Demon's Souls broke ground introducing one of the hardest games in a time where everything seems to simplified. Dark Souls built upon that foundation and created a more maniacal experience. Dark Souls 2 deviates from this path as they try to gain new fans by making it more accessible. New comers to the series may find challenge since they don't know what to expect, but as a fan of the previous two installments, Dark Souls 2 is without a doubt the easiest of trio.
The challenge is something that really attracted me to the series since its unlike anything else out on the market. It's difficult but not in a cheesy way, it has masterfully, well thought out levels that has you cautiously peaking around every corner, and enemies that are intimidating to look at. Everything mentioned above is severely lacking in Dark Souls 2, and this alone really hurts the game in my eyes. To make the game more accessible, they dumbed down everything. Enemies look intimidating and great, but once you conquer them you'll realize how much of a pushover they are. In Dark Souls a lot of enemies had surprise attacks and one hit kills, but not in this addition. There really aren't any surprises and it doesn't punish your mistakes. And no Souls' game felt cheesy when I died, however there were numerous times where I am clearly out of the attack range but I somehow get hit that results in my demise. Even the amount of HP you lose is more forgiving since is doesn't decrease by half when you die.
Now you can amp up the difficulty of you're looking for a greater challenge but From Software did this backwards. You can join covenant that increases the overall difficulty, you get these items that can be burned in a bonfire that makes enemies tougher, and you can equip rings that make you more noticeable. For me to get that challenge I have to go out of my way to seek it. This is how the game should have been out of the case, and have those looking for an easier time jump through hoops. But even that wouldn't fix the less sadistic level design (with the exception of 2 levels). There are not many traps, ambushes, pits, or overall cleverness. Drangleic felt massive and the open areas looked fantastic with beautifully artistic back drops, but everything in between looked bland and could've used some more decor. Even leveling up easier because it requires less souls to do so. Plus the amount of souls you gain seems to be on the high side. The change in difficulty is written in every facet of the games mechanics and its very disappointing.
I know I'm tearing into the game a bit but it isn't all bad. It plays exactly like Souls'in how you progress, do combat, and its online interactions. The new engine increases the stability of the performance making the frame rate issues much improved, and the targeting system works. The lighting is nice and the textures are sharp. Online has some cool new features that have you spar with the same covenant if you belong to the Blue Sentinels, or another one that summons other players into a freakish death trap if you belong to Rat King. With those additions though, they foolishly limited the number of Red Eye Orbs (which allows you to invade other players), which in turn makes the new Blue Eye Orb (allows you to invade the guilty) useless. I am a big fan of being invaded because it creates such an uneasy feeling, and when you end up slaying the wimpy invader the sense of relief and triumph is very satisfying. The lack of invading was an issue in DS1 and has sadly gotten worse in DS2.
The game does retain some of its form with a very flexible leveling up system that caters to your style. The ability to upgrade weapons, armors and shields. Magic like sorceries, pyromancies, miracles and the newly included dark magic, Hexes. I spent nearly 80 hours on my first play through so it will definitely keep you busy, and has hours and hours of more play time for the biggest of fans. It's not a bad game by any means but it seems to be losing touch with its Soul and starting to turn Hollow.