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Change YoY: -15   My Rating: 9.2 / 10

Although Dark Souls II is the weakest of the Fromsoftware Soulsborne games by quite a comfortable margin, that is only in relation to what are in my opinion some of the greatest video games of all time. In many ways, Dark Souls II feels like a very different game from the other two entries in the series, and not just because Hidetaka Miyazaki was less involved in its creation. The story and world are much less connected to the lore of the first and third games and especially the story of Gwyn, although in Scholar of the First Sin, Gwyn's breaking of the cycle of the world becomes a significant inciting incident for one of the major antagonists of the game. However, despite this disconnect, I find Dark Souls II a fascinating game from lore perspective. It feels much more of a human story, about the emergence and eventual downfalls of human kingdoms because of their own mistakes, while the other two games were more concerned with the actions of gods and the consequences of those actions.

Other notable differences include the world design, which is much less insular and connected than in DS1 and DS3. The various locations don't really wrap around each other or connect to one another, rather they are a series of long chains that shoot out from a central location. Neither is inherently better, and both can result in exceptionally well-designed locations, though the general consensus is that overall DS2 is weaker in this particular aspect. However, Dark Souls II does also feature some of the best designed locations in the entire series, specifically in the three DLC expansions, though weirdly, each of them also contains an optional area that is among the most infuriating locations in any Dark Souls game. The gameplay can also, at least in comparison to the other games, feel weirdly unbalanced and even disjointed at times, owing much to the slightly off-feeling hitboxes.

Yet, for all its faults, this is still at its core a Dark Souls game, and even at their weakest they tend to be superior to almost all other games that have attempted to copy their formula over the last decade. The beautifully bleak world, intriguing lore, challenging gameplay, and the excellent score are just some of the aspects of the game that I still love. It may be the worst of the Dark Souls games, but that only makes it the least great game in the series. Even with so many soulslike games that have arrived in the wake of the series' success, none (that I have played) have yet to match the quality of even the weakest entry in FromSoftware's flagship franchise.