We return from Dark Souls 2 bruised and bleeding.
By Patrick Stafford on June 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Recently, there has been some concern among Dark Souls fans as to whether its sequel will be “dumbed down”, or made easier for new fans won over by the first game.
Consider this. On the show floor at E3 today, games.on.net had access to a hands-on demonstration of the game. The final portion of this demo contained a boss called the Mirror Knight, a hugely powerful enemy.
By the end of the conference’s second day, not one journalist — out of the hundreds of thousands attending — had managed to beat this boss.
We certainly tried, and failed. So make no mistake, this is Dark Souls at its finest. However, there have been a number of significant improvements which not only make the game a delight to play, but also simply look at.
Players were given four choices for character types: the warrior, sorcerer, temple knight and dual swordsman, each with their own key abilities. We chose the dual swordsman, which delivered powerful blows but without a shield was left vulnerable to attacks. However, the dual-wielding is a nice addition from the first game, when only one weapon was practically useful. You can even use two shields if you want. (OH MY GOD –Ed)
Combat is much the same, although the parry system has changed somewhat to let you knock enemies to the ground.
Enemies were noticeably more difficult in groups now, thanks to the game’s improved artificial intelligence when fighting in packs. Although any smart Dark Souls player would want to avoid any group attacks anyway, this is even more incentive to take it slow.
There are some key changes to how players start the game. You won’t choose the class system anymore, but instead customize your character through some tutorial sessions. Then, the game selects a class for you based on that play style. We didn’t get to experience this tutorial session, so it remains to be seen how this will work in practice – for now it sounds like it could go both ways.
Changes have been made to the bonfire system – every single bonfire is now persistent, so you can warp between any two at will.
But the biggest delight was in just how good the game looks. So many players complained of a poor-looking game due to framerate problems in the first version of Dark Souls, but these seem to have been all fixed up. Our demo was running smooth even at 30fps on a PlayStation 3, so we can imagine a 60fps version would look just great.
At one point in the demo, we were given choice to either enter a dark stairwell and take on some stronger enemies, or abandon one of our equipped hands to hold a burning torch. The shadows from the flames flickered along the walls like some type of dance – it was mesmorising to watch. This is a new engine hard at work, and it definitely pays off.
One interesting thing we learned is that in-game invasions will still occur in a big way. In fact, when watching another player take on the Mirror Knight, we saw the knight itself spawn an enemy from its shield. We were told that this enemy could often be another player who chose to invade someone at that very moment.
Unfortunately, we didn’t quite last long enough to see this in action – dying is all too common in Dark Souls II.
At this point, that’s probably the biggest compliment the game could receive.