Spoilers: Dark Souls II is going to be freaking hard.
Although I wasn’t able to get my hands on the game at this past E3 thanks to tight schedules, I did see Namco Bandai’s CQC Analyst Matt Warner share a half-hour taste of the game to a bunch of us in its press-only room.
The segment I witnessed left me feeling super pumped over its improvements. And equally terrified.
All that talk about making the game “more accessible” to newcomers shouldn’t be taken the wrong way. The game still promises to be difficult, and From Software is still looking to instill that satisfying sense of achievement within players who manage to conquer its brutality after repeated attempts.
The game’s increased accessibility has more to do with its revamped class system, which lets you hand-pick your stats first, thereby assembling a group of appropriate class options that help narrow down your choice. The team is also trying to cut down on needless backtracking by linking all activated bonfires, so that you can warp between any of them.
The first thing I noticed during the demo was just how improved Dark Souls II looks visually. Its received a humongous boost in the smooth department when compared to its jagged predecessors, and it’s all thanks to its new engine. Thankfully, From Software has learned from the the development of the PC version, and promises to make this a PC port done right, without requiring any fanmade 1080p mods.
The new engine also allows for new physics which add more challenge to the previously exploitable parries and backstabbings. Players are no longer invincible during the entire parry-attack or backstab animations. Both of these moves involve a two-step process. The first involves your character successfully knocking an enemy down with the hilt of your weapon, thus exposing them and allowing you to administer sharp punishment, all-the-while leaving yourself open to attacks.
The developer is also touting new enemy AI that will adapt to the player’s behavior, which is its way of stifling potential 45-minute speedrunners keen on cheesing their way through the game. One example shared by Warner included the idea of bosses learning when and where a player runs away to heal, and taking advantage of that situation.
That’s not to say that player characters won’t have any new perks of their own. Dual-wielding weapons will finally serve more of a purpose, allowing you to perform new moves while sacrificing protection. And for the first time ever, Dark Souls II will let you do a short jump by clicking in the left analog stick, which should help in getting over small obstacles.
The demo ended after the demo guy got creamed by the Mirror Knight, a giant new boss whose shield reflects any magic thrown at it. It also doubles as a summoning tool for human players invading your world. That’s cold, From Software. Very cold.
For those who don’t want to go it alone, up to four players can team up together to explore this sequel’s now open world. Something tells me I’m going to need all the help I can get.
Oh, and one PSA for you: don’t try to backstab any heavy, turtle shell-like enemies in this game when it hits PCs, PS3s and Xbox 360s on March 2014. It would be bad.