My love for the Dark Souls franchise runs deep. The amount of hours I have logged farming materials while racking up countless deaths all while getting lost in the beauty of these games is ridiculous. Thankfully, Future press is here to make life easier in this brutal world. They rocked the first Dark Souls strategy guide, and they repeated that greatness with their Dark Souls II strategy guide.
The strategy guide starts with the game basics, and this is not something that even veterans of the series will want to skip. Dark Souls II brought in some new mechanics as well as modifying some of the more basic controls. This section goes into great depth about stats, classes, online play, and even some New Game+ planning tips. Seriously, this does make character development that much easier, especially for those players looking to dive into NG+.
From here, the guide goes into the walkthrough of the game. This area will inundate readers with a massive amount of information and handy tips. Each new area begins with a difficulty rating and suggested level. This alone stopped me from exploring too deep into places I had no right in going with my noob destroyer of evil. There are also maps, enemies, and important items referenced right at the start. It makes navigation, both in the game and in the strategy guide, much easier.
Once I dove into the actual coverage for each zone, I found a copious amount of information. Numbers on the various maps correlate to paragraphs explaining tactics for handling certain enemies or cluing me into world events or ambushes setup around the next corner. While Future Press could not save my terrible dodging or parrying skills, they managed to help keep my frustration levels to a minimum, which probably led to fewer broken controllers.
One big change from the first Dark Souls guide is that enemies now show up at the end of their corresponding location as opposed to a big section in the back. Every baddie has a brief bit of history followed by strategies on how to kill it. Rounding this out is a table that shows hit points, souls, item drops, and if the enemy will respawn or not. While I like a big index of enemies, this new layout feels more organic and makes for a lot less page flipping when researching new areas.
For me, the best part of the walkthrough is the boss battle details. These are far more than just the basic watch for this and attack here. Every boss battle contains a crazy amount of in-depth details of the battle. All the attacks the boss can make comes with a blurb describing what it does, how to notice it, how to avoid it, and what might come next. Wrapping all this up is an overall strategy that helps sum up the one to two pages of information and general tactics on how to approach this difficult impasses. This is something I studied long and hard before attempting these brutal fights.
Up next are the chapters detailing equipment, magic, and items. I spent a good chunk of time just reading about various weapons and how to obtain them or what the benefits were from upgrading. Every weapon and armor piece comes with a small description, stats, repair costs, and what materials players need to reinforce it. It also includes a handy picture so readers know what the item looks like. There are many things to find and use in this game, so be prepared to spend a good amount of time just trying to find the right armor and weapon combo to make life that much easier.
Closing out the strategy guide is the extras area. This is not just where to find Easter Eggs or a listing of achievements. No, this area dives into the lore or NPCs, invaders and how to vanquish them, trophies/achievements and how to actually obtain the harder ones, and a great section on the Covenants. For players looking for game history, this is where you will find it.
As was the case with the original Dark Souls guide, this is not something that is going to hold your hand and tell you exactly what to do next. This game is insanely open for exploration, and so the strategy guide is more like an encyclopedia. I found the index was my best friend as I hopped from area to area to grind souls or farm items. I must also caution that this is not something one quickly glances at for tips. I would sit at a bonfire, read what I needed, and then jump into the game. Consider this something you use to study for an exam, not something you quickly glance at and put back down.
I cannot recommend this guide enough. Yes, this does require readers to spend some time digesting the vast amount of information that it provides. However, that time spent researching will easily make life that much better, aaaand probably save a broken controller or two. Now, I have some titanite to go farm.
SGR Rating 4.5/5
Authors: Bruce Byrne, Franz von Eisenheim, Lucas Hofstatter, Marcus Sanders (ENB), Moe Murad, Usman Niazi, Wil Murray
Publisher: Future Press
Editions Available: Collector’s Edition
Acquired via Distributor