How Dark Souls II Will Make Your Life Even Harder

From Software seems to want to make death a scarier prospect this time around, at least judging by this preview of Dark Souls II from Polygon, which also contains some info on the upcoming PS3-exclusive beta for the title. Here's a snippet:
Perhaps the most surprising change is how the world of Dark Souls 2 treats players who are undead or in "hollowed" form. In the original Dark Souls, it was often safer to play as an undead character than one with their humanity restored. Other players couldn't invade you while playing as an undead. Not so in Dark Souls 2.

"There's no easy way out this time," a Namco Bandai rep said when discussing the change that allows players to be invaded at almost any time (as long as they're online).

In worse news for Dark Souls players who spent much of their adventure as an undead, From Software is adding another punishment: Dying consecutively as an undead will now cause your maximum hit points to deplete. The more you die, the smaller your life bar. That can be reversed by restoring your human form by consuming an item called a Human Effigy.

According to game director Yui Tanimura, players can lose up to 50 percent of their max health by repeatedly dying as an undead. That may change, he said, but the challenge of playing with half your life bar is "the kind of obstacle I want players to overcome." Players have dealt with similar penalties in previous games soul form in Demon's Souls, curse effects in Dark Souls but the new change adds a sense of greater worry with each death.

Dark Souls 2 will also see changes to how players can summon others to their own world for cooperative play. Players summoned to your world will now only be able to join you for a limited time; how long depends on how experienced your cooperative phantom ally is. The more enemies a summoned players has killed, the shorter they'll live in phantom form.