I vividly remember waking up early on March 2014, and skipping university to travel to EB Games and be the first in line to receive a copy of Dark Souls 2. The newest entry in the franchise would surely entice both old and new players alike. Fast-forward two years later, and Dark Souls 2 has now become the most infamous of From Software’s games. It came under heavy scrutiny by fans and critics alike, so much so that they released a remastered version of the game.
Cue Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin.
I was eager to get my hands on the game, as I felt there were a number of glaring issues with the original, and I hoped that this updated version would bring about some form of closure. Perhaps a fresh coat of paint is all that the game needed. Unfortunately, it seems that Scholar has issues of its own.
For those who don’t know, Dark Souls 2 is actually the third entry in the souls series. This series is infamous for its difficult learning curve, fantastic level design and convoluted plot. The game follows the player character who travels to the accursed land of Drangleic in order to cure the curse of the undead. There are a number of issues with the lore that contradict previous information, but honestly those details are incredibly tedious and not really worth anyone’s time.
What I’ll be talking about is the gameplay of the original compared to Scholar, and whether or not new players should bother with the extra twenty dollars it costs to get it, and whether or not the changes are drastic enough to warrant a second purchase for veterans.
In regards to the movement and combat of the original, Scholar feels a lot slower and more deliberate, which is good. The slowing down of the gameplay gives a more tactical feel to the game, reinforcing the notion that when you die, it’s your fault. Due to this change, I was expecting the weapons to be changed in order to accommodate, yet they all seem to be unchanged. Each weapon has a different moveset, meaning the player has a lot of choice in what they wish to use. In spite of this, many of the weapons are just revised move sets from the first game, so there are no massive changes in regards to attacking. The decreased speed definitely makes the game unique from the other Souls games, and even though the core combat and movesets for weapons have not changed, the gameplay feels much more enjoyable.
The major problem with the original was the enemy types and placement in the areas of the game. In the other Souls games, the enemies were difficult because they had differing movesets, and planned interesting ambushes that were cruel, but fair. In Dark souls 2, almost all of the enemies’ move sets will stunlock the player, and track them for almost 360 degrees. This still remains in Scholar. The obvious downside to this is that it does not reward players that can predict an enemies movement, because no matter what the enemy does, the only way to avoid the attack is to wait until almost after the attack is finished to dodge. This creates an unrealistic and immersion breaking gameplay experience. This strange apprehension begins to creep in the mind of the player, changing their objective from ‘How should I approach this enemy?’ to ‘How long do I have to wait before I press B.’
The second major issue is the enemy placement. There’s no subtlety to ambushes. One major example that springs to mind is the bonfire in the Hunstman’s Copse. Bonfires in the Souls games are meant to serve as a sort of brief respite from the dangers of the world, however, this bonfire has a group of archers standing right in front of it. It also feels like many enemies were just copied and pasted into areas in order to make it more difficult. The examples are seemingly endless, from the ogres in the Forest of Fallen Giants, to Heide Knights from Heides Tower of Flame, then the endless horde of Zombies in the Undead Crypt. Fighting a legion of enemies who can track your movements and stunlock you into oblivion is not as enjoyable as having fewer enemies with more diverse and interesting movesets and strategies.
These issues brought up in Scholar adversely affect the gameplay in such a negative fashion, that I cannot recommend playing either of them at all, especially for those who are new to the Souls Series. Veterans may enjoy ‘upgrading’ to Scholar to see the changes, but it just seems that Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin is a poor attempt at resuscitating a skeleton.