Dark Souls II is going to be the love of masochistic gamers everywhere. Coming from, well, From Software, the upcoming sequel to Dark Souls hopes to be just as ruthless, agonizing, and ultimately as rewarding as its predecessors. If the demo we saw at E3 this year is any indication, Dark Souls II is going to deliver just that.
You know a game is hard when a member of the development team dies within 30 seconds of his first playthrough of the session. By the time our presentation portion of the demo was over, he ended up dying at least six times. Most of the time, this can mean that the team member isn’t very good at the game, or the game is too buggy, or perhaps it simply needs some tweaking. In this case, however, the death of the developer’s character appeared to be nothing more than the incredibly tough difficulty level that the Souls series of games is notorious for.
Enemies were few and far between, occasionally showing up in pairs – though the representative noted that you will at times face up to four enemies at once (good luck!). Of course, each enemy must be approached with caution, because even a weakened one can pose a challenge and take you out when you let your guard down. The AI has supposedly been improved, though it was hard to detect in which ways during our limited time with the game. We were also shown three formidable boss-like characters – a large, ugly, (for lack of a better name) golem-like creature, a dark sorcerer, and the coolest and baddest of the bunch: a mirror knight. Each had their own strengths and weaknesses. The golem was hard-hitting, but slow to attack, the sorcerer excelled in ranged abilities but had attacks that were relatively easy to avoid, and the mirror knight was capable of summoning an enemy through his shield, but was left wide-open while performing the summon.
Character customization has been revamped, including a new character generator that is run whenever the player starts a new game. This determines the style you play as, and while there will be many combinations, we were only shown a handful – a warrior, sorcerer, temple knight, and dual swordsman. Other gameplay tweaks include those done to bonfires. Dark Souls II now features “persistent bonfire warping,” which means that any bonfire you reach can be warped to, not just certain key bonfires.
Dark Souls II controls in the same manner as its predecessor, with some new items and mechanics to play around with. One item we saw was the “lifegem,” which is a healing item that slowly restores your character’s health over a period of time once activated. Speaking of items, you can now hold up to three weapons/shields at a time, as well as dual-wield in combat. While before you could hold two weapons, you could only actively use one in combat in the original Dark Souls, so this is a welcome addition. Also welcome to those who like to have the upper hand, you can behead statues which may or may not come to life when you pass them again. The chance to pre-emptively slim down the enemy count is no doubt going to be rare, so it will be savored.
Dark Souls II is currently slated to release on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC this coming March. It was confirmed during the demo that the game will unfortunately not be releasing on either the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One.