Dark Souls, one of the hardest games on the current gen, was a truly amazing experience coming off of the successful Demons Souls. The game’s sequel is letting everyone know that it’s only going to get harder from here with more bosses, more enemies and more death. At the Eurogamer Expo, I was able to get hands on with the game and see just how tough it really is. Is Dark Souls II going to be the a true successor or nothing more than a lowly peasant in comparison? Let us fill up our estus flask’s and find out.
The game, right off the bat, looks amazing. It shares the same engine as Dark Souls but with some interesting tweaks and changes that help bring it to life. First are weather effects, that make the game look and feel so much better. Fighting an enemy in the rain as it creates puddles and bounce off of your armour is great to see. Secondly are particle effects, these have been improved and changed to look way better than the original title, especially so when it comes to throwing dark orbs or lightning bolts at opponents. Lastly are material effects on armour pieces, this may seem like a small change but it makes the game feel great. With new armour sets in DS II, some come with fur attachments that have their own material properties to steel. This allows them to fly in the wind, get ruffled when your rolling around on the floor and even pick up dirt and damp from the environment. These few changes help make the game feel more complete and bring your character to life more than previously.
Another noticeable change is when you enter combat. Weapons feel heavier, swings feel more damaging and back stabbing someone now feels deeper and tougher. This is more relevant with two handed weapons like great swords and lances rather than single handed blades, which makes sense. The music in the game has been rescored and sounds way more immersive. You truly feel absorbed into the gothic environments when the music hits during boss fights. Overall a majority of the asthetic touches to the game have been drastically improved, as well as some slight changes to combat that don’t take away anything but only add more depth.
One noticeable addition to the game, for those that are very concerned about their health items, is the inclusion of life gems. These gems are consumables that also heal your health as an estus flask does, but there is one huge difference. As the estus flask fills up your health in one big go, the life gems heal you over time. This is a great item to have in the game as you can now choose to prioritise what you want to use for heals in big fighting situations. One key thing to understand however is that these do not make the estus flask useless. You will burn through these life gems faster than you would think, leaving you to ration your precious healing once again.
Enough talk about the changes and additions to the game, what was the demo about? The demo was the same one shown from the Tokyo Game Show and has you pick one of four different characters, all with different weapons and inventory, to traverse a maze like area and face a boss. It sounds simple at first but then you face a boss that truly encompasses how tough the game has become. In the demo you face the mighty Mirror Knight, a giant soldier of marble that carries a mirror shield and a giant blade. The knight has gap closing attacks, big slash and stab moves and even charges his sword with lightning to inflict more damage to you. One of the unique features of the boss is that after a time he will smash his mirror shield into the ground. You can see a warrior on the other side trying to break out of it and then, after an epic shattering effect, steps out from the shield. Now you have to face two enemies at once, one being a copy of a players character that is also fighting the Mirror Knight at the same time you are. This means that every time you face the boss, you could be facing a different warrior every single time.
After facing the boss numerous times, dying again and again, I had almost defeated it as the developers sadly had to pull me off of the game. Players had a twenty minute time limit to beat the demo and, if they did, they received a free T-Shirt. Every day during the expo, the first person who completed the demo on the day received a shirt along with: A PS3, collector’s edition of Dark Souls II pre-ordered, a soldier figurine, early entry into the beta and a poster. What a glorious prize to win after defeating a boss which isn’t even the hardest encounter in the game, as the developers shared. This only makes me want to play the game more, so yes I queued five more times.
An interesting trick to take away from the experience is that your character may be different at this point in the game. Characters for the sake of the demo might have been given weaker armour and weapons to add more of a challenge on the show floor. This is debateable but can affect the toughness of this boss in the official release. Whether or not you can be more powerful at this point, we will have to wait and see.
Overall Dark Souls II is a fantastic sequel that is truly much harder than the original. With asthetic updates and item additions, it feels more well rounded and complete in comparison to the original. The difficulty could put a lot of players off, but it is still a rewarding feeling when you successfully win in an epic battle. A pre-order must for those who love the series and at least a try to these who have never stepped into this interesting world.
So what are your thoughts on Dark Souls II? Will you be prepared to die? Let us know what you think in the comments below.