Dark Souls 2 Is a Flawed Masterpiece, And You Need to Stop Hating It

I enjoyed Dark Souls 2. Wait! Before you start bad-mouthing me in the comment section, just hear me out first.

Dark Souls has been the staple FromSoftware series for a long time and has created its own gaming genre called Souls-like games. After Elden Ring’s release and spending hours in the game, I like many others, finally tried out the Dark Souls games and had an absolute blast playing them. However, there was one game I kept my distance from, and it was Dark Souls 2. Dark Souls 2 had a lot of negativity surrounding it, and for good reason. But with Dark Souls 2 celebrating its 10th year anniversary this week, I finally decided to give the game a try.

And…I enjoyed it a lot. Don’t get me wrong, Dark Souls 2 has some pretty bad game mechanics and I truly understand the hate it gates. Hell, I even wanted to quit playing it at certain points. But, the amount of hate Dark Souls 2 gets seems unreasonable to me, and I think it needs to stop. I consider Dark Souls 2 a flawed masterpiece and here is why.

Why Dark Souls 2 Receives a Lot of Hate?

Dark Souls 2 has many issues and you cannot defend the hate it gets without first identifying why it gets them. Even though I enjoyed playing Dark Souls 2 thoroughly, I consider it to be the weakest of the Souls Trilogy. With that said, the game triggers a strong reaction from popular streamers, and some YouTubers have even made a 10-hour-long video series explaining why Dark Souls 2 is a bad game.

Dark Souls 2 Three Sentinels
In-game Screenshot captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

However, I don’t consider Dark Souls 2 a bad game, but it is certainly flawed. Many people who try defending Dark Souls 2 often blame the game for failing to meet the high expectations of its excellent predecessor. I don’t agree with this statement as I see many fundamentally bad game mechanics introduced in the game, which hampered the player’s experience.

Before I start discussing the parts I enjoyed in Dark Souls 2, it’s important to also point fingers at everything bad about the game.

  • Bad Enemy Placements: The biggest gripe with Dark Souls 2 is the enemy placement. The amount of gank spots in the game, especially before a boss room, is highly frustrating. In almost every situation players will find themselves outnumbered and become victims of getting ganked unless they are very careful of their surroundings. The best part of the Dark Souls series is fighting great 1v1 fights and has never been about fighting a large number of enemies at the same, which is something the game always failed mechanically, much more so in Dark Souls 2.
  • Terrible Runbacks: Dark Souls 2 is a game of terrible runbacks. Bad runbacks are the worst part of the Souls series and Dark Souls has some pretty bad ones. However, Dark Souls 2 is king of bad runbacks, and not because of the distance, but due to enemies crowding areas just before a boss room. I personally consider the people who designed Frigid Outskirts and the area before the 3 Sentinel fights as evil, because there is no reason for those areas to be as bad as they are.
Sir Alonnes Armor
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti
  • Agility Stat: One of the experimental features introduced in Dark Souls 2 was the Agility Stat, which increased the roll i-frame and even allowed healing animations. I don’t consider it a bad idea, but the implementation of it was terrible. Enemies had bad attack hitboxes and their attacks would snap on players if they had less agility and the base healing animation was painfully slow. This stat was also not explained in any of the tutorials (or I may have missed it), which probably makes it a lot more frustrating for players going blind into the game. However, I comfortably defeated all the Dark Souls 2 bosses (excluding Sir Alonne and Lud & Zallen) with a 94 agility, although I was light rolling the entire game and didn’t target lock most bosses.

Some of the other complaints about Dark Souls 2 from the community, such as many of the bosses being overly simplistic, or some of the level design lacking quality, along with the aforementioned three reasons are why players largely dislike Dark Souls 2. Now, I won’t be defending those terrible game mechanics because I am also a victim of them. Instead, I will point out the reasons I enjoyed Dark Souls 2 and why you should also give it a try if you haven’t yet.

Dark Souls 2: Beyond Terrible Mechanics

With everything I faced playing Dark Souls 2, almost quitting at certain points (the area before the 3 Sentinel and the Smelter Demon fight), I am glad to persevere because the game has many high moments. Here is why I consider Dark Souls 2 a flawed masterpiece.

Highly Interactable Environments

Fume Knight Dark Souls 2
Image Courtesy: In-game Screenshot from Reddit

One of the best parts about Dark Souls 2 is how interactable the environment is in the game. Many of the bosses have mechanics tied to the environment, which players need to figure out in order to make the fight easier.

There is a massive crossbow in the room? Well, you can use it to kill the boss or other enemies. Why am I fighting this boss in the dark? Well, you can light the area and make it easier.

The leading up to the Lost Sinner fight is one of the most memorable Souls moments for me, where you can light up the fires on both ends to dispel the dark in the boss room. Similarly, lighting the Giant Lamp in No-mans Wharf, which also deterred the Darkdwellers from leaving their hiding place was another great addition.

No Mans Wharf lamp
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Dark Souls 2 also has breakable walls, where you can maneuver enemies to break the walls for you. The area in Aldia’s Keep is particularly memorable where the Ogres surprise you by breaking the walls and can be maneuvered further to break other walls. In other cases, players will need to maneuver enemies and defeat them near golems to use the enemy souls as fuel.

Rolling With the Eleum Loyce Knights in DS2
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

There were also respawning enemies or enemies you could not damage until you broke the source of their invincibility. Another example is the Ivory King DLC boss, where players will need to defeat hordes of respawning Chaos Nights before fighting the Burnt Ivory King.

The fight becomes much easier when you find the four Eleum Loyce Knights, who fight alongside you and close the enemy respawning gates. I enjoyed figuring out the many aspects and yes it can get frustrating sometimes, but being able to figure it out is equally rewarding.

DS2 Gutter
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

I also enjoyed using the Torch and lighting lamps in dark areas, and particularly enjoyed the Gutter where once you light up all the lamps, the area becomes that much easier. Having those truly dark areas that needed a torch to navigate through is something I would have liked in the other Souls game too.

Diverse Set of Weapons and Playstyles

Dark Souls 2’s biggest plus point is the large number of viable playstyles the game supports, allowing players to experiment with a lot more ease. The huge arsenal of weapons in Dark Souls 2 has very comparable stats, and players are able to choose the weapons based on the playstyle and not just pure damage numbers.

Dark Souls 2 Weapons
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Each playthrough of Dark Souls 2 also gives a large number of Titanite Slabs, allowing players to max a lot more weapons per playthrough than the other Souls games. Dark Souls 2 also has the best Mage viability out of all the Souls games, excluding Elden Ring. Playing a mage in Dark Souls 2 is very enjoyable and I would recommend players give it a try in one of their playthroughs.

Additionally, Dark Souls 2 also implemented Powerstance and Weapon Skills for the first time, and we continue to enjoy these two features in both Dark Souls 3 and Elden Ring.

The Most Thought-Provoking Lore in the Trilogy

Dark Souls 2 ending
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Dark Souls has always had god-tier lore, although understanding it required players to comb through hundreds of item descriptions and NPC dialogue or watch a YouTube video, which has always been my preferred way (shout out to all the lore YouTubers for doing that work for our enjoyment).

The lore of Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3 take place at the two extremes of the world, the beginning and the end. In comparison, Dark Souls 2 takes place in the middle and is largely inconsequential to the main events.

Aldias Keep Dark Souls 2
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

However, it doesn’t mean that Dark Souls 2 lore is less interesting. Contrary to it, I consider the lore of Dark Souls 2 as the most thought-provoking of the trilogy. Unlike the first and 3rd installments of Dark Souls, Dark Souls 2 only had one ending.

Although the story kept on hinting at a choice of relinking the fire or allowing the age of darkness (similar to Dark Souls), however, there was no choice to be made at the end.

Dark Souls 2 Is a Flawed Masterpiece, And You Need to Stop Hating It
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

This explained a very ominous fact about the Dark Souls world that the decision you made in the game was inevitable and inconsequential to the grand scheme of things. Dark Souls 2 constantly hits a choice but doesn’t let the players make one because no matter what choice they make, it will only continue the cycle.

Additionally, the lore of King Vendrick, Aldia, and the Old Iron King is equally thought-provoking. Finding Vendrick roaming as a hollow in the under crypt, and then delving into his memory to see him in his all-powerful self was very powerful.

Dark Souls 2 Vendrick's Blessing
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Even the DLCs had really good lore and showed the different phases of kingdoms rising and falling, something that is inevitable irrespective of the choice made by the player.

Very Memorable Boss Fights

Dark Souls 2 has overall the weaker bosses compared to Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3. However, it’s still part of the Dark Souls trilogy so you can expect some amazing boss fights. The Smelter Demon, Pursuer, the Looking Glass Knight, and the Lost Sinner were memorable fights. Also, I loved the setting of the gimmicky bosses (kind of) like the Executioner’s Chariot and Old Iron King.

Looking Glass Knight ds 2
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

In the end, the DLC bosses were the highlight of Dark Souls 2. Sir Alonne, Fume Knight, Ivory King, and Sinh the Slumbering Dragon are amazing bosses and highly enjoyable. I consider Fume Knight one of the hardest (yet fair) bosses in the Dark Souls trilogy. Although the Sir Alonne fight had terrible runback, the fight itself was very well done.

Fighting Fume Knight Dark Souls 2
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Sinh the Slumbering Dragon is one of the best Dragon fights in the Dark Souls trilogy, only second to Midir in my opinion. The fight is hard but very fair (unlike Kalameet), doesn’t force weird camera angles, and is very satisfying. Although one of the bad elements of this fight was the weapon easily breaking mid-fight, having some repair powder handy fixed the problem.

Really Good QoL Features

Many of the QoL features of Dark Souls 2 are often criticized, but I have a different opinion on them. One of the highly scrutinized features I liked was enemies not spawning after getting defeated 12 (or more times). This feature is vital to Dark Souls 2, mainly because of the badly placed enemies before boss rooms, which can make the game very frustrating.

DS2 Dark Dweller
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

However, I would have liked this feature in the other Dark Souls games, as the number of times I have simply run past enemies dodging attacks in order to retry a boss is a lot. Defeating the same enemies in an area when you are stuck on a boss is not really fun and most players simply run past them anyway, so why not implement this handy feature?

Another thing I liked in Dark Souls 2 was the extra healing options, although I barely used them in boss fights. The extra healing was mainly useful while exploring the different areas, as in Souls Games you can very easily go out of the Estus Flasks. The extra healing allowed me to continue exploring until I was completely spent.

No Mans Wharf ds2
In-game Screenshot: Captured by Sanmay Chakrabarti

Also, I enjoyed the use of Pharros’ Lockstone for opening hidden passages, triggering environmental mechanics, or just setting up a healing spring. Although I would have preferred normal illusioned walls thrown in the mix to incentivize all the random wall hits I made throughout my playthrough.

Dark Souls 2 Has Been Out For 10 Years, Stop Hating It Now

The hate Dark Souls 2 gets is understandable, especially with the potential of the game. However, it’s been 10 years since its release and the game has already seen its fair share of criticism from the playerbase. Moreover, FromSoftware has learned from its mistakes and has continuously developed absolute banger RPGs since then, and the experimentation in Dark Souls 2 laid the groundwork for a lot of it.

Now, I think we are far enough down the line to stop overly criticizing Dark Souls 2 anymore and give it the recognition it deserves. For me, Dark Souls 2 will always be a flawed masterpiece, a game that I enjoyed playing and will come back in the future.

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