‘Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin’ Preview – Testing The Durability of Your New Controllers

There were few games in the last console generation that were more difficult than Demon’s SoulsDark Souls or Dark Souls II. And few with darker fantasy worlds. From Software plans to have us dying and dying in those twisted lands once again, but this time on our new more powerful consoles. How you ask? Why, with Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin a – if you like – remaster of last year’s critically acclaimed Dark Souls II. I have my views about the flood of re masters/ re-releases so quickly after their original release, but Scholar of the First Sin just may create an exception.

Let me start by making a confession: Dark Souls showed me that I have no patience for constant death. Based on that statement, you may have guessed that I have never finished a Souls game. Nevertheless, the beginning of Scholar of the First Sin does a wonderful job of creating an accessible, fun, yet still ultra punishing experience.

Scholar of the First Sin makes use of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One’s added power to double the frames per second (FPS) Dark Souls II runs at – a Bandai Namco rep also tells me it will run at 1080p on both consoles if you are wondering. I find it hard to differentiate between 30 FPS and 60 FPS when I am not specifically told, but Scholar of the First Sin really makes it stand out. At 60 FPS Dark Souls II on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is much more responsive and fluid than its predecessor. I’m not so inclined to say it made the game easier, because I died a lot! Rather, it makes the gameplay more fun because of the added responsiveness in combat; deaths do not feel like the fault of the control system.

Dark Souls II combat originally made attacking, blocking and dodging feel meaningful, but the increased fluidity makes everything feel even more impactful. Even the easiest* kill feels satisfying. (*read: one bad dodge or block and you are still dead).

For gamers who have already played Dark Souls IIScholar of the First Sin is not just a simple rehash. The positions of enemies have been changed so even those who have memorised strategies to speed run areas will have a new challenge to over come. Furthermore, new lore has been added to flesh out the experience. This comes in the form of new descriptions on items.

For PlayStation 4 users, the inventory screen has been mapped to touchpad on the controller to make up for the replacement of the select button with the share button.

A highlight for me is just how gorgeous Scholar of the First Sin looks – in that dark fantasy type of way. One of the first cutscenes in the game, in which the player character is spoken to by three old women, looks stunning. Clothing and other fabrics move freely in the background, and the wrinkles on the women’s faces are able to greater emphasise their elderly physique.

Additionally, the other moment which had me in awe is when you exit the dark cave of the tutorial area into the glistening sunshine beaming over the water in the hub town of Majula. Like the unofficial slogan of the Dark Souls franchise, the new dynamic lighting made me praise (and love) the sun.

Other improvements with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions include an increase in the online player count to six, and a new NPC and boss called the Scholar of the First Sin (hence the title of the expansion).

For gamers with Dark Souls II on PC, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, the Scholar of the First Sin patch has already been released. It does not include as many of the changes as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions will, but the new NPC, item descriptions and improved matchmaking functions have been added.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin will come with all three downloadable content packs, Crown of the Sunken KingCrown of the Old Iron King and Crown of the Ivory King, regardless of which console you purchase the re-release on.

In a bonus for Xbox 360, PC and PlayStation 3 users, they will be able to use their original saves should they choose to purchase Scholar of the First Sin for the DLC packs.

What I love about Dark Souls II is that it does not hold your hand. From the moment I started playing, I was never told what to do. It’s really rewarding knowing you figured out where to go, what to do and how the various game systems work independently. Scholar of the First Sin is set to make the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of Dark Souls II the best yet, with new content for both Souls veterans and newcomers alike.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin will be available from April 2 (Australia) on PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This preview is based on a couple of hours of gameplay with the PlayStation 4 version.