Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin hands on preview and interview
Talking Dark Souls 2 with Daniel Markoff, localization producer at Bandai Namco Games, & Yasunori Ogura, associate producer
You’re wrong. As much as you want to think you know absolutely everything about Dark Soul II, that knowledge now serves as your enemy. Your prior knowledge of enemy location, items, paths, and even AI has been thrown out the window. The anticipation of your expectation will kill you. While some of these aspects are subtle, some are like dragon-sized in your face.
What I’m referring to here is Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin. This is beyond DLC, it is both the alpha and the omega. It is a standalone version of Dark Souls II that comes with all the DLC packs – Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and Crown of the Ivory King. There are new NPCs, invaders, covenant functionality, balance adjustments, and better item descriptions. If that’s not enough, the game has also received a graphical overhaul as well. The game's improvements include upgrades to graphics, sound, and performance, lighting. It's even increased the amount of possible online players.
For you ‘next gen’ Souls fans, it’s officially time for you to rejoice. Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is coming to PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC. If you’re familiar with Dark Souls II, you’ll immediately notice the difference in graphics; the flow of the grass in Things Betwix, the lighting from torches, and the first time you step out into Heide’s Tower – stunning. At a solid 1080p at 60 FPS, the gameplay looks both beautiful and runs ridiculously smoothly.
However, it won’t necessarily be the graphics dropping your jaw in this new version of Dark Souls II. The best comparison I can make here is to compare Scholar of the First Sin to the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut. The Director’s Cut took the same characters, same level design, same enemies -- basically the same game -- and swapped around item locations and completion paths. THIS is essentially what Scholar of the First Sin is about. It allows those who know Dark Souls II like the back of their hand to play what appears to be the same game they know while not playing the same game they know at all. In this case, appearances are quite deceiving.
There is nothing like a personal story to back this claim. During my experience playing, I was handed the controller right at the entrance of Heide’s Tower from Majula. First off, the stone giant's aggro is much larger. It attacked me at the bonfire unexpectedly. Secondly, there are Heide Knights everywhere. If you kill them they even respawn – which is totally foreign to how they normally function. Some even stand up and attack you as you get close which is ALSO not how they normally behave. Wanting to explore more of this new content, I just started to run; my goal to check out the Old Dragonslayer fight. Nope! On that platform before the drawbridge was a giant red dragon. So yea, I died. It was run into the fire breath attack (which I chose) or fall to the army dudes chasing me. So yea, there's looooots different in this version.
After my short play session of the game I thought I knew, I decided to take my questions to Daniel Markoff, localization producer at Bandai Namco Games, and Yasunori Ogura, associate producer. These two entertained my questions, revealed some goodies, and thoroughly enjoyed talking about all the new ways we’re going to die. For example, when asked if bosses would have new AI there was ominous laughter from the both of them followed by the one word answer – “yes.”
Speaking of bosses, during The Last Giant fight, there was a new friendly summon NPC who wasn’t Pete. This guy’s name is Sellsword Luet. This hardcore buddy duel-wielded shields and wore the aggro gaining ring. In case you ever had trouble with Last Giant, toss those days aside – this guy is boss.
When asked about PvP changes, they told me that covenants, the systems, and rewards have been altered. Since there are up to six characters that can now be in a game at once, there is much more potential for chaos. The whole concept of 2 v 4 matches play different than anything else you’ve experienced. Most importantly though, FromSoftware has listened to player feedback and made matchmaking not so tyrannical when it comes to soul memory. It will be easier to play with friends and there is even a new item to help with this.
I asked about the PvP arenas and the reply was that the maps won’t have changed; but, the situation in which online play will happen is different. Take that for what you will. Also, again, 6-player PvP is a thing and it will add a whole new exciting flavor.
When I inquired if item locations and enemy drops would be different, they said both would be.
There will be a new NPC invader known as Forlorn that will show up anywhere to try to murder your face off. Apparently he comes whenever the hell he wants and lives to make your life worse. On top of that, killing him won’t stop him in the future. Victory just means you get to live for now. Forlorn will keep players on their toes and invades like any other NPC; you’ll know, but how much that helps you is in the air. They told me that you’ll often find yourself asking, “Why is someone invading me right now?”
What they seemed most excited about is the conditions in which he shows up. Apparently there is a rhyme or reason behind it but players will be theory crafting the triggers for some time. “He doesn’t always come at the same place. People will be searching for how to trigger him – they’ll all be wrong.”
Out of hope for all of us, I asked if even Majula will be safe. They confided in me that he can only invade where online play is possible – so that is a yes. On the other end of the spectrum when asked if you’ll be safe from him during boss rights they said: “You’ll have to play the game to see.” That’s a no.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t hyped at all about Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin when it was first announced due to the fact that I have it on PC (console of choice) with all the DLC already. However, the more I learned, the more I decided I need this. For the hardcore Dark Souls fan, this is more or less an entirely new experience with the same game. It’s as if FromSoftware released a massive mod that changed everything and upped the graphics. I’m sure there are even more secrets and unknowns in this edition. Hell, maybe they’ll even reveal what the pendant does?
Spoiler, the pendant will never do anything.