Dark Souls II Beta Test Impressions, November 9, 2013 | Fanboys Anonymous

Dark Souls II Beta Test Impressions, November 9, 2013

Posted by Unknown Tuesday, November 12, 2013
You Died…

Dark Souls is a polarizing game. It is unapologetic in difficulty and refuses to hold your hand at any point. Even in the brief "tutorial", gameplay mechanics are only vaguely explained, and many are not mentioned at all. It is a slow burn—a game that requires an investment of time and patience to learn to play by the rules that govern the realm of Lordran. Where games like Dishonored grant you power in spades and encourage you to interact with and dominate the game world as you see fit, Dark Souls makes it clear that you are the small fish in an ocean full of sharks and must fight tooth and nail for every inch.

In my experience, people who have played Dark Souls either absolutely love it or completely and utterly hate it. Obviously, I count myself among the first camp.

Full beta Dark Souls II stream walkthrough spoilers

On Saturday, November 9, I was able to play a beta build of Dark Souls II, a sequel slated for release in March of 2014. Months ago in an interview with Edge, directors Yui Tanimura and Tomohiro Shibuya stated that the game would be more accessible—much to the chagrin of the Internet community. Dark Souls is adulated for its extreme difficulty and the joy of overcoming an impossible opponent. Having spent three hours with the beta last night, I have some good news and bad news for you.

The bad news is that if you dislike the Souls franchise, Dark Souls II will do little to change your mind. It will chew you up, spit you out, and chase you screaming down the street with a pitchfork. Of course, this will still happen even if you are a fan, but you’ll love it—and that’s the good news. If you were worried that accessible means easy, don't. The game is still decidedly Dark Souls, and it is hard as hell.

Disclaimer: In this article I will describe my beta play session and explain what is new and different in Dark Souls II. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will *NOT* post pictures, mechanics, or descriptions of the two bosses I defeated in the beta.

A New Undead Champion Arises…

Dark Souls II Best Character Strongest Weakest Favorite
Upon starting the Dark Souls II beta, I was asked to choose a class out of six common RPG archetypes: the soldier, warrior, sorcerer, temple knight, dual swordsman, and hunter. It is important to note that although these are likely the classes that will be available in the full game, they are just starting points. Players are free to equip and level up their character as they choose to suit their play style.

I started with the temple knight. This plate-wearing holy warrior uses miracles to heal wounds and to buff himself and his allies, and he wields a halberd with considerable reach. I thought the combination of heavy armor, healing miracles, and relatively safe poking weapons would make for an easier first play-through.

I was mistaken.

Five minutes in, I was looking at this all too familiar screen:

Dark Souls II Best equipment weapon armor character build
Get used to seeing this
My (brief) time with the temple knight taught me a couple of new things about Dark Souls II. First, players now have three item slots for each hand. If you want to switch between a bow for long-ranged attacks, a talisman for casting miracles, and a sword for close combat, you are no longer required to open the menu to adjust your equipment. I also observed a new miracle called "war"—a buff that grants your character and all nearby allies additional damage and defenses.

After about ten minutes with the temple knight, I accepted that he did not suit my play style and decided to try a different class.

In the first game, you could equip a second melee weapon in your left hand, but it did little more than look rather nifty and prevent you from blocking properly. Curious about how dual wielding had changed, I tried the dual swordsman next. This swashbuckling rogue wears light armor and carries a short sword in each hand. He is capable of inflicting a great deal of damage at once, but without a shield he is far more vulnerable and must rely on evasion to survive. Unfortunately for me, dodging has been nerfed considerably.

Dodging in the original Dark Souls boasted a somewhat generous invincibility frame; if you timed your dodge properly, you would not take damage from an enemy’s attack even if it appeared to connect. The invincibility frame in Dark Souls II has been reduced to a fraction of its former glory, requiring the player to be intimately familiar with enemy attack patterns before dodging becomes an effective strategy.

I was able to execute enemies incredibly quickly with this class, but I was killed just as fast without a shield to defend myself. I remain intrigued by dual wielding but will wait until my second or third play-through when I’m more acquainted with the enemies of Dark Souls II before trying again.

My final (and favorite) class was the warrior. A heavily armored knight, the warrior comes equipped with a longsword and an ultra greatsword—a gargantuan blade that is slow to swing but cleaves a huge area and sends enemies flying.
Dark Souls II Beta Test Spoiler Free Impressions

Finally comfortable with my character, I set off intent on clearing all of the content available.

The Horrors That Await…

The beta began atop a cliff in a zone called the Huntsman’s Copse. The enemies started off pretty standard. Zombies akin to the hollow soldiers from Dark Souls move slowly and do little damage. I dispatched them easily. Next, I encountered bandits. These crafty foes strike from afar with arrows and attack quickly with daggers when you approach. The bandits also enjoy hiding just out of sight around corners and striking from behind. I was served well by my habit of always keeping my shield raised when turning corners.

The caves of the Huntsman’s Copse house some familiar faces, albeit with a fresh coat of paint. Skeletons will swarm and hunt you aggressively—you can beat them down, but they will reanimate indefinitely until you can find the necromancer commanding them and slay him.

Things didn’t really get cooking until I encountered my first fat executioner (as I called them) on a bridge. These disturbing creatures are bloated and heavily armored, so they’re not the fastest kids on the block, but they dual wield great scythes and are incredibly persistent in their assault. Even with my shield raised, a single swing was enough to stagger my warrior and leave him vulnerable. He met his end for the first time on that bridge.

Hardest Enemy Concept Art scariest monster
The stuff of nightmares
The executioner succeeded in killing me twice more before I figured out how to beat him. My consecutive deaths led me to notice something new: dying slightly reduces your maximum health. Dying again reduces it further. According to Kotaku, this can continue until you possess only 50% of your maximum HP (a process called hollowing). The only way to reverse the hollowing is by using a new consumable item called a human effigy to return to human form. These have replaced Dark Souls’ humanity, although they serve a similar purpose. Using a human effigy will restore you to human form and remove the maximum health penalty, but it does not fill your current health as humanity did in the first game.

Also new to Dark Souls II are lifegems, consumable items that slowly restore health over time. Lifegems can be used while moving, although they reduce your pace to a slow walk. I found lifegems to be exceedingly common; they dropped from more than half of the monsters I bested, so I never felt starved for healing items as I did so often in Dark Souls.

Visitors From Another World…

In the interest of being thorough, I was determined to summon another player to help me, just to see how multiplayer functions this time around. In the original Dark Souls, you could only summon players to help when you were in human form. The catch was that you could also be invaded by hostile players intent on killing you and stealing your hard-earned souls (read: experience). It was often safer to simply remain in hollow form—you couldn’t get help, but you weren’t at risk of being ambushed by a stronger player either.

Dark Souls II Let's Play Stream Twitch.tv Free Download
Guess which one is the bad guy
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works this time. I was locked in heated combat with a particularly dangerous enemy with only a portion of my max HP available when I was invaded by a player named Hirohem. Luckily, I was able to dispatch the monster I was battling before he arrived. At first it seemed that Hirohem and I were relatively evenly matched in our duel, But I proved my mettle with a particularly cinematic backstab attack, which I followed up by bringing my Zweihander crashing down upon his head as he tried to recover. Sorry fella, maybe next time.

In Dark Souls, combat against other players was plagued by lag and glitchy attack animations, however, my battle against Hirohem felt seamless and fair for both parties. Invasion by other players remains a very unique take on PvP combat and offers some of the more tense encounters and rewarding victories in the franchise.

Late in the test I was having considerable difficulty against a black phantom—a stronger version of traditional enemies that do not respawn once defeated—sporting an enormous tower shield and a tremendous blade. However, I was finally successful in summoning another player to help me. The phantom of Murriar arrived and together we made short work of the fiend.

PvP Blue Sentinel Covenant Shades
I needed a little help for this guy
There were two bosses to defeat in the beta. As I mentioned before, I won’t post spoilers here, although I will say that each was unique both in mechanics and in design. The first required that I not panic in the face of a horde of enemies, while the second was more of a puzzle than a boss battle. Based on the incomplete beta build, I was left feeling extraordinarily optimistic about the finished product From Software will present in March.

If you didn’t like Dark Souls, the sequel will do little to change your mind. Even if you are a fan of the franchise, you will find yourself shouting “NO! F**K YOU DARK SOULS!” repeatedly as you bash your head against a wall (it really does feel that way sometimes). However, eventually something will click, you will adjust your strategy, and will finally shout “YES! F**K YOU DARK SOULS!” It is for these moments of triumph that the franchise is so revered.
Solaire Sunbro NPCs November Beta Test

Dark Souls is my favorite game ever, so I entered the beta test with very high expectations. I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed. So what do you guys think? Are you awaiting the sequel as eagerly as I am? Did you finish the first game? Do you even praise the sun? Let me know in the comments!

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