Dark Souls II
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From Software's critically acclaimed and enigmatic action RPG series returns with improved graphics and sound and a greater focus on Covenants and online interactions in Dark Souls II. Players create a character and allocate stats into a variety of base skills, then head off into a dark and incredibly dangerous world in hopes of ending the suffering of their cursed protagonist. As always, the souls of fallen enemies serve as both the in-game currency and the only means of levelling, forcing gamers to choose between improving their character and purchasing vital items. Souls are hard-won but easily lost in Dark Souls II, thanks to strong enemies who capitalize on any mistake, and giant, brutal bosses who can kill in a variety of ways and break from attack patterns at unexpected times. Players also lose all of their acquired souls whenever they die and can only retrieve them by returning to the location of their death without dying again. Though an open-world game in the sense that players can generally choose where they want to go at any time, the connected environments tend to be serpentine and full of locked areas that eventually spit gamers out where they started. Areas of complete darkness are far more prevalent in Dark Souls II because the designers wanted to force users to choose between protection in the form of a weapon or shield and visibility in the form of a torch. Bonfires return as checkpoints, and in Dark Souls II they can also be used for fast travel, but they remain rare island oases amidst a seemingly unending sea of despair. Online interactions are a key part of the Dark Souls experience, and players can once again examine bloodstains to see how other gamers died, read dozens of helpful (or deliberately misleading) messages scrawled on the ground by other players, or invade the adventures of one another. But where Dark Souls only allowed for invasions when gamers were in human form, Dark Souls II makes no such distinction. Players can be invaded when in their cursed Hollow form, and every time they die while Hollow their maximum Health Points decrease slightly, until they return to human form. The increased emphasis on Covenants was designed to spur online interactions, with each Covenant offering meaningful items, benefits, and PvP powers.