The first beta brought a lot of information to light, and we thought we’d be kind and give you all a write up that would sum up a lot of things you guys have questions about. I will put a disclaimer here that there will be spoilers. A lot of spoilers. So if you don’t wish to have your brain commit details of what Dark souls II contains to memory, I suggest you maybe go back to the home page. Also note that all the information herein has been contributed by third parties or observed on leaked footage, and as such the author is not subject to NDA.
The World of Dark Souls II
First off, you might not be into spoilers. If that’s you then do yourself a big favor and get the *** out of here now! RUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!!!!!
Ok, now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Dark Souls 2. Specifically the world as we know (aka “just the beta so far”). We’re going to need a name for the world so as not to be confused later. Let’s call it; “Dark Souls Twoville.” Yeah that’ll do.
Or we could call it Drangleic.
I told you there’d be spoilers. Ready for some more? Too bad, here they come: Right off we were able to speak with Melentia, a merchant lady who hangs out about six feet from where we spawn. She tells us that Drangleic (yes, she and item descriptions name the land) had a bit of a problem. You see, Giants crossed the sea and apparently came to town. Per Melentia, Drangleic was decimated. I for one, believe it.
The beta is primarily set in a forest named “Huntsman’s Copse.” Have you ever been to a real forest in the middle of night? You might have run into a tree by accident. Expect the same thing in the Copse. This dark wood is scattered with several ruins. Buildings that are but former shades of themselves. The grass (when you can see it) waves gently in the breeze. As do any robes you might be wearing. Which brings me to a few points about the new graphics engine.
- Textures take a step toward the cell shaded variety in looks (but not quite to Wind Waker on Gamecube levels) which not everyone is completely pleased about. Personally I really really liked it but it IS a noticeable change.
- World physics are drastically improved from a graphics standpoint. Like noted above, things that should wave gently in the breeze actually do that. This lends itself to the feeling that the world is more alive. Which in a Souls game only contrasts the fact that much of the world is nowhere close to alive. I found the Copse hauntingly beautiful as a result.
- Lighting effects are also drastically improved. Torches bring just enough light to drive away the madness. Dark caves can have just enough twinkle to show you the ledge. If you’re careful. And the light is used in interesting ways as well. Imagine this surprise: you enter a building and are faced with complete darkness. Someone is shooting you. Another person is right in your face attacking. You start swinging wildly. You hit something. It’s a boarded window. The boards break and you can see again. You hit another window that’s boarded up and the entire area is now illuminated. Magic in it’s finest form was crafted with this. Immersion.
Not everything was taken with such enthusiasm however. With a new engine comes “quirks” and as a beta group, you can bet these were pointed out:
- Impression wise, early reports from the community suggest that many people felt the beta areas were too dark. That’s going to depend on preference I feel. The Tomb of Giants had a lot of similar buzz around it, but make no mistake; this was brought up by MANY people as a concern.
- I heard reports about wacky walking and running animations. I didn’t see anything that looked worrisome with those. However, I did notice on two occasions that my character was looking up for no apparent reason. It appeared that the game is programmed for your characters head to track things to look realistic. When there’s nothing to see in that direction though….
Enough with how Huntsman’s Copse looks though right? You wanna know how it plays I bet.
Well opinions varied but it was mostly enthusiastic. The beta encompassed the aforementioned forest as well as a small taste of a Colosseum-like area and a cliff area with a very pretty waterfall. Both of these areas led to bosses. In the way of these bosses are a large number of enemies (who we’ll talk about in detail later…same goes for the bosses actually). So let’s pick apart how tough things felt.
First off, it felt like a Souls game. We’ve all been prepared for the “corpse that’s really a guy waiting to get you” routine and I don’t think that surprised anyone. However the “decent illumination to pitch black routine” (seen in Demon’s Souls) makes a nice return. The “pitch black to still pitch black” routine gets added here. A torch can fix that but some of us like shields. Pick your poison because neither is easy. Or how about the “maniac jumping UP a ledge” routine? That one caught me a little off guard. As did the four pillars routine. Oh, you haven’t heard that one yet? Well imagine four slender pillars. They actually look like maybe they could be used to impale a giant. On top of each of those is a black phantom enemy. Watching. Always watching. I was summoned by a host who had not found them yet. Backpedal city. So there’s definitely some new tricks up the sleeves of this game. I look forward to even more.
The AI seems to have been tweaked. Big fat enemies who lumber after you can be completely avoided by sprinting. I don’t know if it’s that because they forget about you or if they just get stuck on a tree; but you can avoid them. There’s another tier of enemies I’d say are “medium sized.” They don’t get stuck on trees. At my Soul Level and stamina I could outrun them but stopping for a breather usually meant that I’d see them creeping up in the rearview mirror. Lastly, it’s lucky I didn’t have too many reasons to run from some of the little guys. Many of them seem like they’d kick my *** in a footrace. Rogue class enemies in particular are extremely fast with combo and unique attacks to boot. And almost all enemies are extremely aggressive.
Now what about our noble protagonist…
Well we got to choose between six classes, all of which had a unique feel to them. From the new dual wielding emphasis to changes in magic I’d say the beta provided a great overview of what’s to offer (which we’ll cover in the mechanics section).
We mentioned we learned the name of the land during the beta. Did we learn any other fun stuff? Oh yes! For us lore nuts, From made sure that each item came complete with description. One of the overarching questions surrounding the game has been setting. Where and when in particular. The where is out of the bag and it’s a new place which is exciting (sorry everyone hoping for Astora). Other places (please see item descriptions) are named but not described in any detail but none of them are the fabled lands of the first game. So now to the question of when. I’ve heard the word “prequel” so many times it’s crazy. So, let’s stop that nonsense. Evidence suggests we’re far in the future. Take this little tidbit if you will, in the first game one could find something called “Pharis’s Hat” which is described as favored by the heroic archer Pharis. The description then adds how great Pharis was. Now let’s compare that to a very similar (identical perhaps?) hat found in the beta. The Hunter’s Hat is described as:
“A commonplace leather hat with a feather. Favored by hunters skilled with a bow, this hat was based on the one worn by a folkloric master archer whose name is now lost to time.”
Lost to time huh? Interesting.
And there’s more tie ins. Like the human effigy description. Go on. Read it. Sound familiar?
Now I feel that this all needs a disclaimer. While we learned a lot here I don’t know how well any of this is going to translate to the final version. From appears to have left us some taunts in item descriptions that suggest they know full well what kind of fanatics play this series. For all we know, everything you just read is part of a prank the likes of which would make The Pendant blush.
Not convinced that they could be epic prank masters:
- Read the green blossom description. Sounds like they’re poking fun at the heavy use of the item in the first game.
- Or the imperial shield. “Perhaps you’ll learn more about the original owner when next you meet.” Foreshadowing the next fight with the warrior in question or trolling for beta purposes? You be the judge.
As mentioned in the world section, Dark Souls II will be both familiar, but also a new entity. To this end there are a variety of tweaks to the mechanics of the game in all areas of gameplay and combat, with some of these ideas taking inspiration from those present in Demon’s Souls, but others entirely fresh. These added features bring a different dimension to the game and will deepen the experience within Dark Souls II.
Several general features have been added into Dark Souls II. The most obvious is the addition of two new stats: Vitality and Agility. At a very superficial glance, they are divisions of what Endurance was in the last game- Vitality increasing maximum equip weight and agility increasing rolling speed. Agility however, allows increasing in trap disarming and blocking speed also. Attunement now takes over from dexterity for increasing casting speed. The other obvious feature is the new death system- when you die, you do not instantly become fully hollow. You slowly become more hollowed with each death and your HP depletes 5% with each death to a minimum of 50% (after 10 deaths). Another key feature of this new system is that becoming a hollow does not allow you sanctuary from invaders- online play is active at all times, allowing you to both invade and be summoned no matter how hollow you are. You also have 75% health when invading or are summoned. Summoning now has a time limit, which will be addressed in the item section.
There is also a relief for future areas reminiscent of Tomb of the Giants- there are now torches available to light up dark areas. These can be taken from a bonfire or from a wall and are held in the offhand- meaning you have no shield whilst holding one. The torch also goes out if you swap the weapon in your left hand. Healing now works differently too. The healing is no longer almost instant- it takes time, even with an estus flask. There are also new healing items, known as lifegems which heal at an even slower rate, but drop from enemies. These will be discussed more in the items section.
In terms of movement, the percentages cut off points no longer are the be all and end all for rolling. Equip weight and agility change the rolling speed, though percentage cuts offs still give more fluid rolls at certain points. Specifics are not available at this time. For ladders, you can now increase movement speed on them by holding the circle button. Moving through fog walls is now slower as well, and enemies can attack you whilst traversing the fog.
For equipment, there has also been a change. Armour and rings remain the same, but there are now 3 slots on each hand, as well as 10 item slots to make use of, allowing more variety with a single set up. Also, there is no more humanity counter or way to equip it (though humanity has now been replaced). This space is now occupied by a symbol showing the covenant (if any) that you are in.
The melee combat has been shaken up a fair bit in this new instalment. Key ideas such as criticals have been reworked, as well as the lock on mechanic being changed and dual wielding being introduced as its own true mechanic.
Firstly though, I’ll go over some basic changes that many will be interested to hear:
- You can attack mobs on the floor (getting up from a critical), but the blocking sound will be made, and minimal damage will occur.
- On hand shield can now block and parry as in right hand.
- The kick has been replaced by push. This move now breaks the guard of an opponent which seems to be a counter for turtling.
- You can no longer parry with a bare fist.
- The exploit “toggle escape” has now been removed.
- Every consecutive attack in a chain does less damage.
- All weapons (including bows and catalysts etc) can perform a jumping attack.
Now in more detail- movesets have been reworked and are more varied than in Dark Souls. Some changes are more significant than others but the swings feel different- the speeds of swings are faster than dark souls, but still have weight to them unlike demon’s souls animations. The largest changes in move sets so far are the axe and great axe. Now they can combo effectively, and have combos alternating horizontal and vertical swings. The speed of these are also greatly increased, with the great axe speed being comparable to a greatsword. More generally, many strong attacks are different, such as knockdown on certain larger weapons and changed.
Criticals have also been reworked for every weapon. Every single weapon type now has its own backstab animation- varying from stabbing still with a dagger to slashes with a great sword or impaling on a halberd. The backstab damage is also seemingly more critical based- the dagger out damaged with a backstab any other weapon. Ripostes have also changed. Parries now cause enemies to fall down, and riposte is stabbing an opponent whilst they are on the floor- like a ‘ground stab’. A new critical has also been added- when your guard is broken by losing all stamina you now get stunned (similar to being parried in the Dark Souls), which can also be followed up by a critical.
Dual wielding is now fully fledged and finally here. It is possible to combo in a right-left-right fashion, but using offhand attacks on their own causes both weapons to attack at once- dealing greater damage. Interestingly, the speed of larger weapons in dual wielding is very fast by their standards, and seemingly a little too fast, with ultra great sword dual combos allowing combo speeds more akin to a great sword move set. It is also possible in dual wielding to enter a power stance. You cannot however dual wield two shields- as on hand shields can no longer attack, only block and parry.
The lock on system has also changed. You can turn your back and run whilst locked on, but also strafe as in Dark Souls. With vertical and stabbing attacks now, even when locked on the direction of the attack will be the direction the analogue stick is facing. This change is obviously intended to increase versatility in attacking whilst locking on, but it a large departure from the auto forward attacks of the previous instalments’ lock on features.
There have been many core changes to magic in this instalment- seemingly with the intention to make a pure casting build more viable. In the beta sadly the opportunity to test faith based spells was limited to two spells (with no offensive spells), but intelligence spells were plentiful. This time round, there are types of cast of each spell, more variety in spells generally and importantly- pyromancy is bundled with sorcery again as it was in demons souls. However with faith now miracles and occult spells (there is no official term yet), are bundled. Also casts of spells no longer stack, so no more having 15 wrath of god casts spammed in your face.
In terms of gameplay use, casts can now be done in a variety of ways- one handed, two handed and as strong and weak versions. Longer casts are used for stronger casts but with no extra uses. Whilst two handing a catalyst now allows manual aiming akin to that with the bow, so longer shots with spells are now simpler to perform. You can hold the release of a spell cast this time too- so dodging based on casting time will no longer work. This could also boost damage (character looked as though he was charging the spell), but this is unconfirmed. Also another weakness of spells in the last game- casting time, has been doubly reduced as well as significant reduction in casting speed casting can now be cancelled by roll dodging.
The increased variety of spells also made the sorcerer a much more interesting prospect. New spells included a magical greatsword slash, artillery style raining soul arrows and a side swiping flame attack. This diversity in spells again improves the prospects of a caster being able to adapt to different situations in ways that casters could not in Dark Souls, and will make them a much more interesting alternative to melee characters this edition. However to balance this, the power of spells seems to be a touch weaker, but obviously equipment to boost damage was not available in the beta, so the full extent of this change is unclear. See sorcerer footage here.
Generally archery seems to have been given a boost (which admittedly it needed badly), with a variety of new features and changed mechanics. The most significant being the ability to shoot whilst moving and the speed of arrows has been increased. Crossbows can now also manual aim like bows and can also delay shots. Aiming is now FPS-esque as manual aiming is done by holding L1 instead of just pressing it- presumably it is intended to allow fast transitions so that speed is more of a factor when using a bow. Types of ammunition can still be changed using L2 and R2.
Aaand that’s all for now! Please stick around for part II, where we will be going through two more sections. The items and changes, and enemies, bosses and NPCs.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this compilation, it would not have been possible had it not been for your selfless giving of information.