Dark Souls II was in a precarious position. When you're creating a sequel to one of the most acclaimed games of the last decade, it's not easy to please every player, not when everyone has such different expectations. That Dark Souls II was able to stand its ground, to achieve greatness on a new set of terms, is one of its successes. It had the feel of Dark Souls, the right amount of existential sense of dread, but Dark Souls II wasn't so much about surmounting obstacles than it was the adventure lying beyond them. Each new region brought with it new questions to ponder. How did this diverse place come to be so cursed by death? What stories might the decrepit walls of the Lost Bastille hide in its crumbling cracks and crevasses?
As it turns out, it's the story you yourself create that leaves the greatest marks. Dark Souls II is short on words but long on exploration. You write the tale--and what a wonderful tale it is. It's a tale of colossal giants locked in battle, with you, and with each other. It's a tale of consequence, in which a single swing of a sword might create for you an enemy you wish you hadn't created. It's a tale of poisonous rains, precarious dropoffs, and characters that have secrets to share as long as you're willing to keep asking questions. A wonderful sequence of excellent downloadable content only confirmed what we already knew about Dark Souls II: there are few greater pleasures in video games than when you first see the monstrosity you've been commanded to destroy--except, of course, for the moment you vanquish that monstrosity and reap the benefit of its life-giving souls.