If you were to take the word of the players, you’d think the original Demon’s Souls and its successor Dark Souls were the video game equivalent of Mount Everest surmounted by Scylla and Charybdis. There’s Hard, there’s Veteran, and then there’s Dark Souls. So the hype would have you believe, anyway.
But wait, am I going to be the one who tells you that Dark Souls really isn’t as hard as everyone says? Oh god no! This game will kick you up the tallest building around and back down the other side.
The good news and the bad news? The sequel will do just the same thing to you. If you think the game has eased up to allow new users a more forgiving point of entrance into the series, then you really haven’t been paying attention. Dark Souls II not only meets its predecessor beat for beat, but might just have edged it out in terms of difficulty.
The world of Dark Souls isn’t the one of Campbellian heroics like Bioware’s Dragon Age or the focus-lite sandbox fun of Skyrim. In Dark Souls, you and your character exist to get eaten alive by a world that is more grim suffering than anything else. Dark Souls II ups the ante by instituting penalties whenever you die. You will die, too; the A.I. fights back intelligently.
For the Windows crowd, you will have to wait for late April for your Dark Souls fix. The PC version of the game will not be coming out for another month. I’ve never played the PC version of the first game, but rumor has it that it’s inferior to the console version and had to be extensively modded. I hope for all our sakes that’s not the case with the PC version of the sequel.
Dark Souls II has the potential to be one of those games, a challenge reserved for what one might call the “upper echelons” of gamer ranks, because it’s designed to punish the undedicated. I doubt it has the capacity to be a classic, for that reason if for no other.
So, if you’ve got some time to kill and want to give yourself the satisfaction that comes with overcoming an unforgiving challenge, you could do a lot worse than Dark Souls II. The game is currently available for current-generation consoles, the 360 and the PS3. The official date of release for the PC version is April 25.