Lurking deep within the terror that is the E3 experience, Namco Bandai lurked, luring us into their booth with promises of great things to see. And they were right. For within the shadows we found Dark Souls II, the latest build of their fight-or-die action role playing series.
Getting technical stuff out of the way first, we were reminded that Dark Souls II is running on an entirely new game engine, echoing early reports, one aimed at rendering more impressive graphical effects. The multiplayer staple of Dark Souls will too return, and Namco Bandai was happy to confirm that there is no region locking. You will invade and be invaded from all around the world.
We were shown how Darks Souls II aims at introducing players to the experience. Firstly, there’s no easy mode, Namco Bandai keen at unifying the difficulty level for all players. In fact, the only “easier” addition to the formula (if you can call it that) is bonfires now acting as a warp point. Beginning the game you won’t choose a class system like you did in Dark Souls, but instead proceed through customisation and tutorials that teach you how to play. Based on your style of play and the choices you make, the game will select a class for you (we assume with options). We got to see a new class in action, one called the Temple Knight.
Combat in Dark Souls II follows a similar pattern to its predecessor, focusing on methodical, tactical action play and responsive controls. They’ve added a few new tricks, however. Firstly, dual wielding is now possible as the left/right hand options extend to most items in the game. Carry two swords if you want, or even two shields. Parrying is as it’s always been, knocking enemies back, though now can knock them to the ground as well, leaving them open for an execution kill. You’ll probably want to pay attention to grounded enemies too, as corpses will occasionally revive into an enemy state, making a sea of scattered corpses a threat in itself. And you’ll want to avoid getting ganged up on, as greater focus has been put towards improving the gang AI system.
We got to see a couple of new enemies that we’re sure will instil fear in most players. Stone Knights stand as still as statues, coming to life as you pass by. We were advised that tactical players should try to decapitate them before passing by, which will prevent them from mobilising. Another cool new enemy was the Mirror Knight, a great warrior carrying a mirror shield. And what purpose does that serve? As a summon point for enemies, of course. Opponents will form from the mirror, and though in the demo these were AI controlled, in the full game they may in fact be opposing players.
Dark Souls II is shaping up to be quite a treat for fans of the genre and franchise, and is aiming for a release in March 2014.
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