Published by Matthew Evans (Guest Writer) October 22nd 2013
> PC, Xbox 360, PS3 (Previewed) > Release date - March 14th 2014 > Developer - From Software
> What did we play? - We partook in the closed Beta.
> Description in short - The successor to the insanely difficult Dark Souls.
Dark Souls 2 - Beta Preview
If you ask anybody who has played either Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls, what stood out the most for them during each title, there is a slew of things they could name. They could talk about the wide range of stats, each which alter your character in incremental yet extremely important ways. They could talk about the many weapons that fill the worlds, which not only completely alter the way you play the game, but also have a place within the lore of each game. What I would talk about is the amazing variation in the enemies you fight - especially the bosses (nasty, dark, evil and delicious in their own right). When you get down to the evil that lies in Dark Souls 2, it seems as though it’ll fill my ‘monster-fighting’ hole quite nicely.
Before getting my hands on the Dark Souls 2 beta I had a chance to fight and fell the Mirror Knight, which I've detailed previously. He was tough, he was powerful, and he was eventually defeated. He was very much a typical Souls Series boss. A 1-v-1 battle in a tight arena. He had some interesting tricks up his sleeve, like summoning an NPC soldier to fight against you during the battle and infusing his blade with a surge of lightning, that made him stand out as a unique fight. The two bosses that were demonstrated during the beta were of a very different sort.
The Skeleton Lord was the first boss I came to in the beta, but not before fighting my way along a perilous cliff edge, a dark forest and an even darker cave. Bandits attacked along the cliff in packs. They were fast and aggressive, especially if you tried to heal; they wouldn’t allow that. The trolls used their mighty strength to deal heavy-damage attacks but were easy to dodge. Unlike in Dark Souls, large enemies can now be backstabbed. This proved useful while I two-handed my Zweihander, a weapon that will no doubt be popular with Dark Souls veterans. The skeletal enemies were similar to the skeletons in Dark Souls’ Catacombs. They would endlessly revive and could only be eternally killed if you found and defeated the necromancer, which would revive them as it lurked in the cave. The cave was pitch-black though and the only way I found him with ease was to sacrifice my shield for a torch, a tough decision to make.
The Skeleton Lord boss is certainly unusual. Upon entering the arena there were three skeletal mages of sorts, firing spells in my general direction. Upon killing one of them I took down a small portion of the “Skeleton Lord’s” health. In his place spawned a series of Skeletons. Similar to the Dark Souls boss “The Four Kings”, every hit I connected with an enemy would lead me closer to defeating the boss. Near the end of the battle bone wheels started spawning, which comprised of skeletons in giant spiked wheels that roll over you for massive damage. These were easy to deal with though because they were the only enemies left. At one point of the boss fight I felt overwhelmed because there were at least 10 human skeletons trying to kill me while one mage floated about, but my superior speed and large supply of life gems kept me safe. The Skeleton Lord feels like Dark Souls does horde mode, but was paced in a manner that made it easy to cope with. I can only imagine that the Skeleton Lord boss is one of the first you will face.
The second boss I reached was the Executioner’s Chariot. He was hidden beyond a valley of four red phantoms, a large rope bridge, and then another red phantom. The interesting element with red phantoms is that unlike most other enemies in the game, once a red phantom is defeated they stay defeated. All other enemies respawn when you die or rest at a bonfire. Red phantoms are versions of enemies that are far more powerful than their normal counterparts. The challenge that From Software was really presenting is such: Kill these enemies and the path before you to the boss will be eternally open and free from pain. The four phantoms were unbelievably strong scythe-wielding soldiers that unless you were meticulously careful would pull as a pack. I could not defeat any of them and resorted to plan b, run. From Software, the sly dogs, probably knew this would happen and, well, remember that rope bridge? The planks for the bridge aren’t always perfectly straight and therefore have subtle holes. While sprinting over the bridge it is pretty difficult to spot until you find yourself falling to your death with the words YOU ARE DEAD boldly filling your screen. Beyond the bridge was a large knight red phantom that bore a stark resemblance to Dark Souls’ Havel. I quickly ran past him. Boss time!
The Executioner’s Chariot is a novel boss. Demon’s Souls’ Storm King was a giant flying manta ray that would only be defeated by using a special sword that summoned large gusts of wind that cut it to shreds. Dark Souls was home to the infamous fight against the Bed of Chaos, a deformed flailing tree monster that only needs to be hit in three locations to be killed. The fight was littered with pitfalls, more which appeared as the fight went on, and actually beating the Bed of Chaos was torturously difficult. The Executioner’s Chariot will be Dark Souls 2’s novel pièce de résistance.
The boss fight pits you in a bagel-shaped arena. The Executioner’s Chariot (yes, the boss is the chariot itself, not the dark creature riding it) rides around this ring counter-clockwise. With a giant pitfall immediately to your right upon entering the fight, you have no choice but to travel clockwise the whole way round the ring. Tiny nooks appear along the ring, and failing to hide in one when the chariot reaches you will result in a large chunk of your life vanishing, or death. To make this trickier, the skeletons you encountered earlier, and their necromancer companions, litter the fight. If you can reach the end of the arena there is a lever to pull that lowers a portcullis that sends the chariot to a halt. Then the real fight begins. The chariot is pulled by two nasty horses and they give you a right old kicking. It certainly was an interesting fight that gave me a major surge of panic whenever I could see the chariot nearing me, leaving me to quickly and desperately find a hiding place.
If the beta is any indication to the sort of trouble that Dark Souls 2 will provide, then all fans and newcomers alike should be very excited as to what the wonderful minds at From Software will have created when the product releases next March. If this is what they’re willing to show then I can’t even start to imagine what they’re hiding from us.
Positives + and Negatives -
+ New ways to be brutally killed
+ The Executioner’s Chariot is novel
+ Can backstab large enemies
- Skeleton Lord was a bit easy
What do you think of Dark Souls 2 so far? Did you get a chance to get into the Beta? Let us know in the comments!
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