After spending Friday and Saturday ensuring that everything was downloaded properly, I got to wake up early on Sunday to the Dark Souls II Beta. I may have needed to make some extra coffee, but it was totally worth it to see what they’ve done with Dark Souls.
This beta took place in Huntsman’s Copse, a wooded area with ambushes and death around every corner. But then, it’s Dark Souls and we wouldn’t want it any other way. As usual, the multitude of blood stains were a vivid warning of imminent danger, often more useful than the messages scrawled on the floor.
There’s a reason they don’t call the game “Light Souls” – parts of the game are so dark that you can barely see. In fact, the sequel adds a new functionality for this. After kindling the bonfire, you can light a torch. In this way, you can run around and actually see where you’re going. However, you can’t carry a torch and shield, so be prepared to block with the torch, and probably meet a bloody end. But at least when you go back to retrieve your souls you’ll have a better sense of the lay of the land. Of course, you can swap back to your shield, but then your torch is extinguished and you are plunged back into darkness.
Other bon fire activities still include leveling up and attuning spells. During the beta, there was no option to repair equipment. At this point, I can’t tell if that’s simply to streamline the beta experience, or if equipment deterioration has been removed from game play.
First impression of Dark Souls II? It’s a lot faster than the first one. Enemies are more agile, something particularly noticeable when that weird double-wielding chain-clinking monstrosity emerged from the woods to attack.
The backstab has changed in Dark Souls II, as well. Whereas previously the animation was pretty standard and led to massive damage, the new backstab can involve some kicks to reposition the back – this means you don’t have to be perfectly behind the enemy to execute this move. However, the amount of damage done with a backstab has been dramatically reduced. It is still an important attack, but it does not have the same impact as it did in Dark Souls.
Another change seems to have taken place when it comes to Dark Phantoms, of which there are tons in Dark Souls II. Really, there are a lot of them. One area had four just waiting for an ambush. In another section involving a small, narrow path and a precipitous drop, two double-wielding Dark Phantoms seemed to come out of nowhere and surround me. Yeah, lots of death.
For the most part the Beta test went well. I never got kicked off by the servers, nor did I encounter any Error 37 issues. In fact, I logged in and out of the server test on multiple occasions just to be sure. However, the beta is still showing some unfortunate frame rate issues. I hope that these are resolved before launch – the new environment looks great, but if the PS3 can’t handle it that doesn’t do a lot of good.
Last Updated: October 28, 2013