A Soul Crushing Experience – Dark Souls 2 Hands On Preview

Prepare To Die, Again.

The ‘Souls’ franchise has forever been labelled as difficult and unforgiving. As a gamer who has not played any of the previous games, being tasked to play the highly anticipated sequel to Dark Souls was daunting. I looked at a couple of videos to help boost my knowledge about the game and went down to Namco Bandai’s HQ ready to kill some monsters. That, for the most part, did not happen. But I did get a sense of encouragement after playing through the first part of the game.

The story of Dark Souls 2 focuses on your character after they’ve been cursed. You’re on the hunt to find the cure to the agony, and to get there you have to beat everything in your path. That path is going to take quite some time to get through and complete, as you’d expect. While the story of Dark Souls 2 is indirectly linked with its predecessor, Dark Souls, the unforgiving nature seen in the original is still very apparent here.

As I said before, I’m more of a newcomer to the series and it did take me some time to adjust to the game mechanics and how one mistimed move can be your end. After a lot of trial and error, I did end up getting the hang of the game (well, what I thought was the hang) and I started killing some monsters and felt better about my gaming abilities. That was, until I came across the next area. Death followed a lot after that.

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From my experience on other types of games, the controls on Dark Souls 2 are fluid and easy to understand. It did take me some time to get used to the triangle button and how it’s programmed to take something like a Lifegem, but everything else was understandable and in no time I was wasting my stamina flailing at enemies and rolling around the place. I really do like the way the controls have been implemented. It really deters from the common ‘hack-n-slash’ style that I was so used to before, and I can’t help but appreciate the developers for taking the time to use a different system.

Of course, Dark Souls 2 is a sequel and with that comes new features. One feature I’ll mention particularly is the depleting health meter. When you die, it shrinks by about 5% until you hit 50% – when it won’t deplete anymore. To put your health back up to 100% you can take an “Human Effigy” item. These didn’t come around often for me during my playthrough, so expect to go down to that withering 50% often if you’re dying a lot. It definitely amps up the difficulty a notch and proves that the game is pretty brutal, but that’s what you’re here for. Another item that’s been added in is the Lifegem I mentioned above. Some have criticized it, saying it’s pulling the difficulty down a bit but I think its implementation is a necessary one. Newcomers like myself who struggle with the difficulty of the game will definitely appreciate them. The Lifegem can be taken at any time and gives you a little bit more health. However, your health goes up slowly – so don’t expect it to work like the Estus Flask. If you’re in a sticky situation and need health quickly, you’d be better off with the flask. Both items do slow you down while your character is taking them though, so again, you’ve got to be wary of your surroundings.

Among the other changes over the original, Dark Souls 2 features a brutal punishment if you think invading other players worlds and tearing them apart is fun. If your sin level is high enough your health can drop to as low as 10%. Yes, 10%. Good luck with that.

The improved graphics, fluidity of combat, expanded weapon and consumable spots and new enemy types make Dark Souls 2 an impressive package as well. These improvements are going to be big for fans of the other games – and while I can’t directly say how much of a difference they’ve made I definitely appreciate the effort the developers have put into making the game look beautiful and play well.

“The improved graphics, fluidity of combat, expanded weapon and consumable spots and new enemy types make Dark Souls 2 an impressive package.”

I put two hours into the build I played of Dark Souls 2, and I’m pretty happy with the progress I made. It wasn’t very far at all, but I can finally say I’ve played a ‘Souls’ game and have had my butt kicked. I’m much more inclined to jump into the original and put some time into that before the new one comes out now, as I’ve come to terms with what the game offers and the rewarding feeling you get when you finally beat an area you’ve been dying on a lot. The game is really all about patience and the will to use trial-and-error as a means to success. While the game is viscously brutal at times it rewards you for your patience and endurance.

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Dark Souls 2 is definitely looking like a worthy successor to the original Dark Souls. Fans of the series have been anticipating the release of the game for quite some time now, and the wait is nearly over. While Dark Souls 2 is a game that feels as though it’s going to be more welcoming to newcomers, the difficulty level many gamers have come to love about the game is still very apparent. It’s a brutally good experience, and one I’m definitely looking forward to now.

Dark Souls 2 releases on the Xbox 360 and PS3 – 14th of March in Australia and Europe. A PC release is also in the works.

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