Hands-on with Dark Souls II: “Yep, you better believe I died”

Dark Souls II for PS3

Fear not! Based on my initial hands-on experiences, Dark Souls II is proving to be even more fiendishly challenging than its famously difficult predecessor. I learned this when the very first enemy in the game, a monstrous ogre-like creature sporting a pendulous gut, lifted me into the air and gnawed on my head like a Tootsie pop. I died kicking and screaming.

After reviving, I opted to steer clear of the brute until I’d found a better weapon. But misfortune struck moments later when I was overwhelmed by a swarm of tiny, mewling dog creatures. Pushing on, I faced a gauntlet of towering undead knights, each powerful enough to cleave me in two with a swing of a massive sword.

After dying repeatedly, I finally zig-zagged past them and through a nearby door. Big mistake: here, perched precariously on a narrow platform, I faced off with an armoured, giant boss who swung a halberd with lethal accuracy. Yep, you better believe I died.

Dark Souls II for PS3

Though Dark Souls II wastes no time in throwing the player into the deep end of the pool, its core gameplay has also undergone many subtle tweaks that further contribute to its bruising difficulty level. One example is your life bar, which shrinks slightly each time you die.

This means you’ll grow permanently weaker with each miscalculation unless you use one of your precious Human Effigies (standing in for Dark Soul’s Humanity) to restore your full human form. And the health-restoring Estus Flasks, so critical for survival in Dark Souls, so far appear to be downplayed in favour of life crystals, a slow-healing, consumable item that isn’t restored each time you rest at a Bonfire.

But I also noticed a host of welcome refinements that make Dark Souls II a more graceful and user-friendly experience. The user interface is now considerably easier to navigate, making weapon swapping and inventory management a speedy affair compared to Dark Soul’s overwhelming lines of text. Jumping, a famously finicky manoeuvre in Dark Souls, is now bound to L3 in a small but crucial tweak that will make battle-scarred veterans weep tears of joy. And perhaps best of all, you can now fast travel between different Bonfires from the very start of the game, cutting down on monotonous backtracking.

Dark Souls II for PS3

In the pre-release build I played, Dark Souls II trimmed its character class lineup from ten to eight. Gone are the fan-favourite Pyromancer, Thief, Hunter, and Wanderer classes, replaced by a more focused and specialized group of misfits. Beginners might want to try the new Explorer class, a middle-of-the-road character that begins the game with particularly good items and equipment. Advanced players can forego defence for sheer offense with the Swordsman, who favours fighting with a weapon in each hand.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the series’ uniquely haunting atmosphere. Dark Souls II’s stellar opening cinema is adorned with disturbing imagery: a dead tree swarming with bloated fireflies, a ruined kingdom of impossible age, and a cackling coven of mystics. You, as a Hollow, are cursed to feed on the souls of the living. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Though my time with Dark Souls II was short, it’s haunted my dreams since. Have questions? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments below!

Dark Souls II for PS3

0 Author replies

Having upgraded to PS4 I really hope they bring this game over or I’ll have to settle for the PC release.

transpondster 30 January, 2014 @ 17:09

And still there is no pre-order on PSN…

Will have a digital version available?

Still waiting for Demons Souls 2 Sony Santa Monica (GOW engine) x From Software (Design)

alice_push_lara2 30 January, 2014 @ 22:52

I got 4 platinum trophies for Dark Souls and 3 versions of Demon’s Souls.
I`m ready for more!!!

Please o please bring this to PS4? Also start cracking on Demon’s Souls 2 that would be great thanks.

How do the sound effects and soundtrack compare to previous Souls games?
Also, are the life shards a common drop, like they were in the network test, or are they scarcer?


I’ve heared they are reasonably common. But the hurdle in dark souls is not getting the healing equipment you need, it’s being able to use it when you need it.

They mentioned they wanted to move more to a “survive the encounter” scenario.

I really hope they back track on this healing orb crap

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