Praise the Sun! 2015 has been a pretty good year so far for fans of the Souls series. Just days ago From Software released Bloodborne on the PlayStation 4, which more or less expanded on the distinct RPG formula from the developers, and now Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin arrives for everyone else. This remastered version of the 2014 release sees notable improvements to graphical fidelity for the Xbox and PlayStation versions of the game, along with adding in a bunch of downloadable content and minor tweaks to the gameplay in terms of enemy and item locations. While the graphical improvements for the console version are instantly noticeable and a big reason to purchase the game for those that have yet to play the PC version of Dark Souls 2, the gameplay improvements and tweaks are rather minor, but not so much as to completely disregard their importance. There have been no shortage of remastered editions to arrive on the Xbox One and PS4 consoles, but From Software’s twist on the popular method of double dipping into consumer checkbooks is an interesting one.
For those who have yet to play Dark Souls 2, Scholar of the First Sin is a great spot to jump in. The game looks great on the console version we tested, it’s the definitive edition of one of 2014’s best games. This remaster is one of the most accessible games in the series, while retaining its trademark difficulty. We elaborate on why this is in our original review of Dark Souls 2, as the game hasn’t been changed in any major ways. For Xbox One owners, it’s a no-brainer if you’re looking for something with substance to sink your teeth into. PlayStation 4 owners have a bigger conundrum with Bloodborne releasing so closely to this one. Regardless, Dark Souls 2 is a fun, difficult action-RPG. It’s full of nasty bosses, creative areas to explore, and items to uncover.
For those who have yet to play Dark Souls 2, Scholar of the First Sin is a great spot to jump in.
If your only experience with Dark Souls 2 was on the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin will be a significant improvement. Re-playing this game in 1080p 60fps is certainly the way it was meant to be played. It looks good and runs smoothly, without having the lengthy loading times that we saw in Bloodborne. The controversial lighting engine that was seemingly purged from the original release makes its debut here as well, and the end result is a beautiful game. Matching From’s fantastic art-style, Scholar of the First Sin looks fantastic. Is it going to blow you away or feel like it’s scratching that next-gen itch to showcase the power of the new consoles? No. But it’s a big improvement nonetheless.
From Software’s take on the Dark Souls 2 remaster is an interesting one. They do many of the things that other developers have done with their re-releases. They upped the resolution and framerate, yes. They bundled all the downloadable content into the game as well. The interesting thing is, the gameplay has been tweaked to make this feel like From Software’s final vision for Dark Souls 2. Enemies have been shifted around, statues block different paths in the game, items and bosses have been relocated in some instances. Having already played this game three times to completion before heading into Scholar of the First Sin, these minor changes felt like they changed the game completely. Not so much as to not recognize the game’s origins, no not all. But, it felt like a new experience regardless. Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin allows even veteran Dark Souls 2 players the ability to rediscover this great game.
There’s a ton of substance in Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin’s campaign, which will have most players clocking in 50-60 hours in a single playthrough. Throw in the bundles of downloadable content that can tackled after, as well as options for new game plus and online play, and Scholar of the First Sin gives a lot of bang for your buck. Assuming, that is, that you enjoy the punishing learning curve that Souls games feature.
Not quite content with improving the graphics and lumping in the downloadable content and calling it a day, Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin feels like From Software’s definitive vision for the game. The only thing that feels bad about this re-release is that it’s only been a year since the game first hit store shelves. Why we can’t get this type of experience on the first go is a little disheartening.
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin
- Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Published By: Bandai Namco
- Developed By: From Software
- Genre: Action-RPG
- US Release Date: April 7th, 2015
- Reviewed On: Xbox One
- Quote: "Not quite content with improving the graphics and lumping in the downloadable content and calling it a day, Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin feels like From Software's definitive vision for the game."