Dark Souls II Hands-on: Die Harder

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Dark Souls II Hands-on: Die Harder

Dark Souls II for PS3

Fear not! Based on my initial hands-on experiences, Dark Souls II is proving to be even more fiendishly challenging than its famously difficult predecessor. I learned this when the very first enemy in the game, a monstrous ogre-like creature sporting a pendulous gut, lifted me into the air and gnawed on my head like a Tootsie pop. I died kicking and screaming.

After reviving, I opted to steer clear of the brute until I’d found a better weapon. But misfortune struck moments later when I was overwhelmed by a swarm of tiny, mewling dog creatures. Pushing on, I faced a gauntlet of towering undead knights, each powerful enough to cleave me in two with a swing of a massive sword.

After dying repeatedly, I finally zig-zagged past them and through a nearby door. Big mistake: here, perched precariously on a narrow platform, I faced off with an armored, giant boss who swung a halberd with lethal accuracy. Yep, you better believe I died.

Dark Souls II for PS3Dark Souls II for PS3

Yep, you better believe I died.

Though Dark Souls II wastes no time in throwing the player into the deep end of the pool, its core gameplay has also undergone many subtle tweaks that further contribute to its bruising difficulty level. One example is your life bar, which shrinks slightly each time you die.

This means you’ll grow permanently weaker with each miscalculation unless you use one of your precious Human Effigies (standing in for Dark Soul’s Humanity) to restore your full human form. And the health-restoring Estus Flasks, so critical for survival in Dark Souls, so far appear to be downplayed in favor of life crystals, a slow-healing, consumable item that isn’t restored each time you rest at a Bonfire.

But I also noticed a host of welcome refinements that make Dark Souls II a more graceful and user-friendly experience. The user interface is now vastly easier to navigate, making weapon swapping and inventory management a speedy affair compared to Dark Soul’s overwhelming lines of text. Jumping, a famously finicky maneuver in Dark Souls, is now bound to L3 in a small but crucial tweak that will make battle-scarred veterans weep tears of joy. And perhaps best of all, you can now fast travel between different Bonfires from the very start of the game, cutting down on monotonous backtracking.

Dark Souls II for PS3

In the pre-release build I played, Dark Souls II trimmed its character class lineup from ten to eight. Gone are the fan-favorite Pyromancer, Thief, Hunter, and Wanderer classes, replaced by a more focused and specialized group of misfits. Beginners might want to try the new Explorer class, a middle-of-the-road character that begins the game with particularly good items and equipment. Advanced players can forego defense for sheer offense with the Swordsman, who favors fighting with a weapon in each hand.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the series’ uniquely haunting atmosphere. Dark Souls II’s stellar opening cinema is adorned with disturbing imagery: a dead tree swarming with bloated fireflies, a ruined kingdom of impossible age, and a cackling coven of mystics. You, as a Hollow, are cursed to feed on the souls of the living. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Though my time with Dark Souls II was short, it’s haunted my dreams since. Have questions? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below!

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17 Author Replies

  • First! Time posting!

  • I can’t wait for my patience to be tested.
    Awesome beta. So I have confidence in the game.

  • Dark Souls is for babies.

  • Looks Awesome!

    Has Dark souls ever been in the IGC? I finished Demon Souls but have not got around to Dark yet(to busy with IGC)

  • Game looks (visually) leaps ahead of Dark Souls. Hoping for an eventual PS4 version. In any case, super excited about it.

  • By far my most anticipated game on any platform, I can’t wait for Dark Souls 2. I need to get back to work on my platinum run in the original Dark Souls.

  • Im actually quite excited

  • Your doing the lords work Sid…Keep preachin’

  • Demon’s Souls is still my pick for Best Playstation 3 Game. Dark Souls was amazing as well. I’m really excited for Dark Souls II, but since it’s coming to PC I’m going to hedge my bets and wait for an eventual PS4 version. You know it has to be coming! :D

  • I’m getting a PS4 tomorrow! I can’t wait. :)

    Also i can’t wait for Dark Souls II, it’s going to be awesome. I still need to finish Dark Souls though, I got my platinum for Demon’s Souls. I’m happy about that.

  • I can’t wait to hear more about it on the blogcast four years from now:P

  • Shut up and take my Souls!

  • This is the real Game of 2014! No other games has me so hyped!

  • Dark Souls is for cheaters guide follower players

  • Looking good!

    Question, when starting off, was there a clear path to progress through? Or was it basically try this area, die horribly, try another area, die horribly, try this area, die not so horribly so this is hopefully the best way to go. It was easy to feel lost in DS so just curious if the path progression has some more direction to it this time.

    • There was a very clear path, with some small side-paths. I didn’t get far (sucker was hard!), so this was right at the beginning of the game. I’m sure it opens up further into the game, though.

  • day one digital? please!!!

  • I have had my copy of Dark Souls in forever and Sid is making a compelling argument for me to finally play it on the blogcast!

    • Definitely play it over a weekend and pump some serious hours into it before making a judgement call. It’ll make you crazy while you learn how it works, but then the fun begins…

  • Will this at least be easier than demon souls?

    These games look neat and all, but the difficulty makes them no fun.

    • I haven’t played a ton of Demon’s Souls (just the first few hours) so I don’t know for sure. But conquering the difficulty is part of the fun!

  • Cannot wait. The been hearing beta testers say the combat feels a bit more like Demon’s Souls. What do you think? Personally, I liked the flow of DeS combat just a bit more than Dark.

  • You’re still in time to beat the first one, Sid! If you’re having a tough time, summon some help!

  • Hnnnnngh, just what I like to hear. This coming month is going to be a long one… Hoping that this final Beta test that they are being tight-lipped about is still a real thing.

  • Good news. What we also need is for Sony to do Demon’s Soul 2!

  • I’ve played Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls and the Dark Souls 2 beta. The beta looked like a huge graphical improvement over Dark Souls. The things I’ve been reading about making this iteration even harder–invasion even if hollow, what you wrote about getting weaker, etc–really scares me because the first 2 games were hard enough. From Software are sadists, no doubt about it.

    Have had CE pre-ordered for quite some time now. Thanks for the update.

  • Pyromancer or GTFO.

    Still excited for this, though >.>

  • Thanks for the review Sid, it’s great to see DS2 getting more promotion than DeS/DaS. Although, I have a feeling it will bring tears and broken peripherals for a few gamers lol..
    That being said, I will be first in line picking up this preorder if possible. I need moar souls.

    The beta was fantastic, & effectively terrifying with surround sound at 2AM. I personally Love the pseudo-hardcore action-triggered HUD, the lack of on-screen loadout when not in the midst of battle definitely permits more immersion into the world.

    All in all tho, definitely not for the non-hardcore gamer with lack of patience.

    Bridge guardian can suck my zweihänder langschwert.

  • Come on, bring it to the PS4. You already have a PC version being developed… and the demand for PS4 games is high. Especially core games like DS2.

  • wooohoo SID is on it!!!!

  • I have the PC version pre-ordered along with the PS3 Collector’s Edition. CANNOT CONTAIN THIS HYPE [PRAISING INTENSIFIES]

  • Please add something like a “Ninja Dog” easy mode for us gamers with little time, skill, or patience, but who still love the atmopshere and RPGs.

  • I played the beta and could not get enough of it. One thing i do want to ask is that towards the end of the beta they raised the difficulty. It went to hard mode, then at the last 10 minutes of the beta it went to very hard mode. Is the player going to be able to change the difficulty of there game? or was that just something they did for fun in the beta?

  • Always decreasing life bar? You know what? How about they just make the game, one hit, you die, game over, you can never play it again on that console? I bet the masochistic loons who love this series would eat it up.

    Never thought I’d hate a game series so much in the exact genre I love.

  • ElektroDragon, if you keep dying you only lose your health bar up until a max of 50% is depleted, which makes it easier than Demon’s Souls.

    Also, learn to get good and the Souls games are some of the most satisfying games you’ll ever play. Adapt and get better, Dark Souls isn’t for people that are not willing to learn or get better.

  • any news on when the 1st dark souls game will be on psn?

  • I love the soul games but I’m wondering if dark souls 2 will come to ps4.

  • I agree with #32.

    Electro, have you tried either of the Souls games? I almost rage quit many times the first 20+ hours of Demon’s but grew to love it fiercely. You know that RPGs take time to grow on you. I thought Persona 4 Golden was boring and pointless the first 5 hours but then became obsessed.

    @30, Hardx: I was playing the second beta at same time. They were just tweaking the difficulty to test the balance of the game. I don’t believe From will have more than 1 difficulty level. We’re all equal in their sadistic hearts.

  • Hey, Any idea if there’s gonna be a PS4 version?

  • About those classes, are they just a starting point (like Demon’s Souls) or are they really different?

    • From what I can tell, they’re still largely a starting point. Which is nice, because it gives you flexibility to change your strategy as your character grows.

  • can’t wait for this game personally. my friend got me into demon souls so then I had to get dark souls which definitely cranked up some aspects of the previous game. she even got me to pre-order dark souls 2, which is great because me and her going to be playing that from the beginning. one thing that’s going to be funny though, is all these “skilled players” getting slapped in the face because fromsoft revamped the backstabbing

  • PR people put such weird comments up. The game itself sounds easier than Dark Souls, which kind of sucks. I don’t like having fast travel right away.

    • PR people?!? :) I found the enemies and healing inventory setup much more challenging – the fast travel didn’t bother me, it gets a little tedious to constantly trot down the same hallways, so zipping around is a handy timesaver.

  • Ah no easy mode, not a game for me then.

    I play for fun not frustration.

    Hopefully those who like this stuff end up getting what they hope for.

  • Sid you have me Verrrrry Verrrrrry interested in this game.

  • I guess people are going to start crying about the game is to difficult. Well guess what don’t buy the game, the developers won’t change the difficulty just because people whine about it too bad cry me a river. But on another note I haven’t finished the 1st game still have too finish that at some point.

  • ElektroDragon if you do not like the unforgiving, no hand holding like Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, & Dark Souls II then don’t buy the game or moan about it.

    What I like about the Souls series, is they punish you for the mistakes you make if you go guns blazing and so on. You learn from it and adapt to the environment to the best of your ability. This the most rewarding/satisfying JRPG games in the 7th gen.

  • the fact that it is for PS3 leaves me less than thrilled.

  • Can’t wait for this game, network test was a blast, definitely graphically an improvement and the combat is definitely more fluid it felt with the time I got to play, plus the atmosphere, the one thing that I always felt Demon’s Souls did better then Dark Souls was the atmosphere which seems to be more like Demon’s Souls in Dark Souls 2. All ready my GOTY of the year, because I know I’ll be spending most of the year playing this game alone. XD

  • You guys have any word if this is Day 1 Digital?? My PS3’s bluray drive is in my closet~ broken, and this is the only game I need for the next few months. Anyone know??

  • Ths is game a great game!

  • Game looks really good…and I gotta say that the graphics are amazing for a multiplatform game…thank God this is on PS3.I still need to get the 1st one but no doubt I will be buying this one as well.

  • Thinking of getting this in March for my first souls game. Or would you guys recommend demons or dark souls? Cause my friends want me to play it and from what little I did play on my friend’s ps3 I liked demon souls. Even though I died a few times lol.

  • why did u have to build a ps4? was there a problem with the ps3? are the games for the ps3, good to use in the ps4? please WRITE back…….. HOW DO I WIN FREE STUFF? WE HAVE BEEN LOYAL PEOPLE?

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