I fully intended to have my review of Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Sunken King review written and published by now, but something happened. More specifically, Dark Souls happened.
And that really wasn't what I expected—I loved Dark Souls 2, but by the end, it felt like the easiest game of the trilogy. That could be due to the cumulative 200+ hours I'd sunk into the first two installments before jumping into Souls 2, but most members of the Souls community would agree that 2, while a great game in its own right, offered less of a challenge than its predecessors. And, after having invested 100 additional hours into Dark Souls 2, I didn't think Crown of the Sunken King would take more than an afternoon to blow through—what with my mastery over the core game and all.
Yet here I sit, 10 hours later, and it's hard to remember when I've ever been wronger. And you know what? I love it.
While my review is still forthcoming, I thought I'd take a brief break to outline what makes Crown of the Sunken King so deliciously difficult—and why those a little disappointed with the overall difficulty of Souls 2 are absolutely going to love it.
Enemies hit hard, and rarely stagger. The three different types of humanoid foes in Crown of the Sunken King (which come in mace, sword, and lance form) can't be staggered and disposed of as easily as other Souls 2 enemies. Even with my strength-focused character, it takes four hits with my Drangleic Sword to make one of these enemies stumble—and by that point, I'm usually too drained of stamina to do anything. Since these guys are absolutely everywhere, the key to success in Crown of the Sunken King is luring them out one at a time, though that's easier said than done. This area specializes in bottomless pits and narrow walkways, making anything greater than one-on-one combat a harrowing experience.
It's an absolute maze. If the linear levels of Dark Souls 2 disappointed you, then you'll definitely find Crown of the Sunken King a great return to form. It's a massive area, though you won't be heading from point A to point B. Most of the fun of navigating Crown of the Sunken King comes in discovering subtle shortcuts that allow you to blaze past tough enemies in an attempt to reach the next bonfire, and, as you progress, realizing just how interconnected and dense this sunken city is. Crown of the Sunken King not only tests your combat skills, but your navigation skills as well.
Puzzles galore. The Souls series experimented with making their caves and dungeons "Zelda-like" in the past, but usually held back for the sake of making these areas feel more natural. That definitely isn't a concern with Crown of the Sunken King, as its tombs and abandoned buildings contain numerous switches that shape the environment. Never before in a Souls game have you had to take such an initiative to carve your own path through a level, but, in Crown of the Sunken King, it's up to you to figure out the best way through its open-ended underground caverns.
That's all for today—hopefully, I'll find light at the end of the tunnel before this weekend.