E3 2013: Dark Souls II Preview

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I nearly beat the Mirror Knight. You have no idea what that means, but let me tell you, as one of the few people on earth who have played Dark Souls II, that’s pretty damn amazing.

A lot of people were concerned when the word ‘accessible’ was used in conjunction with DS II – don’t be. If anything, the game just became far less accessible than it’s ever been, not because of the enemies (they’re still the same ratio of obtrusion/adversary), or the new, frustratingly teeth-grinding boss battle (there’s a definite strategy to beating him) but because the fighting mechanics just became more unforgiving.

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His body is ready.

There were four classes available to play as – sorcerer, warrior, temple knight dual wielder. I played as the warrior and temple knight, and watched a lot of dual wielder gameplay. The difference between these classes seemed to mostly revolve around speed, stamina and the damage reduction. So far, every character rolls perfectly, seemingly unencumbered by the weight of their equipment. When I asked whether or not weight will affect your movement, I was told they hadn’t decided yet. But, so far, it seems that while you can roll no matter your equipment, the rate of stamina consumed and speed of movement is greatly affected.

So, as a warrior with heavy armaments, I had to plan my rolls way in advance, and despite my hefty stamina bar, I could only perform two dodges before I ran dry. The time between attacking and blocking is hugely noticeable; you can’t swing and expect your shield to even begin coming up in the next frame. This leads to a far more strategic battle, where you have to experiment to see exactly how much time you have to perform necessary actions. At least for the warrior class, reflex-based gameplay was out of the question.

A welcome and much needed addition to DS II is dual wielding. While it was available in both Demons’ and Dark Souls, DS II has made it an actual viable venture. Instead of the usual ‘basically attacking with one weapon and flailing with the other’ mechanics of its predecessors, DS II has fluid dual-wielding combat. It’s just gorgeous, and it’s going to open up an entirely new way to play the game.

While we were assured that character building would follow the same structure (start one way, end however you want), it seems that players will be asked their fighting preference before being either given or suggested a class. I’m still not 100% on how this will work, but it sounds like a good way to set up newer players with a class they’ll feel most comfortable with earlier on. I still remember my first time playing Demons’ Souls and wondering what the hell the real difference was between the classes, so this is a welcome addition, even to me, the worlds’ greatest DS player.

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Just another day in the dungeon.

Then there are the little things: Characters move in a much more realistic way. The roll of the shoulders, the building up of speed before you head into a run. You can two-hand a shield, so your blocks use less stamina. Lighting is phenomenal, with fires casting shadows that follow your line of sight. Enemies are bigger, and feel less like mindless, hollow (snigger) zombies and more like adversaries designed to stop you. You can equip three weapons and three shields, giving you more options in battle. You can now warp to every bonfire without exception. Back stabbing and parrying carry more risk and reward: you won’t simply teleport behind enemies for the backstab, you will kick them into place first before delivering the blow, and you may miss that opportunity. Likewise, parrying will knock the opponent over, where you can perform missable impale for massive damage.

Dark Souls II makes the original Dark Souls seem like a beta. And it really sucks none of you have managed to play it yet.

Did I mention that I did?

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