Game Review – Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin (Xbox One)

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is an updated release of 2014’s Dark Souls II. Are From Software’s efforts in Scholar of the First Sin worthy of another venture through Drangleic, or do they fall short in re-releasing this title so soon?

Dark Souls II was first released in 2014 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms. It was a successful sequel to the critically-acclaimed Dark Souls, which in itself was a successful spiritual sequel to the Playstation 3 exclusive Demon’s Souls. Regardless of who was publishing, or what consoles the games were released on, all three titles have been amazing achievements for developer From Software and have sold very well.

This year From Software have decided to re-release Dark Souls II on next-gen consoles Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as the PC, as Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. However, not keen on simply re-releasing the exact same game, From Software have made numerous changes to enemies, areas, NPCs, weapons, items and even included all three of the DLC expansions. So much has changed in the world of Drangleic, but is it worth taking another trip through it all?

Since one of the main focuses for Scholar of the First Sin is the availability of Next-Gen console versions, I think I’ll start off talking about the visuals and whether or not they showed any improvement for the updated release. The graphics this time around are a lot smoother and certainly make the land and different areas of Drangleic much more beautiful. Character models in the game also received major upgrades, and some NPCs and bosses aren’t even recognizable compared to their older selves. These improvements are a big plus towards making Scholar of the First Sin worth playing all the way through even if you’ve already played through everything in Dark Souls II.

As great as the updated visuals in the game are though, what really makes it worth playing through again is all the gameplay changes made by From Software. Certain areas have been switched around so much with new item placements and different enemy spawn points that it’s pretty much a whole new Dark Souls experience. Players have to be careful with some of these new arrangements though, as some areas have been made especially more difficult thanks to new dark phantoms and even a boss battle that you’ll encounter several times throughout the game as a normal spawning enemy. While this increase in difficulty might be a turn-off for some casual players, I think it’s a welcome change for the more hardcore fans of the series. I personally loved the new experience.

The basics of the game such as character classes and stats haven’t changed too much. You can stick with your usual build if you’d like to, or try something else out. That’s one formula they’ve had set that was perfect as it was and needed no changing. You can focus on certain stats to create the perfect build that suits you, and the beginning classes you get to choose from for your character will set a guideline of what you should level up if you want to focus on that certain build. Regardless of what class you choose though, you don’t necessarily have to stick to leveling up that specific build. Ultimately you can level up whatever stats you won’t to, however you see fit. Your character’s class from the beginning of the game is merely just a guideline to show you what works for the different builds you can go with.

That’s one of the best things about the Souls series, the fun you can have with character customization and all the different choices you have. If you want to stick with miracles and lighting based attacks, then you want to level up stats like faith and attunement. For magic based attacks and spells, you want intelligence and attunement. For pure power and strength, then you want strength and dexterity. But as I said earlier, you can mix it up if you want to and also build up a character that can wield heavy weapons but also be proficient in miracles. Or a long-ranged beast of a character who is great with both spells and miracles. There’s a lot of different ways to go with your build, but remember, it might be wise to invest in certain stats for your character at first so you’ll have some attacks that can do heavy damage when needed, rather than have a character whose stats are average all-around with no real heavy-hitting attacks.

Thanks to all the different builds you can go with, there’s some heavy replay value here. There are also different covenants you can join throughout the game to do little side things for and level up. Once you reach certain levels in these covenants you can get weapons, spells, miracles, armor or other items to reward you for your devotion. And if all of that isn’t enough to quench your thirst for punishment, once you finish the main story to the game you can also start New Game +, which raises the difficulty and starts you in a new game but also lets you remain at the level you were and keep all your stats and items. It’s actually pretty fun to keep playing and continue on through New Game + to see just how strong your character can be come and what awesome weapons and spells/miracles you can potentially wield after it all.

In the end, Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is an awesome update that adds so much to what was already an already amazing game. With all the new content, new arrangements, and all three DLC packs included, this is a game that you can easily invest 100+ hours in to and get way more than your money’s worth. Of course, that’s only if you can take the punishment the Souls series is known to dish out. Even if you’re turned off by the difficulty of the game at first, trust me, it’ll grow on you as long as you stick to it. And eventually you’ll see that you can dish out the punishment just as good as the game used to on you.

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