Hands On with Dark Souls II at E3

Dark-Souls-2Even though Namco Bandai and From Software are trying out a new tagline for Dark Souls II, Go Beyond Death, the fans are still using “Prepare to Die.” They’re even using it as a greeting. That’s because they’re in the know. If you play Dark Souls, you will die. All the time. But, even though they were Dark Souls veterans, they weren’t prepared for what Dark Souls II had in store for them.

From Software wanted to go bigger with Dark Souls II in every way. They wanted to improve on every aspect of the game. They’ve even dumped their old engine, the Phyre Engine (Disgaea 4), for a whole new one. You know, for better lighting (or lack thereof). I can list everything new about Dark Souls II, but the one thing that I really need to discuss is how they’ve changed the enemy AI.

Dark Souls was a immensely difficult game, but there were certain enemies who were stuck in their ways. They had the same attack pattern and would react the same way to everything. Once a player caught on, this once strong enemy became very weak. Well, Namco Bandai is pleased to announce, that is a thing of the past. From Software has studied the player vs player combat in Dark Souls and used that info to upgrade the enemies.

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Let’s take the new enemy in the demo for example. The Turtle Knight is heavily armored. He even has a shield covering his back. That way you can’t backstab him. Even trying will prove fatal ’cause once you get behind him he’ll fall backwards, onto you, and crush you to death. Let’s say you haven’t figured out his weakness and need to regain health. Go ahead and try to run away to heal up. Once you turn your back to the Turtle Knight, he’ll trip you and kill you in one hit.

Not all enemies in the demo were this tough, but Namco Bandai wanted to show off what they did to the new enemies. They used PvP strategies to make them tougher. In PvP, players would often try to find a way behind you in order to backstab you. Now, you can’t even try to backstab. You will die. Players also knew not to run away from other players. They’ll die. Now, you’re not even sure you can run away from regular monsters. They will go after you.

Campfire’s (save/warp locations) aren’t even safe anymore. If you try to rush past a group of enemies in order to save your location and stock back up on Estus, you might die. Enemy aggro is whole new game and if you piss off an enemy enough, he won’t care that you are trying to save your game. He’ll knock you out of the mist and kill you.

As you can tell. There was a lot of killing going on in the demo. Players who had to exploit the enemy weaknesses in Dark Souls to survive found they could exploit them no longer.

My favorite room in the demo was the one you would reach that lead up to the boss. In this room, you would see a bout a hundred lit candles lining up the walls with a bright lit mural in the center. This in itself is nothing special. But when I found out that each candle lit was for each time you died at the boss, it took on another meaning. It was dreadful. You were attempting to do what so many before you couldn’t. Outside in the demo booths, the room was as bright as can be. Inside the meeting room however, there were only about ten candles lit. That was the room of the guy giving the demo who often died during his own presentations.

To wrap it up, I’ll leave you with this. Namco Bandai issues a challenge to everyone at E3. Beat the demo and get a free shirt. Simple really. Needless to say, no one walked away with a shirt. Hell, the demo guy had only beaten the boss once, and he’s had four days to practice.

Dark Souls II will be available early 2014.

Daniel Lee

Daniel Shatto was always a gamer. He grew up stomping Koopa Troopers with Mario in the Mushroom Kingdom, shooting down wild robots in Robot City with Megaman, and exploring the fields of Hyrule with Link. After several years of being way too busy, Daniel is currently on a quest to catch up on years of role playing games.

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