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...Lastly, there are areas that explicitly overlap, particularly the Shaded Woods/Aldia's Keep area.
There are a couple mechanics that bugged me as well, though not nearly to the extent that I'm disappointed with the game over them. Stuff like poise from the first game have been mechanically nerfed to near uselessness. Supposedly it mitigates stun duration, but a large chunk of weapons are capable of stunlocking for as long as the attacker has stamina. It should help mitigate stagger, but even the smallest weapon classes, such as daggers or thrusting swords, can stagger the heaviest armour in the game with two-handed attacks. There are other mechanics that bug me as well, but I think a lot of them may potentially be patched, so commenting on their state now may be useless.
Enemies also lacked variety in their attack patterns. A lot of them, as well as bosses, have a very typical three or sometimes four hit combo that is easy to sidestep, nevermind dodge, and punish. It made a lot of them not as exciting or nearly as memorable, with several bosses being recycled.
Despite my complaints, I still feel there were many, many improvements overall, and the game is still very good. I actually prefer it, at least mechanically, to the first game. The port of Dark Souls 2 is also much, much better than the first game, so you don't necessarily have to configure a mod to make the game passable.
Dark Souls had better level design but Dark Souls 2 is still pretty good. Plus it's 60fps and the graphics are improved so it has that going for it. I tried to go back to the first Dark Souls and it was kinda blech looking.
"Arrgh! My groin!" - George C. Scott in Man Getting Hit by Football
Great game, but out of all the Souls games it has probably the worst PVP balance. At least on PS3 it did, I found Dark Souls better balanced. I put about 300 hours on DS2 on PS3. Not sure what the latest patches have changed so I can't speak on that, but balancing definitely felt off, as well as weapon scaling(which has to do with balancing as well). I definitely recommend the game, it's the best game I've played in a very long time, but the PVP was a little disappointing.
So why the low score then? The reason for that is cos I'm a CRYBABY!!!!! Waaah! Waaah! Waah! I couldn't resist throwing at a lowball score because after reading all the reviews in here I got boner out of all the fan-boy style reviews explaining that low scores are made by hopeless cases who can't play the game and don't know what they are talking about and are CRY babies. As a prime crybaby myself I just had to stand up for my demographic, of incompetent, casual idiots and review in solidarity with them. Cos in metacritic you know mostly we don't review the games so much as try to highball or lowball the score with a 10/10 or a 0/10.
Oh yeah the review. Yeah. pretty good games. 7/10. 5 points deducted for all the anal sphincters out there who take a baseball bat to dissent.
This is why Metacritic user scores should be tossed out the window.
Unless you like games that constantly keep you at a constant level of annoyance at beating bosses with huge amounts of health while constantly dying (which affects your in gameplay progress) with mediocre gameplay then go ahead.
For everyone else, there are a lot of other games that do it better.
Also, if you're looking for a challenge, there are quite a bit of games that are harder. Try Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES (or any of the NES ones) and come back crying.