I like the co-op system in Dark Souls 2. Summoning phantoms and being summoned as a phantom is a huge part of every souls game with it's own set of risks and rewards. There are plenty of souls players out there who will tell you that soloing everything in the game is the best way to play, but I would argue that fighting everything alone and never using the summoning system, while challenging, is not the ideal way to play Dark Souls 2, nor is it an enjoyable experience for a first time player of the game.
Dark Souls 2 in it's current state makes the rewards from summoning better than ever. Bosses have higher HP when you bring in help, but phantoms who help their summoners win will walk away with full estus, full spell charges, 5-10 thousand souls depending on the boss, and the chance to regain their humanity.
I won't argue that summoning doesn't make the game easier, but now that each death can reduce my characters health pool as he becomes more hollow, it seems even more fruitless to learn a new boss fight by dying alone over and over in Dark Souls 2 than it was in Dark Souls. While I'm typing this, the game has only been out for about a week, and just due to how many people are playing the game, there are more people summoning and looking for summons right now than there probably ever will be. Instead of fighting alone and walking into a boss fight blind with half my potential spells and estus, I consider this the smarter way to play:
- As soon as I find a new boss gate I drop my sign. There are so many people playing right now that I usually get summoned in under a minute.
- As a phantom, I can learn the fight in someone else's world and if I die I lose nothing.
- If I win the fight, I return to my world with thousands more souls, full estus, full spells and possibly humanity. (The general consensus is that it is completely random whether you can regain your humanity after being summoned as a phantom whether you win the fight or not.)
Regardless of whether I want to play Dark Souls 2 solo or co-op, I always consider dropping the summon sign when I find myself in front of a fog gate if for no other reason than to refill my estus and spells before going through the gate myself. Sometimes I'll still die as a summoner and I'll run back to the boss only to lose all my souls, sometimes I'll summon people in who don't know the fight, or sometimes there just won't be any summon signs in front of the boss I want to fight. The point is, I'm dying a LOT less as a result of using the co-op system to my own benefit, and I'm spending more time as a human without using up valuable Effigy items.