time has now passed that things eventually got back on their feet - making Dark Souls 2 a sort of Renaissance to Dark Souls 1's Roman Empire - but that takes away from the grim hopelessness that's kind of essential to the mood.
What illustrates this best is the comparison between the home bases in the two games - Firelink Shrine in the first game and Majula in the second. Other friendly characters would show up at Firelink and it gave the place a sort of community hub feel for the wandering Undead. Some would stay there permanently and offer various services. Others would come and go, cheerfully announcing that they were off to resume the adventure elsewhere.