Improved wherever possible, and exactly the same where it counts.
By Jason Imms on October 11, 2013 at 7:07 pm
I am not a Dark Souls veteran. I can count the number of hours I’ve spent with the series on one hand. I still haven’t made it out of the Undead Burg, I down Estus flasks at a startling rate, and my methods for dealing with even low-level enemies are entirely too haphazard to lead to much success. With this in mind, I approached the Dark Souls 2 booth at EB Expo 2013 with some trepidation.
Thankfully, when I arrived there was a short queue of people waiting to get their hands on the build that was shown off at TGS - I would have a chance to stand back and observe. What I saw was gruelling. Player after player fell to the varied swords, maces, and mauls of Dark Souls II’s horrible denizens, many scoffing as they left, claiming that the demo was too hard because “they” didn’t want people to progress too far on the show floor. Controllers were left dangling by their security cables as frustrated players ragequit and stormed off into the crowd.
The player immediately in front of me in the queue — Michael was his name — picked up a controller still swinging from a violent discard, and took a commanding stance in front of Dark Souls 2. I admired his courage as he familiarised himself with the controls and got a feel for the Soldier he now embodied. The Soldier was pre-equipped with a choice of a longsword and a greatsword, both wielded one-handed, with a shield in the off hand.
Satisfied with the controls, Michael’s soldier climbed the ladder down from the demo’s starting area, and was immediately skewered by the first two skeletal enemies he encountered below. He turned and gave me an awkward smile. “I don’t think parries work the same way,” he said.
After five or six more respawns Michael had progressed a little further into the demo content, but was clearly unsatisfied with his performance. I pulled him aside before he walked away and quizzed him on his impressions, “It looks a lot better, but pretty much feels the same. I don’t think the window on parries is quite as long though. Backstabs are still way OP. It seems a lot harder, overall.”
“You don’t seem all that happy with it?” I asked. “Oh no,” said Michael, “It’s perfect.”
Then it was my turn. There was no-one in the queue behind me, so I took my time. Patience is rewarded in Dark Souls, and the latest incarnation is no different. It is vital to only strike when a hit is guaranteed. Knowing when to evade certain enemies, or when to lead them to a site of your own choosing before engaging, are both products of trial and error. I eventually made my way to the final section of the demo, a long corridor with statues that would animate and attack as you passed, with a spellcaster lobbing horrendously damaging spells into the fray while you were otherwise engaged with his protectors.
I eventually realised that two of the four animated statues could be dispatched each with a single strike if I attacked before they awoke, leaving me with only two to handle in the traditional manner. These two were then led back to the first room of the corridor, so I could deal with them without simultaneously needing to dodge balls of arcane energy. By the time I took down the spellcaster, I was down to two Estus flasks.
I Traversed the White Light at the end of the corridor and was faced with the Mirror Knight, the demo’s boss. A hulking foe, whose attacks dealt more than half a lifebar’s worth of damage with each strike. Suffice to say I didn’t last long, but with each attempt I whittled away at the monstrosity’s hitpoints, and with enough practice am confident I could have made it through. By the end of my time with Dark Souls 2, I’d had a taste of the qualities that the series’ adherents constantly espouse. Every victory, major or minor, feels honestly earned. I think I’ve had a taste of the Kool-Aid, and for better or worse, I want more.
Dark Souls 2 is due for release on March 11 (US) on Xbox 360 and PS3, with a confirmed PC version to come at a later date.