The True Genius of Dark Souls II

Extra Credits has put together a video on the way Dark Souls II handles difficulty organically through gameplay. Some of the methods referenced have been part of the series since its inception, but it's interesting to see some of the new, debated additions under this lens:

As a purely personal opinion, I liked the addition of Bonfire Ascetics and the Covenant of Champions, but preferred the way Dark Souls 1 handled Rings of Life Protection. I'm also generally not too thrilled about the way the series handles ranged combat. Linking particular playstyles to different type of challenges is okay in my book, but making one uniformly easier is not. By intentionally linking a certain playstyle with a harder or easier difficulty, I feel developers run the risk of robbing players who chose that plastyle for aesthetic/mechanical reasons of a fulfilling experience. A player might feel pressured to respec his/her character, either because the game feels too easy and uninvolving, or because it feels unfairly punishing towards their playstyle.

Obviously there's no easy solution to this conundrum: balancing meaningfully different playstyles is incredibly difficult, and I have yet to see a developer do it completely right. Most modern games usually either reduce the mechanical differences between classes or the overall mechanical complexity, and ideally you'd want to maintain both to create a truly compelling experience.

That said, it will be interesting to see what solutions RPG developers will come up in the future while wrestling with this problem, and we already have an idea of how From Software is handling it with Bloodborne: magic and bows have seemingly been removed in favor of more situational guns that complement rather than replace melee combat.