Dark Souls 2 PS3 review – Things to do in Drangleic when you’re undead

Like haggis fritters smothered in Marmite, Dark Souls 2’s unrelenting difficulty isn’t for everyone. For those with a glutton for punishment, you’re in for a meal that challenges and nourishes like no other – albeit one that likes to hoof you in the unmentionables every chance it gets. Hold me, dear reader. This is going to be one bumpy, but thankfully brilliant, descent back into the depths of despair.

Dark Souls 2 PS3 review

For starters, fighting beasties is still ruddy amazing. Beautifully poised and sharply tactical, every considered thrust of your axe, sword or spear carries more menace and consequence for failure than a million haphazardly fired COD rounds. Class-leading combat is just one part of the brutal cocktail, mind. It’s also backed up by the peerless thrill of constantly pushing forth into the unknown. Each corner turned or mist barrier broken offers the promise of progression set against an unceasing backdrop of tension.

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Though every nerve-jangling duel bristles with the potential of sucking in souls to level up your Chosen Undead, it’s far more likely a moment of impatience or clumsiness will wipe out an hour’s worth of toil. The constant threat of smothering failure never leaves your side in a game that’s centred around leveraging your finite resources for greater rewards. This ever-evolving thrill of cat-and-mouse gambling is what makes Dark Souls 2 so horribly hard to put down.

The constant threat of smothering failure
never leaves your side in a game that’s
centred around leveraging your finite
resources for greater rewards

Before you get your passport stamped for re-entry to Hellsville, you best prepare for a change of destination in Drangleic. Though this open-ended kingdom is more compartmentalised and lacks the natural visual flow of Lordran, it’s still dotted with locales that are sure to burn in the memory long after you’ve sacked off your PS3 at a car boot sale for a tenner.

Dark Souls 2 screens

Dark Souls 2′s combat requires patience and timing to defeat enemies.

Prepare to dodge the sweaty meat hooks of obese, nappy-wearing Cyclopses in the clawing quagmire of Things Betwixt (surely the greatest name for an opening level ever). Don’t forget to watch your step as you gingerly ghost past spectral sentries in the Silent Hill-aping Shaded Woods. While Lost Bastille’s deadly prison cells make a sleepover in Folsom look like an overnight stay in the Fireworks, Candy And Puppy Dogs Store. In short, there’s more artistic imagination on show here than any game currently on PS4

Yes, it’s a last-gen game, but a strikingly handsome one: less cartoony, far richer in detail and substantially more lived-in than its predecessor. Full analogue movement and velvety combat animations ensure the action now slithers from the screen with a fluid, balletic brutality. It not only makes monster skirmishes appear less mechanical, but also ensures they’re more responsive to the touch – crucial when every millisecond of hesitation could see that ghoulish knight gut you with his 11-foot butcher’s knife.