Dark Souls II First Impressions

DSIIIt’s been about a week or so since Dark Souls II dropped for PS3 and Xbox 360 and it’s about another month yet before it drops on the PC (boo).  I have several playthroughs going right now, the primary being a strength based build with about 45 hours invested.  My secondary playthrough is a pure caster int/dex and has around 20 hours in the game.  I just finished off the last of the 4 main souls (the rotten) and I’m told I’m around 50% of the way through the game.  Here’s what I think so far..

First off, I have to say I’m having a ton of fun with DSII.  I love the variety of builds, I love the co-op experience, and I love the idea of being invaded and never quite feeling safe.  Relative to the original Dark Souls, DSII starts off pretty slow.  It has a beginner area which is a great tool for those new to the series and helps to wet their proverbial feet.  Unfortunately for what felt like a long time to me afterwards, it still felt very slow.  When summoning in or being summoned in, most everyone seemed to be wearing and or using the same gear for quite some time.  I also felt a bit underpowered with the lack of titanite shards and souls available.  Having a finite amount available wasn’t something I was used to and it seemed to lock me that much further into using the same weapon I started the game out with.

That said, around the time I finished up exploring the Lost Bastille, I had started to encounter a loot explosion.  I now have more weapons than I know what to do with and more tools to upgrade them with.  Choosing the right weapon to take down the path of higher upgrades becomes difficult with so many options to choose from.  Many of the boss related weapons or special weapons given to me by NPC’s require twinkling titanite which I’ve rarely seen up to this point.  Looks like I’ll be holding onto those for now.

There seem to be far more bosses than I remember in DS.  I don’t have the numbers down, but it seems as though DS II is featuring far more mini bosses than DS ever did.  It’s hard to distinguish between main bosses and mini bosses as they all have a distinct boss-feel to them, but only 4 can be great souls after all.  I think the chariot boss is a great example here of what essentially amounts to a mini boss but felt like something greater.

Overall the boss difficulty feels much easier than that of DS.  I beat each of the 4 major soul bosses on my first blind attempt and without any support.  Well, I suppose it did take me two tries on Rotten.  I made a mistake and chugged a potion instead of vaulting backwards.  My next attempt is nearly flawless and leaves me wondering why it was more difficult getting to the boss than engaging the actual boss himself.

I start to worry a bit when my livestream points out that at this point in time I’m rougly 50% of the way through the game.  50 I say?  Surely you jest.  I’ve spent so long just getting here.  I stop and think about where I’ve spent all my time.  I’ve no doubt spent numerous hours playing in the ratacombs summoning helpless victims and laughing at them while they stumble around weaving between the rats on one side and my blade on the other.  I think more than anything else I’ve spent huge amounts of time attempting to get out of reach souls and backtracking to open up doors that I received keys to in other parts of the world.  In the forest of giants that boss drops a key that opens at least 2 doors that were formerly locked.  In the iron keep you get a key that opens up still another door in the forest of giants!  Most levels frequently have paths that will simultaneously explore the limits of verticality in addition to branching off in opposite directions as the same time.  If your goal is to make sure you’ve seen it all, you’ll definitely be seeing the same sights more than once.

The PvP has left me mixed feelings.  I love the idea of the bell tower covenant and the rat covenant.  Brilliant fun.  That said, I think I’ve only been invaded once or twice, and after you stumble on the rat lair and bell tower areas you’ll never go back again.  The PvP combat feels quite laggy despite the promise of dedicated servers.  It’s all too common to be struck from a sword that is clearly out of range.  Likewise, even when swinging ultra-greatswords, it’s not unusual to see someone walk straight through them.  It makes it difficult to take PvP very seriously despite the fact that I would love to do so.

Overall I’ve been left with a positive experience and one I can’t wait to get back to.  I’m eagerly looking forward to completing my strength based build and working on my caster and dex builds as well.  I cringe at the thought of backtracking and opening up doors that I passed long ago.  Walking past visible souls is something I can’t bear to do, yet finding a pathway there isn’t something I look forward to either.

I’ll be publishing a rabbit hole video with my complete thoughts on DSII once I complete the game which should be sometime next week.  In the meantime I’m eagerly looking forward to hearing what you all have to say and whether or not it’s similar to my own experiences.

17 comments

  1. I should mention that if possible attempt to keep it spoiler free (or if you do have spoilers throw out a warning)

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  2. Dark Souls II was quite a bit different for me in terms of feeling. I haven’t spent nearly as long as you have in the game yet, but I still don’t believe it to live up to the hype of being harder than Dark Souls I. Specifically in Dark Souls I I had to learn how to dodge bosses & enemy attacks. Dark Souls II seems to cut the whole learning aspect out, and by doing so made the game easier. I personally really dislike having to go to the Emerald Herald to level-up and upgrade the Estus. I know the creators wanted more of a Demon Soul’s feel, but the Herald thing is annoying.
    Even if the boss fights are underwhelming, I’m not disappointed with Dark Souls II, I love the co-op and somewhat laggy PvP.
    I also can’t wait for the new Rabbit Hole video it has been a while.

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  3. Hey Wally, you talk about pVp as if you’ll never return the rat lair. Why? I love going there over and over. One thing I really like about this new game is that you can pVp with both players not being a weird color. The gray summons. I love that aspect. Regardless of that, this game is more like Demon Souls 2. The player combat is about dodging and everybody getting stun locked easy which makes for a very mental game. You can’t just take hits and have ridiculous poise. You should try embracing the honor code of not drinking estus unless your enemy does first. I find the claymore so responsive with my strength build. I can’t wait to have a strength, quality, dex, faith, magic and hex character at 150 ready to battle peeps. So many different ways to pVp. Just now I got summoned to some a-holes pharros where he was trolling me with arrows so I lured him down and ran to the finish line. PTFO WALLY!

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  4. The nature of Dark Souls is and always has been a game that is completely unapologetic and unmerciful, this is both rage inducing and rewarding. You can struggle on a boss/mini-boss, or even a certain area, and die better than 5 times but when you finally beat it and get to that next bonfire and loot reward, it feels damn good. That being said, the bosses in DSII were very, very underwhelming.

    Having beaten the game and killed all bosses, mini-bosses and optional bosses, the only bosses I struggled on were the Smelter Demon, (which was my own fault for not having fire res gear) Ruin Sentinels and another boss that I won’t name for sake of any spoilers, that’s 3 out of 29 bosses. They have a quantity rather than quality feel is DSII that’s for sure.

    As for PvP, never really been into DS PvP, but what a lag-fest. FromSoftware has stated that they downgraded the graphics (mainly the lighting) with a recent update to improve frame rate and play-ability, but it obviously didn’t do the servers any good. I had the game day 1 digital and had zero problems with frame rate, connectivity or lag, maybe it was a problem with physical copies, which should go “the way of the Dodo”. Lag aside, PvP seem’s very uninteresting. It seem’s whoever land’s the first hit and initiate’s stun lock or who brought the best/highest damage spells will be victorious.

    There’s a few other things that bug me about the game. 1 being the extremely annoying stun you get where your character stands there waving his arms about and you’re completely incapacitated for a good 2 seconds and unable to do anything, I guess that fits with the unmerciful-ness of the game but, still annoying. Another one is the lock-on mechanic, seems to work sometime’s and other times I’m left with my back to the enemy as my character turns around and stabs the ground behind him for no apparent reason. Diminishing HP upon death, only curable by returning to human form. Trading hits (hitting at the same time). Enemy hit box’s are terrible, there’s not enough ore (titanite) early on in the game. Once you kill enemies a certain number of times, they don’t respawn and it makes for a hassle to farm for armor sets or weapons (though it can be solved with the bonfire ascetic which scales enemy difficulty up to new game plus) and the lore isn’t up to par with DSI.

    DSII still a very good and enjoyable game in the long run, I don’t feel this game is worth $60, a lot of the replay-ablity is gone with the introduction of the soul vessel and respecing your stats, something we didn’t have in DSI. There’s really no need to start a new character, least not until you run out of soul vessels. First run through DSII took me 44 hours whereas my first run through DSI was well over 100.

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  5. I’m loving this game so far at just a bit farther in on my main character as Waldodude. 35 hours main character, 60 hours total.

    I also feel the beginning of the game is pretty lame with limited access to equipment/spells. Although the Bastard Sword is on of the best strength weapons you’re going to find for a while once you get it. There’s no reason not to use it on a strength character. Same for the Drangliec set.

    From made this game both easier and more hardcore at the same time. Easier bosses and limited respawns for enemies for noobers and bonfire ascetics, challenges like no bonfire or no death runs for hardcore players, and the Champions covenant. NG+ is also supposedly way harder compared to NG+ in DS1.

    PvP is still PvP. Casting is incredibly powerful. The player that watches their stamina the best is going to win.

    I don’t know if people just aren’t using red eye orbs/joining the blood covenant or the soul memory mechanic is just fucking it all up.

    MrCounterparts:
    I don’t feel this game is worth $60, a lot of the replay-ablity is gone with the introduction of the soul vessel and respecing your stats

    I think this is the only game i bought recently that was worth $60. I would rather start a new character class than use those to change my character build completely.

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  6. AdamOfTime:

    I think this is the only game i bought recently that was worth $60. I would rather start a new character class than use those to change my character build completely.

    First time replying, I don’t really know how it works. I guess it is worth it now that I think about it. I’m sure I’ll log more than 100 hours in DSII and it’ll entertain me for some months to come, for 60 bucks that’s not bad. Sure beats spending 20-30 bucks to see a 2 hour movie. I just don’t feel the need to start a new character.

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  7. Dark Souls II is certainly an interesting beast, while I am loving some of the changes FROM have made to the game, I am unsure with other ones. For example it seems that FROM have pushed the PvP experience into NG+ and beyond, this is because Soul Memory only applies during NG (and rightly so to prevent twinking ala Dark Souls I, with low soul level characters with much better gear, such as the infamous Fire Great Scythe). This means that it is easier to be matched with people as Soul Memory is no longer a factor, coupled with fact that you are able to buy an unlimited supply of Cracked Red Eye Orbs from Titchy Gren (I assume then that Blue Sentinels can also buy an unlimited supply of Cracked Blue Eye Orbs from Targray as well)

    I understand the reasoning behind making Cracked Red Eye orbs hard to obtain in NG, due to the enemies who drop these orbs not respawning after a while, which can be remedied by using a Bonfire Ascetic, but this makes the area permanently harder on all subsequent playthroughs on that character. This means that forced invasions are in limited quantity and forces the user to question when to use them, as losing an invasion has consequences for the invader this time round, as it means no Token of Spite. This brings me onto another point, Tokens of Spite, they are obtained primarily from successful invasions and can be used to duel other members of the Brotherhood of Blood, in order to progress their rank with the covenant and to win a Cracked Red Eye orb. While I accept what FROM are doing, making Cracked Red Eye orb invasions in NG more of a privilege rather than a right, it also has a knock-on affect on other game mechanics.

    Due to the lack of forced invasions in NG (outside of PvP areas i.e. the Belltowers and the rat covenant) there is less of a punishment for summoning people into your world. In Dark Souls everytime you summoned someone, it bummed you up the priority list to get invaded as a counterbalance for having help in that area, so it was risk vs reward, you could have more help clearing an area you were having trouble with, but it also made you more likely to be invaded by multiple people. However as mentioned above less people are able to obtain Red Cracked Eye orbs and so even if I have 2 allies with me, I am far less likely to encounter red phantoms invading my world and even if I do, they usually only come one at a time and therefore it becomes a 3 v 1 situation and the red phantom 9 times out of 10 will have no chance as he/she is outnumbered.

    Combine this with the fact that most of the bosses in the game seem to be much easier in NG (although I have seen the mechanics of the bosses change and get much harder in NG+ and beyond) and most people will be able to clear NG relatively easy. I believe this is FROM’s intention, but it makes NG feel like Dark Souls II with the training wheels on, and the challenges we faced even on NG in Demon Souls and Dark Souls will only be found in NG+ and beyond. While it certainly makes Dark Souls II more accessible, I am unsure as to if people new to the series will be prepared for the sharp difficulty spike in NG+ and higher and if they will feel the need to even play through this mode, if they have already ‘beaten’ the game once.

    In short I accept that FROM are trying to make this game more accessible to a larger audience but I don’t entirely agree with the way in which they are trying to do it, not to mention that due to the lack of invasions, people who joined the Way of the Blue may simply leave it due to a lack of invasions in NG and may not even rejoin it in NG+ as they may want a slice of the PvP action and instead join the Brotherhood of Blood or the Blue Sentinels. This has a knock-on affect on the Blue Sentinels as with little to no people in the Way of the Blue, they will simply de-evolve to the Darkmoon covenant and be using their Cracked Blue Eye orbs to invaded fellow PvPers who have a high Sin count.

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  8. I have been enjoying Dark Souls 2 quite a bit, and have spent many hours playing the game, however, there have been a few disappointing aspects.
    For starters, I think the game looks great (for a console) and I don’t know why people keep complaining about the graphics, it looks quite refined for a console game, and it makes me wonder how much better the PC version will look. Having 60 FPS on PC will be fantastic, and I’m sure there will eventually be something similar to DSfix to make the graphics even better.
    Secondly, the game-play, I think that the gameplay is great, just like in Dark Souls, but being one of the Souls series’ trademark features, that’s to be expected. I like the fact that parrying is more difficult, and that backstabbing has a delay on it and if you miss a backstab you’re left wide open for an ample amount of time. I’m also glad that kicking is gone, but I still accidentally do the block break by accidentally flicking the l stick (which may or may not have walked me off of a few ledges). All in all, good fun, and very refined.
    Next, I like that fact that the story is explained better, but if you choose to ignore the story than you can. Also, the environments look pretty flippin’ awesome, there are some good looking places with great attention to detail.
    Now onto the negatives, I have the agree that the Dark Souls 2 bosses have been mostly disappointing, I’ve still died once or twice to most of them, simply getting the hang of their move set, but I haven’t really struggled on any of them. The only boss that gave me a tough time was The Pursuer (because I fought him alone…unlike some people with vaginas). Other than that it has been pretty easy sailing, all of the primal bosses were disappointing at best. Not saying that they weren’t fun, they’re lots of fun, just disappointingly easy.
    The game doesn’t have any brutally difficult bosses like Artorias or the Gargoyle’s from Dark Souls, but it’s no less fun to play. Getting too the bosses is the most difficult thing.
    So, all in all, I’ve had tons of fun playing, but haven’t been happy with the bosses difficulty thus far. The game is still lots of fun though, and I definitely recommend picking it up. Also, if you’re ever stuck on an enemy, and think that you suck at the game, just go to places with ledges and click on the bloodstains, you’d be surprised how many people simply walk off like a ding dong (if you think Wally has butterlegs…just you wait), it always makes me happy to watch people roll and jump off like an idiot, and makes me feel a little bit better about myself.
    P.S not talking about PvP because I haven’t messed with it a whole lot yet.

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  9. It feels like the new director tried to mash Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls together, without quite understanding what made the games so good in the first place.

    Is the game hard? Sure, I guess. I died my fair share of times. Did it last a long time and have a nice amount of content? I suppose so. I killed all but two of the bosses in my NG, and it took me about 30~ hours. Compare that to my first run of Dark Souls (25 hours) and Demon’s Souls (11 hours), and you can see that the game has quite a lot of content. It’s large.

    The problem is that bigger does not mean better. I don’t want to delve into it too much, because I’m not in the mood to write an essay. Basically, despite the fact that the game had a huge amount of zones and bosses, none of them felt particularly memorable. Not a single boss fight could compare to Ornstein and Smough, Artorias, Kalameet, or Old King Allant in terms of pure gameplay. In terms of atmosphere, none of them even came close to Maiden Astrea, Great Grey Wolf Sif, or Storm King. The only boss fights that I found particularly memorable were Lost Sinner (because it kicked my ass) and Smelter Demon, because I ACTUALLY HAD FUN.

    The stages, too, were quite forgettable. Not one of them could compare to the soul crushing loneliness and isolation present in a stage like the Valley of Defilement (not even Blighttown can), and none of them were as fun to traverse as Sen’s Fortress, the Undead Parish, Boletarian Palace, or the Shrine of Storms. I liked the Lost Bastille and Iron Keep.

    Perhaps the biggest crime, though, is the sense of confusion I felt at times. The game suffered from being so large, and so sparse in the storytelling. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls managed to get it right, and both games had a consistent train of thought. In Demon’s Souls, the first zone is Boletarian Palace. That’s where the game ends, and that’s where it begins. You’re trying to get to the castle, so you can kill the King. You stop off at, and complete other worlds, but you always know where you’re going, and it’s extremely visible.

    In Dark Souls, you ring the bells of awakening, go to Anor Londo, gather the four souls (admittedly, the game falls apart a little bit), talk to the goofy snake, and go murder Gwyn. Then you burn yourself if it’s your first time though the game. Turns out you got the “bad” ending, but at least you accomplished what you set out to do.

    What exactly was I doing in Dark Souls II? Okay, so, I gathered some souls from a bunch of zones that didn’t seem to be at all connected. Then I went back to a bonfire in the middle of the Shaded Woods, which I was never fucking directed to, made it to the castle, and then had to do a bunch of other shit after that point. I then went and killed a Drake, spoke to a Dragon, and killed a spooky giant and a skellington.

    WHAT AM I DOING?

    None of this shit makes any fucking sense. The zones don’t relate to each other at all. How was the Dragon Shrine behind this spooky mansion? How could I not see it? How the fuck did that short sewer lead all the way to Heide’s Tower of Flame? How THE FUCK is the Iron Keep sitting on top of the Earthen Tower? I COULD SEE THE TOP OF THE TOWER FROM HARVEST VALLEY. IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE THERE WAS LAVA. What did Vendrick do to piss of the Giants? Like, I understand that the old Lord Souls relate to the bosses in obvious (and not-so-obious) ways. I get to see the Izalith Bug crawl into Lost Sinner’s eye. I get the connection between crystals, “Duke’s Dear…”, a dragon skull, and a Paledrake Soul. I understand the similarities between Nito and The Rotten. That’s fine. But why does it matter? Why do I care? I understand that mroe shit is revealed to me in NG+, but I shouldn’t have to play through NG+ to get the full story. This is the same fucking problem I had with Nier, and it’s a stupid fucking design choice.

    I liked the game. I’m going to play it again, and I’ll probably warm up to it when all this shit starts to come together in a neat little package after 18 playthroughs. It’s a pretty damn solid 8/10 (Demon’s Souls is a 9, Dark Souls a 9.5 for reference), and I really like the actual gameplay mechanics. However, outside of the technical side of things, I think the game suffered a lot in the transition to a new director. The writing wasn’t as good (or at least, was different), the NPC’s weren’t interesting, and the bosses and stages were hugely lacking in atmosphere.

    The game lost a lot of its ~soul~, so to speak.

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  10. whoops i had spoilers sort of. i dunno they were kind of vague

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  11. So far I am quite enjoying myself with DS 2 so far, with that said i have some mixed feelings with the game mechanics. I have complete faith in from software to make an enjoyable experience but they’ve made some rather odd changes to me that I can’t quite understand.

    First off, i think the travelling system right off the bat was something very much needed in the sequel to dark souls, in dark souls it felt sooo repetitive in some parts because you forgot some bullshit item in the depths or w/e and you have to run allll the way back to get it. However, while travelling is a great feature but whats really bullshit imo, is that i have to go back to majula EVERY single time i want to lvl up. Why? Why do i need to hear that same fucking dialogue each time I want to lvl up. I got so sick of it, I figured if i killed that women she would drop some item to let me lvl up…nope that character was fucked and i had to start over. I am only 30 some odd hrs into the game so maybe something will come up. I hope.

    Second off, in my DS1 playthrough i preferred for my character to have a higher stamina bar and to be able to dodge and evade on coming attacks. And i had full intentions to continue with that play style into DS2 but is it just me, or but i just cannot achieve that in this game. Maybe its the new game engine or what, but i just cannot avoid that swinging attacks like i did in DS1. Rolling through attacks don’t seem to work for me either. I don’t know, maybe i am a huge scrub still and i cannot adapt to a different game but it’s definitely why i no longer try to roll or evade. No matter what i always get hit. I started making my character a high stam dex build. But I’ve come to realize that i higher poise and great shield save me from using more estus flasks.

    In conclusion, I am still enjoying the game and I will get every penny out of what i paid for it too. I love the souls series and I am still a fan at the end of the day. I could probably go on about the lack of music, and the difficulty but I’ve been going on for waaay to long. As always thanks for posting this wally, it’s good to see some proper insight on this game and it’s great to see a community of hagbards collaborating on a great video game.

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  12. Obviouslyadouche

    Having beaten the game, I can say it’s a good game in it’s own right, but the original is a better game. As others have said there are only a handful of good bosses and the areas aren’t as well designed, though I must say there was a certain aerie that I thought was cool. However, at this point it feels like there isn’t going to be a huge amount of build variety, I’m just not getting the ideas for a new class that I would with the original, I was always wanting to try a different weapon combo, but I’m not feeling it this time around.

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  13. Disclaimer: Ruiner and I share pretty much IDENTICAL thoughts on this game. Its quite uncanny how similar our specific problems with the game is. If you’ve read his thoughts you’re pretty much rereading them if you continue on from here. Regardless here are my thoughts. Spoilers included.

    It’s FromSoft’s 3rd installment in the Souls franchise and this time they’ve churned out a delicious yet plagued dish.

    The problem lies in how the content is presented. You look back at the previous two games and immediately certain areas spring to mind as being highlights of the game that evoked a certain mood and made you feel a certain way. The empowering segregation one feels in The Valley of Defilement (granted I haven’t finished this area but i’ve dwelled in it long enough to feel such a way), and to a certain extent the Tomb of Giants, the masochistic nature of Sen’s Fortress, the feeling of an enigmatic yet obvious force, be it physical or psychological or both in the Shrine of Storms and Anor Londo. All these areas were iconic in their respective games and this is what Dark Souls 2 lacks. Really the only worlds that I liked in Dark Souls 2 are the Shaded Woods, which despite the generic layout had such great ambience that I feel wasn’t taken into consideration for other areas and Iron Keep which had a small Anor Londo vibe to it but failed to really grasp me to the extent that Anor Londo did.

    On a pickier note, the world just does not make sense. You’re at Harvest Valley looking up and you can see the tip of Earthen Tower and somehow later on you catch an elevator that leads you to an area covered in lava. I mean, you’re fighting the Old Iron King in a huge lava pit with mountain ranges in the distance. You also have the tiniest of sewers that you pass through to get to Heide’s Flame Tower from Majula then you look back and you see Majula many kilometres away from from the Heide entrance. MAJULA IS EVEN BLURRED TO IMPLY IT’S A VAST DISTANCE AWAY… IT JUST DOESN”T MAKE ANY SENSE. There a more examples of this which I won’t delve into because you get the point.

    In relation to the bosses it just seems like they went with the ‘bigger is better’ mindset with this as well. The bosses are extremely forgettable. Whether it’s gameplay or atmosphere, nothing in the game contests with Artorias, Manus, Sif, Ornsmough, Flamelurker. The only bosses from DaS2 that I immediately think of are the Smelter Demon, The Rotten because he’s the only one I had trouble with (why I don’t know) and the Demon of Song because of its bizarre design (which I love). I really wish more bosses were designed with that level of WTF in mind. It feels like many bosses were merely added in the game to provide extra content. This is one thing I liked about Dark Souls, being that Sen’s Fortress (for example) didn’t have a boss. It just felt right this way.

    All this converges to the real issue of the game being what is the point? Why is this happening? Some of these bosses, what is the point? Some of these areas, what is the point? The bonfire after you ‘depetrify’ the lady at the lever and you end up at the bonfire that takes 3 paths. Why is there a door there that requires the seal of the king? Why does that lead to an important castle? It’s like they picked an area out of a hat to be an important area and just went with it. Why is the king in a Crypt? (It makes sense to an extent, but on the grand scale it doesn’t make any sense). Why does a dragon give me a mist that lets me revisit memories of dead beings? Why do I then have to go fight 2 throne defenders and Nito’s girlfriend not in the just the same area, but in the same room no-less? In the original Dark Souls, there’s a reason why Lord Gwyn is in a completely different area to Gravelord Nito, because if Gwyn was waiting in the next room after you defeated Nito, it wouldn’t make any sense. Nothing complements anything. There is no flow. There is no synergy.

    What FromSoft have created is a tasty nutriment plagued with a parasite that eats away at it, ultimately finding its way to the core and devouring its ‘soul’.

    Cheesy review..over.

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  14. Ruiner:
    It feels like the new director tried to mash Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls together, without quite understanding what made the games so good in the first place.

    Is the game hard? Sure, I guess. I died my fair share of times. Did it last a long time and have a nice amount of content? I suppose so. I killed all but two of the bosses in my NG, and it took me about 30~ hours. Compare that to my first run of Dark Souls (25 hours) and Demon’s Souls (11 hours), and you can see that the game has quite a lot of content. It’s large.

    The problem is that bigger does not mean better. I don’t want to delve into it too much, because I’m not in the mood to write an essay. Basically, despite the fact that the game had a huge amount of zones and bosses, none of them felt particularly memorable. Not a single boss fight could compare to Ornstein and Smough, Artorias, Kalameet, or Old King Allant in terms of pure gameplay. In terms of atmosphere, none of them even came close to Maiden Astrea, Great Grey Wolf Sif, or Storm King. The only boss fights that I found particularly memorable were Lost Sinner (because it kicked my ass) and Smelter Demon, because I ACTUALLY HAD FUN.

    The stages, too, were quite forgettable. Not one of them could compare to the soul crushing loneliness and isolation present in a stage like the Valley of Defilement (not even Blighttown can), and none of them were as fun to traverse as Sen’s Fortress, the Undead Parish, Boletarian Palace, or the Shrine of Storms. I liked the Lost Bastille and Iron Keep.

    Perhaps the biggest crime, though, is the sense of confusion I felt at times. The game suffered from being so large, and so sparse in the storytelling. Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls managed to get it right, and both games had a consistent train of thought. In Demon’s Souls, the first zone is Boletarian Palace. That’s where the game ends, and that’s where it begins. You’re trying to get to the castle, so you can kill the King. You stop off at, and complete other worlds, but you always know where you’re going, and it’s extremely visible.

    In Dark Souls, you ring the bells of awakening, go to Anor Londo, gather the four souls (admittedly, the game falls apart a little bit), talk to the goofy snake, and go murder Gwyn. Then you burn yourself if it’s your first time though the game. Turns out you got the “bad” ending, but at least you accomplished what you set out to do.

    What exactly was I doing in Dark Souls II? Okay, so, I gathered some souls from a bunch of zones that didn’t seem to be at all connected. Then I went back to a bonfire in the middle of the Shaded Woods, which I was never fucking directed to, made it to the castle, and then had to do a bunch of other shit after that point. I then went and killed a Drake, spoke to a Dragon, and killed a spooky giant and a skellington.

    WHAT AM I DOING?

    None of this shit makes any fucking sense. The zones don’t relate to each other at all. How was the Dragon Shrine behind this spooky mansion? How could I not see it? How the fuck did that short sewer lead all the way to Heide’s Tower of Flame? How THE FUCK is the Iron Keep sitting on top of the Earthen Tower? I COULD SEE THE TOP OF THE TOWER FROM HARVEST VALLEY. IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE THERE WAS LAVA. What did Vendrick do to piss of the Giants? Like, I understand that the old Lord Souls relate to the bosses in obvious (and not-so-obious) ways. I get to see the Izalith Bug crawl into Lost Sinner’s eye. I get the connection between crystals, “Duke’s Dear…”, a dragon skull, and a Paledrake Soul. I understand the similarities between Nito and The Rotten. That’s fine. But why does it matter? Why do I care? I understand that mroe shit is revealed to me in NG+, but I shouldn’t have to play through NG+ to get the full story. This is the same fucking problem I had with Nier, and it’s a stupid fucking design choice.

    I liked the game. I’m going to play it again, and I’ll probably warm up to it when all this shit starts to come together in a neat little package after 18 playthroughs. It’s a pretty damn solid 8/10 (Demon’s Souls is a 9, Dark Souls a 9.5 for reference), and I really like the actual gameplay mechanics. However, outside of the technical side of things, I think the game suffered a lot in the transition to a new director. The writing wasn’t as good (or at least, was different), the NPC’s weren’t interesting, and the bosses and stages were hugely lacking in atmosphere.

    The game lost a lot of its ~soul~, so to speak.

    I like your points regarding the atmosphere of the game (or lack thereof) and how the different areas around DSII didn’t seem to connect to each other (literally or other wise). Sif and Artorias are light years away from that giant rat/coyote thing found in the 2nd rat king den. The giant rat thing does slow down a bit when you take him to ~10% health, but then he starts spewing acid everywhere so it it’s kinda meh. That and there’s no backstory involving him protecting his master or anything like that.

    Regarding the shaded woods, I also don’t remember being told to head back there. The whole castle thing is somewhat confusing because Vendrick shows up at the end of the undead crypt, but unless you want to fight him for ~30+ minutes you can’t kill him yet and have no way of knowing that. So you skip him, and bounce around to different castle doors that aren’t necessarily castle drangelic doors to find other large boss souls, in addition to a giant dragon….and then go back to kill him. Then back to drangelic to open up another similar door in that castle for the final boss. I thought the whole thing seemed confusing and was pretty bizarre.

    I think we need much more from the next DS title. I want tight controls, memorable boss encounters, more invasions (my second character in NG+ has yet to be invaded at all), coherent story-line, and lag-free pvp if that’s possible.

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  15. Breathingmammal:
    So far I am quite enjoying myself with DS 2 so far, with that said i have some mixed feelings with the game mechanics. Ihave complete faith in from software to make an enjoyable experience but they’ve made some rather odd changes to me that I can’t quite understand.

    First off, i think the travelling system right off the bat was something very much needed in the sequel to dark souls, in dark souls it felt sooo repetitive in some parts because you forgot some bullshit item in the depths or w/e and you have to run allll the way back to get it. However, while travelling is a great feature but whats really bullshit imo, is that i have to go back to majula EVERY single time i want to lvl up. Why? Why do i need to hear that same fucking dialogue each time I want to lvl up. I got so sick of it, I figured if i killed that women she would drop some item to let me lvl up…nope that character was fucked and i had to start over. I am only 30 some odd hrs into the game so maybe something will come up. I hope.

    Second off, in my DS1 playthrough i preferred for my character to have a higher stamina bar and to be able to dodge and evade on coming attacks. And i had full intentions to continue with that play style into DS2 but is it just me, or but i just cannot achieve that in this game. Maybe its the new game engine or what, but i just cannot avoid that swinging attacks like i did in DS1. Rolling through attacks don’t seem to work for me either. I don’t know, maybe i am a huge scrub still and i cannot adapt to a different game but it’s definitely why i no longer try to roll or evade. No matter what i always get hit. I started making my character a high stam dex build. But I’ve come to realize that i higher poise and great shield save me from using more estus flasks.

    In conclusion, I am still enjoying the game and I will get every penny out of what i paid for it too. I love the souls series and I am still a fan at the end of the day. I could probably go on about the lack of music, and the difficulty but I’ve been going on for waaay to long. As always thanks for posting this wally, it’s good to see some proper insight on this game and it’s great to see a community of hagbards collaborating on a great video game.

    I don’t think ADP worked out for this game. It feels like a necessary stat, but it doesn’t feel like something fun. You don’t feel your character growing more powerful, and by the time you’ve hit 38/39 ADP, you’re used to using a shield anyway. Indeed many of the bosses have abilities that are easily blocked with shields. You could go at it without them, but many of the bosses hit like trucks and their damage is easily mitigated with a shield.

    Once again this plays into capable hands of a strength build as only strength builds are able to wield the various greathshields that can further trivialize the content in DSII. The smelter demon is a great example of an enemy that required most people to dodge that lacked the ability to use a greatshield. Can’t say I was necessarily a huge fan of being forced to stack a specific type of armor just for that fight, but it is what it is.

    In conclusion, rolling is more difficult in this game because it changes based on a ridiculous stat that should never have been there in the first place. It encourages everyone to use shields which IMO takes far less skill than attempting to dodge an ability.

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  16. Somewhat getting into it late due to being buried under a mountain of work but I finally picked up DSII and liked it. It felt quite different from DSI. I liked the fact you lose health when you die. Dark Soul had no real punishment for death so being punished for dying sounded great until I got into the game and started to see cheap traps and ambushes becoming more and more frequent. Eventually it just felt like they were killing you and screwing you over for the sake of killing you and screwing you over. An example was in the Shaded Woods I was fighting several Lion Warriors when the ground below me broke and I was ambushed by 4 Basilisks. Still assuming being cursed was still deadly I ran unknowingly through pools of acid that looked just like the ground. In the moment I was being attacked by 6 enemies so the last thing I was looking at was the ground. In running through the acid pools ALL of my gear actually broke. Armor, Weapons, rings, everything. I had extra gear but I didn’t invest any of my titanite into them. I head back to get them repaired and was horrified that I couldn’t afford to repair all of them, forcing me to start over. I also didn’t like the fact that if you die enough the game will basically give up and let you proceed(although this doesn’t happen until you die around the 12-15th time, and the only reason I know that is because I got curious as to what would happen if you die enough) This felt like the game the drunk chick you took home from the bar, It just laid down and let you have your way with it.

    Another thing I noticed different was the weapon durability. I initially liked(and still do) the idea of bonfires repairing non broken weapons. It was convenient and saved souls. I liked it less whenl I learned that weapons break A LOT faster and have overall less durability in DSII then DSI. I didn’t notice it at first until I started using the Blue Knight Halbred.(I killed it’s former owner because I didn’t take kindly to him running his mouth after I presumably killed his boss, The Old Dragonslayer in the previous room.) I saw the damage and I knew I had to use it. When I started using it in the No-Man’s Wharf I fell in love with it, massive damage and range. however after killing 7 enemies with it I was shocked to see the “weapon at risk” message pop up. I was also somewhat panicked as I was in the middle of killing 4 Dark Stalkers. After shield bashing them to death I check my Halbred and it only had 1 durability in it. I naturally assumed that hitting walls and floors lowers durability but with DSII throwing enemies at you in small tight spaces what was the point of giving us wide swinging weapons if they lose durability by hitting walls and floors in the game then? Now this can be a simple fix by making it so if you hit an enemy before hitting the wall or floor it won’t count as a wall hit but still it kinda made me angry.

    The bonfires also gave you the ability to fast travel as soon as the game begins. I’m in the minority but I don’t like this, as I believe it takes away from the incentive of exploring while backtracking through areas. This was a something I did and enjoyed as when I walked back through an area. I was usually stronger so I had the luxury of looking around as enemies in that area no longer threatened me. So on one playthrough I tried not to use the fast travel and I was shocked at what I found. Most enemies were not ready for me, instead having there backs to me, as if the areas were designed to have you come through areas in one direction. I was even more disappointed to learn that by walking slowly behind them I successfully backstabbed almost all of them. I also found a shocking amount of dead ends that lead to nothing, no shortcuts or special loot, just nothing. Occasionally I was rewarded with something awesome but more often then not I got nothing. This was a far cry from DSI where you would always find new shortcuts and new weapons, items and merchants.

    I also found the game easier, in fact to easy even on NG+. I found the bosses to be well bland and easy. The only one I had a remote issue with was the chariot boss, and even then that was just from the shock of having to deal with a freaking chariot on foot. I heard about The Pursuer I heard he was some kind of badass and shouldn’t be fought until about half way through the game. Taking this as a challenge I marched my new character to the Forest of Fallen Giants and after planting my foot squarely through The Last Giant’s Ass(whom I believe has to be a contender for worst boss of the year IMO) I finally get to fight The Pursuer. I heard I should bring backup if fighting him at a low level so I did it solo, as after all I was looking for a challenge and this Pursuer guy sounded like my fight. I heard he was super fast and strong. He was strong, super strong in fact. But fast he was not, in fact quite slow he was. Even with the gimp parry system I was able to parry his attacks with ease. Even when I didn’t parry him I could just run circles around him and perfectly timed rolls evaded all of his attacks. to give me a free hit or two. After about 2 minutes The almighty Pursuer fell, just like every other single boss in the game. I ended NG+ wanting more challenging bosses and areas but this game did not give it. I felt like the easier bosses are due to the open world aspec of the game. You are really never told where to go so there is no real since of direction in the game, just feels kinda like walking around and running into a boss randomly and then after a while of wandering around the game basically tells you that you have progressed the plot(which I found little to none at all). So giving you the option, or rather stumbling onto a super powerful late game boss right out the gate would be a dick move but it still felt easy. Even though my damage was a lot lower in DSII I felt a lot stronger.

    The combat system felt odd as well. Rolling felt super nerfed. At times where I thought I dodged attacks I was hit by them. After further investigation I learned that the hit boxes are quite off. I learned this was due to a new enemy having the ability to having tracking abilites, which in turn threw off the hitboxes. Apparently From Software didn’t like the fact people could easily backstab enemies into oblivion.(this didn’t seem to help that case much as I can still easily backstab people with no issue) Times where I clearly dodge attacks I am hit. A clear example of this is during my fight with The Last Giant I dodge his arm swipe attack and still get hit by it, despite the fact I am standing a good 10 feet behind him. This kind of issue seems to force people to use 100% Damage reduction shields at late game as most enemies hit quite hard and with dodging seeming to be buggy for now shield usage appears to be the only reliable source of defense. I can still roll and evade to dodge attack, but I have to do it well in advance now. This also leads me into another issue, why make 100% damage reduction shields so rare when blocking is apparently more important now then ever. Thankfully I found the Drandelc Shield, Sword and Armor in the Forest of the Fallen Giants so this wasn’t much of an issue for me.

    Kinda disappointed with DSII. Felt more cheap and less hard. With the original series director stepping down I feared this would happen and I guess I was right. Cheap enemies like the exploding belly flopping mummies whom really seem to show off the hit box issue nicely with there belly flops of doom. With every positive change I felt a negative change outweighed it. Cheap traps, pitfalls and ambushes far more prevalent. If you had a small amount of brain power you could see the traps coming in Demon’s Soul and Dark Soul but in this game when you see it it’s to late, your dead. Cheap boss encounters like throwing numerous bosses at you at the same time, Like the Belfray Gargoyles or the Ruin Sentinels. I eventually beat them but it felt more cheap then hard. Also didn’t like the stat system. Being forced into a conversation just to level up isn’t cool. I don’t mind going to a specific person to level up but the conversation every single time is just overkill. Don’t like how they broke up stats either. What is the point of breaking up Endurance into two stats? What is the point of breaking up Resistance into two stats?(Intelligence was altered increase magic defenses as well as improve magic damage while adaptability was added for physical stats.) Again seems like just increasing the amount of stats to look at. I enjoyed Dark Souls II at first but I grew to hate it. It saddened me to see this game in such a poor state given that I loved Demons Soul and Dark Souls. Guess I’ll go back to playing Dark Souls and if DSIII is ever made hoping that it will be good

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  17. Tyler:
    Somewhat getting into it late due to being buried under a mountain of work but I finally picked up DSII and liked it. It felt quite different from DSI. I liked the fact you lose health when you die. Dark Soul had no real punishment for death so being punished for dying sounded great until I got into the game and started to see cheap traps and ambushes becoming more and more frequent. Eventually it just felt like they were killing you and screwing you over for the sake of killing you and screwing you over. An example was in the Shaded Woods I was fighting several Lion Warriors when the ground below me broke and I was ambushed by 4 Basilisks. Still assuming being cursed was still deadly I ran unknowingly through pools of acid that looked just like the ground. In the moment I was being attacked by 6 enemies so the last thing I was looking at was the ground. In running through the acid pools ALL of my gear actually broke. Armor, Weapons, rings, everything. I had extra gear but I didn’t invest any of my titanite into them. I head back to get them repaired and was horrified that I couldn’t afford to repair all of them, forcing me to start over. I also didn’t like the fact that if you die enough the game will basically give up and let you proceed(although this doesn’t happen until you die around the 12-15th time, and the only reason I know that is because I got curious as to what would happen if you die enough) This felt like the game the drunk chick you took home from the bar, It just laid down and let you have your way with it.

    Another thing I noticed different was the weapon durability. I initially liked(and still do) the idea of bonfires repairing non broken weapons. It was convenient and saved souls. I liked it less whenl I learned that weapons break A LOT faster and have overall less durability in DSII then DSI. I didn’t notice it at first until I started using the Blue Knight Halbred.(I killed it’s former owner because I didn’t take kindly to him running his mouth after I presumably killed his boss, The Old Dragonslayer in the previous room.) I saw the damage and I knew I had to use it. When I started using it in the No-Man’s Wharf I fell in love with it, massive damage and range. however after killing 7 enemies with it I was shocked to see the “weapon at risk” message pop up. I was also somewhat panicked as I was in the middle of killing 4 Dark Stalkers. After shield bashing them to death I check my Halbred and it only had 1 durability in it. I naturally assumed that hitting walls and floors lowers durability but with DSII throwing enemies at you in small tight spaces what was the point of giving us wide swinging weapons if they lose durability by hitting walls and floors in the game then? Now this can be a simple fix by making it so if you hit an enemy before hitting the wall or floor it won’t count as a wall hit but still it kinda made me angry.

    The bonfires also gave you the ability to fast travel as soon as the game begins. I’m in the minority but I don’t like this, as I believe it takes away from the incentive of exploring while backtracking through areas. This was a something I did and enjoyed as when I walked back through an area. I was usually stronger so I had the luxury of looking around as enemies in that area no longer threatened me. So on one playthrough I tried not to use the fast travel and I was shocked at what I found. Most enemies were not ready for me,instead having there backs to me, as if the areas were designed to have you come through areas in one direction. I was even more disappointed to learn that by walking slowly behind them I successfully backstabbed almost all of them. I also found a shocking amount of dead ends that lead to nothing, no shortcuts or special loot,just nothing. Occasionally I was rewarded with something awesome but more often then not I got nothing. This was a far cry from DSI where you would always find new shortcuts and new weapons, items and merchants.

    I also found the game easier, in fact to easy even on NG+. I found the bosses to be well bland and easy. The only one I had a remote issue with was the chariot boss, and even then that was just from the shock of having to deal with a freaking chariot on foot. I heard about The Pursuer I heard he was some kind of badass and shouldn’t be fought until about half way through the game. Taking this as a challenge I marched my new character to the Forest of Fallen Giants and after planting my foot squarely through The Last Giant’s Ass(whom I believe has to be a contender for worst boss of the year IMO) I finally get to fight The Pursuer. I heard I should bring backup if fighting him at a low level so I did it solo, as after all I was looking for a challenge and this Pursuer guy sounded like my fight. I heard he was super fast and strong. He was strong, super strong in fact. But fast he was not, in fact quite slow he was. Even with the gimp parry system I was able to parry his attacks with ease. Even when I didn’t parry him I could just run circles around him and perfectly timed rolls evaded all of his attacks. to give me a free hit or two. After about 2 minutes The almighty Pursuer fell, just like every other single boss in the game. I ended NG+ wanting more challenging bosses and areas but this game did not give it. I felt like the easier bosses are due to the open world aspec of the game. You are really never told where to go so there is no real since of direction in the game, just feels kinda like walking around and running into a boss randomly and then after a while of wandering around the game basically tells you that you have progressed the plot(which I found little to none at all). So giving you the option, or rather stumbling onto a super powerful late game boss right out the gate would be a dick move but it still felt easy. Even though my damage was a lot lower in DSII I felt a lot stronger.

    The combat system felt odd as well. Rolling felt super nerfed. At times where I thought I dodged attacks I was hit by them. After further investigation I learned that the hit boxes are quite off. I learned this was due to a new enemy having the ability to having tracking abilites, which in turn threw off the hitboxes. Apparently From Software didn’t like the fact people could easily backstab enemies into oblivion.(this didn’t seem to help that case much as I can still easily backstab people with no issue) Times where I clearly dodge attacks I am hit. A clear example of this is during my fight with The Last Giant I dodge his arm swipe attack and still get hit by it, despite the fact I am standing a good 10 feet behind him. This kind of issue seems to force people to use 100% Damage reduction shields at late game as most enemies hit quite hard and with dodging seeming to be buggy for now shield usage appears to be the only reliable source of defense. I can still roll and evade to dodge attack, but I have to do it well in advance now. This also leads me into another issue, why make 100% damage reduction shields so rare when blocking is apparently more important now then ever. Thankfully I found the Drandelc Shield, Sword and Armor in the Forest of the Fallen Giants so this wasn’t much of an issue for me.

    Kinda disappointed with DSII. Felt more cheap and less hard. With the original series director stepping down I feared this would happen and I guess I was right. Cheap enemies like the exploding belly flopping mummies whom really seem to show off the hit box issue nicely with there belly flops of doom. With every positive change I felt a negative change outweighed it. Cheap traps, pitfalls and ambushes far more prevalent. If you had a small amount of brain power you could see the traps coming in Demon’s Soul and Dark Soul but in this game when you see it it’s to late, your dead. Cheap boss encounters like throwing numerous bosses at you at the same time, Like the Belfray Gargoyles or the Ruin Sentinels. I eventually beat them but it felt more cheap then hard. Also didn’t like the stat system. Being forced into a conversation just to level up isn’t cool. I don’t mind going to a specific person to level up but the conversation every single time is just overkill. Don’t like how they broke up stats either. What is the point of breaking up Endurance into two stats? What is the point of breaking up Resistance into two stats?(Intelligence was altered increase magic defenses as well as improve magic damage while adaptability was added for physical stats.) Again seems like just increasing the amount of stats to look at. I enjoyed Dark Souls II at first but I grew to hate it. It saddened me to see this game in such a poor state given that I loved Demons Soul and Dark Souls. Guess I’ll go back to playing Dark Souls and if DSIII is ever made hoping that it will be good

    just to continue as I noticed I left out a few more points on the combat system. I frequently find myself doing things I don’t tell me character to do. Most famously for me is doing the guard breaker attack(foward plus weak attack) quite frequently when I don’t tell my character to do so. I also have quite an issue performing the jump attack now as well, which is odd as I had no issue pulling it off in previous games. The Lock On system felt buggy. Whenever I go to use a firebomb on similar item I will often turn in the opposite direction and throw it. The jumping was never good in this series to begin with and it felt like the creators knew that and had majority of the jumps being from higher ledges to a lower one. Even with the bad jumping system it worked. But in DSII the shear amount of horizontal jumps became ridiculous. I seriously can’t begin to count how many times I have pancaked myself in the Forest of the Fallen Giants while trying to grab the shortsword. The controls in general feel looser then previous games.

    The areas are also bizarre. They have no sense of connection and are poorly designed. I seriously can’t begin to count the number of times I have gotten enemies to walk right off the edge, even bosses fell to this as well, most famously is The Dragonrider at the Heide Flame Tower. When I learned that all of the areas in DSI were connected in some way shape or form it blew my damn mind but in DSII that is gone. Now there is little to no connection between areas. Hell sometimes they are just randomly placed. Like why the hell is there a Forest behind Majula, a Crumbling Castle falling into an ocean in another direction(which apparently is dozens of miles away despite the fact it took you at best 2 minutes to walk there). This Castle breaks into a small cave which then breaks into a dock area. WTF Seriously?!? This also kinda bothered me as it is established that the castle is falling into the water, especially since the basement of this tower is slightly flooded. So then WHY IS THE DOCKING AREA PERFECTLY FINE, DESPITE BEING BELOW THE ESTABLISHED WATER! The Cave you walk through is also slightly flooded as well so this is just more insulting. To add further insult to injury this area is implied at being dozens of miles away from the Castle due to not being able to see this area from said Castle contrary to the cave connecting the two is only at best 30 seconds long. I found this kind of stuff everywhere. Especially the Rat catacombs below Majula. I mean how in the hell did whomever build it get out, as I sure as hell couldn’t find a way back to the surface apart from fast travel. I mean how the hell did all those Rats get down there, it was like The Piper turned his flute to murder mode.

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