Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
'Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin' is an upgrade and bundle of Dark Souls II that brings the game to Playstation 4 and Xbox One, as well as DX11 features on PC. It also bundles all previous DLCs and provides additional features and content.
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Beaten: Apr 6 2022
Time: 17 Hours
Platform: Xbox Series X
Scholar of the First Sin is a unique remaster. Rather than just upgrading the visuals, it's also somewhat remixed, with enemy placements being almost completely redone, and some new content (plus all the DLCs).
As for the new enemy placement, it's probably the weakest thing here. And by weakest I mean most frustrating. SOTFS takes the already somewhat high enemy counts of the original game and ups them just enough where they're all on the "hard to even kind of manage" line. In the second half of the game it's not too much of an issue, but the first half of the game is made significantly crueler by these additions. In particular, the Iron Keep, one of my favorite areas of the original game, has had the enemy's aggro range increased to cover half a room, and it just feels incredibly annoying. Once you're past the iron keep though, nothing feels all that impossible.
On to the good stuff! First of all, the game looks gorgeous. It's not an enormous overhaul, really just a slight facelift, but it takes the already stellar art direction and kicks it up juuuust enough . It still looks like an Xbox 360 game, just in higher res, higher fps, and slightly richer lighting.
The DLC's been mixed in pretty well here too, feeling like a very natural part of the game. As for the DLCs themselves, the first one (Sunken King) is visually cool but a bit aimless in level design for my tastes, but the other two feel like the standalone legacy dungeons in Elden Ring. Flatly, they're both tons of fun to explore and experience. I liked the Ivory King expansion a tad better, just because of the theming and spectacle of the final boss, but really they're both stellar.
The extra content with Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin is also fantastic, bringing the already Hard Hitting themes of the game together in an even stronger way than before, really emphasizing the cyclical nature of this universe, and our world beyond.
I wish that the vanilla version of the game, or even just the original enemy placements, was available on modern platforms. A lot of the new placements feel like in jokes, responses to what you would've gotten used to in vanilla, and while that's fine, it doesn't really make sense to me to disallow access to the original like they have.
Still, DS2 remains a great game, thematically poignant and artistically expansive like nothing else, and is worth a try. Just, maybe try vanilla first :)