E3 2013 'Dark Souls 2' hands-on preview: Prepare to die over and over

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There's a reason why the tagline for the "Dark Souls" franchise is "prepare to die." Like its predecessor, 2011's "Dark Souls," the upcoming "Dark Souls 2" is brutally difficult for a player until he or she realizes how to advance in a specific level. While an early comment from a developer claimed that the forthcoming sequel would be more "accessible," those presenting "Dark Souls 2" to media at 2013 E3 made it clear that that claim was nothing but a miscommunication.

The playable demo of the game available at E3 follows the player's character as he fights his way through an area called Fort Resistance and then an unnamed castle up until a final confrontation with the Mirror Knight. Of all the times Zap2it played this or watched anyone else play this fight, not a single person was able to defeat him. 

This demo was set up specifically for E3 and it was repeatedly stated during a separate media briefing that a lot of the components presented in the demo would be different in the final version of the game. One such example is the fact that there were only four pre-set characters like the Sorcerer or Dual Swordsman made available in the demo, while there will be a more comprehensive character generator available in "Dark Souls 2" that will allow a player to select all the parameters of how he or she would like to play.

There are some major changes in the gameplay in "Dark Souls 2." Players can dual wield their weapons, meaning they can carry up to two weapons and a shield at any point in time. In "Dark Souls," a character could hold two weapons but only use one at a time, and that style has been ditched in the new format.

"Dark Souls 2" will be operating on a new game engine, and also will be running on a new server from the one used in "Dark Souls." Though Namco Bandai Director of Strategic & Digital Marking Brian Hong promised during a presentation of the game to select media that more information about multiplayer will be released in a "few months," he would say that the new server will "make functionality more fluid" and allow players to continue to fight their online foes worldwide.

From Software, the company developing "Dark Souls 2," is being cautious with the information released about the game before it is set in stone. With that being said, Zap2it was still able to get some information about the upcoming title during the behind-closed-doors preview of "Dark Souls 2" at E3. The use of powers will be different in this sequel than it was in "Dark Souls," and Hong promised that players will be able to do new things with the powers in "Dark Souls 2" that they were unable to do in the first game.  

The environments shown in the demo look similar in style to ones seen in "Dark Souls," but Hong said that "Dark Souls 2" is not set in Lordran. This new world will feature environments inspired by phobias like darkness, heights and spiders, with a focus on inspiring the greatest amount of fear in players. That's why the demo showed such an emphasis on lighting effects, with the hero being plunged into a pitch-black hallway if the player doesn't first light a torch before entering it.

Like "Dark Souls," "Dark Souls 2" will not spoon-feed its story to its players. Hong said that the tale will unfold in a way similar to the first game, though he wouldn't confirm if it will be continuation of "Dark Souls'" story or if it will elaborate some of the first game's mysteries. However, he did note that the mirror creature created from the Mirror Knight's shield in the demo's boss battle, teased in the above trailer, is intentionally an AI. In "Dark Souls 2," the creature is slated to be a part of "Dark Souls 2's" storyline.

The leveling system in "Dark Souls 2" will be similar to "Dark Souls," though not the same. Another big change will be the implementation of "persistent bonfire warping," which means all bonfires can be used to warp. There's also the new "Life Gem" healing item which, unlike the Estus Flask, allows players to move while using it. The tradeoff is that the Life Gem only gradually increases a player's health.

"Dark Souls 2" is due out on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in March 2014. Hong was very clear about the fact that this title will not appear on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4, but he did play coy when the subject of a "Dark Souls 3" or "Demon Souls 2" being released on those next-gen consoles was brought up. He also confirmed that "Dark Souls" director Hidetaka Miyazaki, who isn't directing "Dark Souls 2," is being regularly consulted about the game.

Photo/Video credit: Namco Bandai
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