It’s funny to think that this time last year I had my first ever preview published for the site, and it was on Dark Souls 2. At that point, I wasn’t accustomed to the brutal learning curve the Souls games prided themselves on, but what that experience did was make me realise what I was seriously missing out on – a punishing, yet incredibly rewarding experience. Throughout that year, I slowly picked away at games of that nature – obviously Dark Souls 1 and 2, a bit of Lords of the Fallen, Demon’s Souls and in a month and a bit I’ll be having a shot at Bloodborne. I’ve really started to develop a love for the risk and reward, life-or-death difficulty these games throw forward, and I was delighted to find that the version of Dark Souls 2 — titled Scholar of The First Sin — making its way to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC comes with some serious updates that fans of the franchise might just want to take a look at. Not only is Scholar of The First Sin a 60FPS visual delight, it’s also much, much harder than before.
Dark Souls 2 was never a bad looking game on the last generation of consoles. It looked a lot prettier on the PC when that version released in April last year, but it was by no means a textureless mess that didn’t appeal to the eye. Scholar of The First Sin sees a significant uplift in visual fidelity and makes areas that used to look colourless and washed out particularly gorgeous this time around. The moody lighting that fills the introduction area with the hags, the sun-lit beacon of Majula and the greenery-soaked Forest of the Fallen Giants were the only areas I visited during the preview but they all looked absolutely gorgeous. Textures are crisp, the game runs at native 1080p and runs at a silky smooth 60FPS. FromSoftware has done an excellent job in making the game stunning, which still greatly contrasts with its dark and ominous tone.
“Scholar of The First Sin sees a significant uplift in visual fidelity and makes areas that used to look colourless and washed out particularly gorgeous this time around.”
As you’d expect, the Dark Souls experience has always hinged on tight gameplay, and Scholar of The First Sin is no exception. While 30FPS on the last-generation of consoles didn’t particularly hinder the experience, 60FPS feels like a huge step up. Souls games punish you for mistakes, and with the FPS boost there’s no way to blame the game for anything this time around. The combat is as rewarding as ever and felt much smoother than before, making things slightly easier on the eye when attempting to keep up with 5v1 battles. I didn’t experience a single frame-rate drop either, making my deaths all the more understandable. While I’m not one to argue between 30FPS or 60FPS and which is better, I can see how much of a difference this boost makes in Dark Souls 2.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of The First Sin is a remaster first and foremost, and while it contains all of the previously released content (Crown of The Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and Crown of the Ivory King), it’s set apart from its last-generation version by a couple of things. The first and most noticeable part is obviously the jump to native 1080p and 60FPS, but beneath that the new lighting effects, minor weapon tweaks and increase in difficulty will be what keeps fans coming back. Dark Souls 2 was already a pretty difficult game and I’m no pro so I knew going into this preview I’d probably struggle a bit, but what I was succumbed to was something I didn’t entirely expect. Enemy locations have changed, some item drops have been moved, and most importantly – there are a lot more enemies this time around, due to the fact that either the systems running the game can now handle the workload or FromSoftware just really like to make an already difficult situation more difficult. Probably both.
As I made my way through Majula, managing to avoid joining the covenant that made the game harder (that I unknowingly did when I previewed the game last time around), I ventured off to the Forest of the Fallen Giants – an area I was very familiar with and knew how to tackle without too much trouble. When I arrived I noticed a giant troll to my right, and thought to myself – that thing wasn’t there before. That got me a little worried. After disposing of the weaker enemies and realising the giant wouldn’t attack if I didn’t provoke it, I lit the Bonfire and continued on. I disposed of the archer, took out a few more weaker enemies (there were five this time around instead of three) and made my way to the top of the area. For those new to the Souls games and are mulling over this being their first foray into the series, I’d just like to note that this is the first enemy-ridden area in Dark Souls 2. After reaching the top, I noticed there were about 20 enemies lying down, many more than I had previously encountered. I provoked each of them one by one, as the series had taught me, and disposed of them without too much worry until my sword broke half way through this process. I was in trouble. I was disposed of rather quickly after that, as I was only doing 1/8th of the damage I was previously dealing and two enemies quickly made mince-meat of my situation. I couldn’t believe I was stuck only thirty minutes into the game. After consultation with a true Souls expert, I was advised the best option would to be to punch my way through the enemies until I find a new weapon, and to my surprise punching did 1/3 of the damage my sword did, and so I ventured on punching my way through the darkness and managed to find a couple of new weapons and progress onward.
The reason I’m using this story is because Dark Souls is unforgiving, but with perseverance rewards eventually come. I could have given up, but I continued on and was rewarded with three new weapons just a bit further down the track after my sword had originally broken. This is the system that keeps players coming back for more, and while Scholar of the First Sin is going to be a much harder experience than before, even for those who are seasoned veterans of the franchise, the ultimate reward is there to reap.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of The First Sin is looking great. I’m thrilled with how well the game runs and looks at native 1080p and 60FPS, as it adds a new dynamic and ability to further control movement and combat with precision without the need to blame a nearly ten-year-old console. The inclusion of all three DLC packs makes this the best and most complete way to experience Dark Souls 2, and while the game is much harder the risk and reward system set up by FromSoftware from the very beginning of the series is still one of the biggest reasons to try and try again. As a core remaster, Scholar of The First Sin is looking to be one of the most complete and enjoyable packages yet, and one fans of the franchise and those wondering if this is their type of game should absolutely, if anything, give a shot.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of The First Sin will be launching on the 2nd of April on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. The game was previewed on PS4 and some of the features mentioned above won’t be available on the last-gen versions of the game.