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Dark Souls II Hands On Preview

Am I truly prepared to Go Beyond Death?

My experience with the Souls series is deep-rooted and extremely memorable. The first time I laid eyes on Demon’s Souls, I was kicking back at a friend’s house between class just passing time and he just had to show me this new game he picked up on a whim. From that moment, I knew that I needed to embark on a quest to obtain this wonderful masterpiece that was so gratuitously shown to me - it was at this point that my love for the series truly began to bloom. Flash-forward two years to when Dark Souls was released and that's when my love for the saga truly came to fruition. I spent countless hours playing the game, days were spent perfecting my skills, and dissecting the lore consumed weeks of my habitual gaming life. All of that said, I suppose no one needs to know how excited I was to be invited into the Dark Souls II Network Beta.

As the beta loaded and I entered New Game, I was greeted with a character select screen. It wasn't anything too fancy though and seemed to be restricted when compared to the previous installments. However, the lack of character creation might just be attributed to the fact that this was only a beta. From the initial Bonfire that kicked off the beta, I was immediately greeted by a haggard looking NPC who strongly resembled the Filthy Woman from the Valley of Defilement in Demon’s Souls (I have no confirmation of the identity of the NPC, it’s simply who came to mind).

As I traversed the lands from the haggard female who welcomed me to the world, I slowly began to notice how different the gameplay was from its predecessor. First of all, the combat itself feels as if it’s a new beast of its own for you to master. It's both slightly more fluid than before and a little faster paced. I’m not talking about over-the-top action like Metal Gear Solid Revengeance, but it definitely feels as if it has been sped up to the slightest degree. Parrying and Riposting now take more stamina than ever before, and a successful parry simply knocks your enemy back onto their ass instead of opening their defenses for a critical attack. I can’t say that all enemies will react the same way to a parry; but from what I've played so far, this seems to be the general case.

The Estus Flasks are back, but they’re no longer the only healing item that is at your disposal. It seemed as if I was all-too frequently finding Life Gems; which work the same as Estus, only they slowly refill your HP instead of providing instant relief. The plus side of the frequent drops was that I was able to experiment with Life Gems to an extent. They're stackable, which cuts the heal time in half. And I also found out the hard way that using one can effectively nullify the life loss rate of poison. Herbs also make a comeback from the Demon’s Souls game, but they don’t restore health this time. Instead, you'll consume them for restocking spells, which is a welcomed commodity among those who rely heavily on sorcery builds.

Human Effigies have replaced Humanity and can instantly reverse your Hollowed state without the need to find a bonfire. They closely resemble the Stone of Ephemeral Eyes from Demon’s Souls. Another key feature of Human Effigies is their ability to restore your HP meter to its fullest. Dark Souls II knows no bounds in terms of brutality and punishment, meaning that every time you die, you lose approximately 5% of your max health until you decide to use a Human Effigy to restore what has been lost. Otherwise, your health bar will continue to drop until hitting 50%, only to drop further in some unique situations.

The world itself felt all too familiar within the beta; danger came from any given direction until I properly memorized enemy placement and strategies. There was also a sense of wonder as I spotted a glimmer of treasure that appears to be just out of reach, as well as a sense of awe as I marveled at this wonderful world that has been hurled into chaos. But the real beauty within this world are the lighting effects. Whether I grabbed a torch from a nearby bonfire, lit a totem, or smashed through boarded windows, the lighting within the game was a fantastic new addition that improves the game's ambiance significantly.

Enemies within Dark Souls II are not to be taken lightly either. The beta had a unique way of giving you a few peon Hollows to bolster your confidence, and then they would instantly crush your hopes and dreams by sending a bruising tank in your general direction. But much like the previous installments, no enemies are invincible. With patience and skillful learning, the enemies are easy to pick up on despite the varying tactics they may use against you. One particular enemy type that really grabbed my attention though was the Executioner (as I call them, at least). The Executioners wielded a variety of weapons such as dual swords, clubs, whips, and one that resembled the Titanite Catch Pole from Dark Souls. One of the features of the Executioners that stuck out however was their ability to appear to you in the form of a Black Phantom, much like enemies could do in Demon’s Souls (are you seeing the patterns every time I mention Demon’s Souls?).

Enemy AI is nothing to be brushed away either. They’re as ruthless as ever and seem to be able to spot you from further away than they could in Dark Souls. They tend to enjoy ganging up, and they’re complete savages when you give them the opportunity. If you try to back out and create room between them and yourself to heal, they feel the need to rush you as quickly as possible so you can meet your maker sooner rather than later. Bigger enemies also run at you so their weapon can be decorated with your blood and entrails.

I could go on and on about my experience with the Dark Souls II Network Beta, but then I think I would be committing the ultimate sin amongst the community; and that’s ruining the experience. Dark Souls II so far not only looks the part, but it also feels like a masterfully created Soul experience. While a few things worry me such as the frequency of certain drops and the lack of true character creation, I firmly believe that this is simply a part of the beta and I doubt we’ll see such things in the final versions of Dark Souls II. So; until the final version comes out, I guess I shall keeping counting the days away until I’m finally prepared to go Beyond Death.


 

Comments

asrealasitgets

10/23/2013 at 08:08 PM

Awesome coverage! Can Dark Souls be made better? What improvements if any can be made to Dark Souls? I don't think fans of the game wanted a "better" game. It's good to see that developers have created nice lighting and environmental effects. I especially like the visual of the world and that's a big deal to me in games, compared to something like Fallout for example, which looks terrible to me, but that's me. I will be interested in reading more about the lore of this world and how it is connected, if at all, to previous games. 

Chris Yarger Community Manager

10/24/2013 at 06:42 AM

There's a lot I came to realize about Dark Souls II after I had submitted this, such as the different stats and all the changes that is being implemented through stat placement as well as how the separation between levels doesn't increase nearly as much as before. It seemed as if I was able to level very quickly, but this may be due to the fact that the stats are completely overhauled and the level cap is presumably going to be increased up to 900-1000 area.

I need to test this theory...

 

asrealasitgets

10/24/2013 at 12:51 PM

900 lvl cap? Surprised

Chris Yarger Community Manager

10/24/2013 at 01:00 PM

Or more...

The only reason I say that is because there are two additional Stats in which you can level up, so that's an additional 198 levels approximately!

leeradical42

10/30/2013 at 07:11 PM

So from what I got out of your coverage is that Dark Souls 2 will be more like Demon Souls then Dark Souls??

Chris Yarger Community Manager

10/31/2013 at 01:18 PM

Actually, it's quite a smooth blend of both games it seems. It's hard to really explain, but it seems as if it's heavily influenced by Demon's Souls, with the open-world concept of Dark Souls, if that makes sense.. lol

leeradical42

10/31/2013 at 10:08 PM

Actually that makes total sense and one thing I know for sure if I need answers to anything Dark Souls related you will be the one I will go to for sure thanks for clearing that up.

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