Game Preview: Dark Souls II
D-Pad were recently invited down to NAMCO BANDAI Europe HQ, based in Hammersmith London where we were given the chance to play through the latest build of Dark Souls II. Sequel to Dark Souls, and estranged brother to Demon’s Souls, fans are anxious for a return to the cruel, gruelling and relentless gameplay of the series. Doubts were cast however when From Softwares Director, Hidetaka Miyazaki stepped down from Director to Supervisor, as well as the fact the game was to be more ‘accessible’ to newcomers to the series. Should these be valid concerns veterans of the series? During my playthrough i discovered the truth…
Rage. Despair. Anguish.
These are the range of emotions I experienced during my play through of the latest build of Dark Souls II. For those of you who are worried that the sequel has been made easier, I can wholeheartedly say that the gruelling, punishing, controller-hurling formula is FULLY intact. Don’t confuse my anger for disappointment however, as Dark Souls II is an extremely addictive and rewarding experience.
Dark Souls II begins with a lovely CGI FMV, explaining to you one key thing. You’re Dead. Cursed with the Augur mark, your character is a hollow undead who feeds off souls. Your character then spawns from the earth with no instruction or direction and if you waste time [or are foolish enough to attack them] shadow dogs will nip and maul you to pieces, before you’ve even picked a class or an appearance. Yup, Dark Souls II will kill you before the game has even begun. Past the hell dogs, three extremely unsettling witches explain to him he’s an undead and is cursed to collect souls and will loose them many times, it feels like a meta-joke as if they’re talking to player, warning them of the hours of frustration which lie ahead!
“Yup, Dark Souls II will kill you before the game has even begun.”
The next area which lay ahead was known as Things Betwixt. Fitting as the entire area was essentially caverns, and felt as if you was working you way through there towards the land of the living [sort of]. Things Betwixt contained what I imagine to be the only tutorials in the game, an excellent addition to bring accessibility to such an unforgiving title. Bare in mind I fell to my death 5 times [jumping and rolling do feel rather cumbersome] in the Tutorial section alone. In fact even the low level hollow enemies can essentially take your entire health off in one flurry of attacks! Dark Souls II cares not if you are a beginner.
In fact this ‘tutorial area’ contains contains two over sized lizard creatures, now as a normal gamer, you expect whatever you come across will fall if you hit them hard enough. Dark Souls II is different, if you see something that seems imposing, you’re probably best to avoid till later. It adds such a sense of vulnerability when your character is literally not equipped enough to tackle enemies which lay in your path.
After the harsh lessons learned from Things Betwixt I finally made it to Majula which seems to be the Hub for the world of Drangleic, and a replacement to the Firelink Shrine of Lodran. A coastal area, which although brighter on a whole, still managed to give off such a post apocalyptic feel with it’s small population, torched skies and stone ruins [and psycho pigs who like to maul your flesh].
Having explored several areas of Majula and not finding I could not progress further, I finally found a cave which lead me to lush area with overgrown fauna everywhere, known as The Forest of the Fallen Giants. It was only then how I realised that Dark Souls II is aesthetically brighter as a whole compared to its younger brother[s]. It was also there that I realised, once again that this is indeed a Dark Souls game and died horrifically by hordes of hollow creatures. The most interesting and frustrating find, was a large silver knight slouched by a tree and would only attack you if drew first blood. He soon reminded me I was playing Dark Souls II and removed my health bar in 2 swipes.
It was at that moment I realised that health system has been revamped. After each death in hollowed form your maximum health decreases, and your character looks more withered, rotted and ironically, like death. Health can be restored by life gems and humanity can be restored by ultra-rare human effigies. A small touch but makes the entire experience dynamic and move players to treat each life like its their last!
The next area was castle/dungeon-esque in appearance and was filled with all sorts of horrible traps thrown in by the developers; enemies hiding around corners, undead ‘playing dead’, there was even an even larger and even DEADLIER Knight who literally just wiped my character clean without even a word. Feeling very small I avoided every, larger enemy I saw and slowly trudged my way to what can be only be considered as the boss of the Area [he had his own FMV for goodness sake]. It pains me to say that after a total of 50 deaths I just couldn’t bring my self to face him after his perpetual pride pummeling. Hysteria was starting to set in, and didn’t want the PR guys to watch me breakdown further.
As much as I’m relieved that this title feels and plays exactly by how Dark Souls II should play like, there are a few new features that I would love to explored in more detail. The fact that players can enter your world whilst you’re hollowed is a MASSIVE deal and something I was unable to see in motion. Is the ability to teleport to bonfires from the beginning the get go hamper or improve the original formula? You shouldn’t be worried though, the combined, sadistic genius of Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura will ensure that Dark Souls experience will definitely satiate your thirst [ you masochists].