Dark Souls II Previews

We've rounded up a few more previews for From Software's Dark Souls II, emerging from, you guessed it, this year's E3 conference.

The Escapist:
From Software showed off four classes at the event: the Warrior, Sorcerer, Temple Knight, and Dual Swordsman. These classes aren't confirmed for the game yet, but I'd say it's a pretty safe bet we'll see them. The developer also mentioned that there will be more than four classes in the game, which isn't surprising considering Dark Souls had 12.

The most interesting of the classes shown off was definitely the Dual Swordsman. Dual wielding is another new feature of Dark Souls 2. In the original, you could hold a weapon or shield in your off hand but couldn't actually use it. In Dark Souls 2, you'll now have the chance to use weapons in both hands. The Dual Swordsman was able to - surprise - wield two swords at once and attack with them simultaneously. He was quick, agile, and dealt a medium amount of damage to enemies. If the enemy managed to get in even a few swipes on him though, he was done for.

There were also a couple of new items shown off during the demo as well. The first was a life gem, which allows the user to regenerate a little bit of health over time. Estus healing flasks are still in the game, but life gems provide an alternative to getting your precious health back. There's also a green blossom which increases your stamina, allowing you to attack more or run longer.

There is much here to like. There is an awful lot that reassures us this is still Dark Souls. And yet we have concerns.

You can warp between bonfires from the very beginning of the game as long as you've already visited them, of course. Dark Souls kept this ability from you until a good way through the game, until you had learnt area after area like the back of your hand. Even then it limited those you could warp to a relative handful. We worry that letting us move freely from one bonfire to the next will mean we feel less connected to Dark Souls II's world than we did to its predecessor's.

That desire for accessibility means that Dark Souls' character creation system, which was admittedly baffling on first playthrough, has been replaced by what Hong says will ask you to define (parameters and preferences about the way you want to play the game.) It will then present you with a number of choices for a starting build. The four available here Warrior, Sorcerer, Temple Knight and Dual Swordsman serve only to streamline this particular demo, and won't necessarily be in the final game. The reasons for this are clear, and understandable and you'll still be able to switch class completely as you progress through the game but it does rather pull the game away from its D&D roots.

Computer and Videogames:
Enemies range from typical variations on the lumpen undead seen throughout Dark Souls, though to a new turtle-backed beast that will crush you beneath its shell dare you attack it from behind. The enemy AI has been improved, in the sense that each enemy's moveset is larger than before. This means simply memorising what each foe is capable of will not hold you in good stead. Even the lowly enemies are unpredictable, though patience and observation is still rewarded. As in Dark Souls, three consecutive sword swipes is very reckless, so know your enemy.

The controls operate and feel exactly the same as Dark Souls 2, but there is a new health item in addition to Estus. Called Lifegems, these items regenerate health very slowly and by a fraction of what an Estus will. It's a trade-off, because consuming Lifegems doesn't slow the player down like supping from the Estus flask does, and be warned: enemy's are more likely to attack while your guard is down in Dark Souls 2. They're smarter.

Another neat change is with dual-wielding: if you're brave enough to forgo a shield, you can actually attack with both weapons simultaneously, rather than with just one at a time. Simply equip two weapons and hit the button to attack with two hands, and you'll deal a lot of damage to certain enemies, but it's a risky maneuver.