Here we are again! Last time we dished out what we gathered on the general impressions and the game world before delving into the important mechanics that were in the beta. This time round it’s Items and Enemies, Bosses and NPCs. Lets Start with a discussion about the items in Dark Souls II.
We move on to the items section. Here there is a lot that is similar with dark souls, though there are some key differences between the old and new games, many things are similar. Estus is back, so is green grass (with a little description making light of the community’s overuse of them), arrows and bolts, purple moss and other menial items are back. Crucially (though expected), the red soap has made a return, and so does white soap, though in a different form (more on that later). I’ll talk about some important changes and additions with the items now.
The most obvious and standing out thing for me is there are items returning that remind me of demon’s souls. The key ones are a new healing item which heals HP, lifegems (I’ll talk about them soon), the returning magic buff item- in the form of aromatic ooze and most crucially the amber herb- an item signalling the return of one of demon’s souls more drastic differences to dark souls- healing magic casts. Here’s my thoughts:
-The addition of aromatic ooze back in the game and loss of any sign of weapon buffs in spells could be a sign that the number of weapon buffs is looking to be reduced- after all last game there was an abundance of extremely powerful weapon buffs, though it is simply speculation for now. However, this change allows pure melee builds to once again access some magic damage without having to create a sole purpose weapon, which will be useful if the developers decide to add more significant elemental and damage type weaknesses into enemies that was more common in Demon’s Souls than Dark Souls.
-The re-addition of magic healing items of for now, the amber herb (most likely at least one more will be in the complete game). For me this is a sign along with the improved variety in spells and general focus on magic that making a pure caster, or mainly a caster build is something the new directors wish to reintroduce to the game. Debating the PvP consequences is sure to become a popular topic as a result of the change, however there is no doubt that PvE variety is given a boost allowing people to vary their methods of approach to levels with the re-addition of magic replenishment- though it must be stressed that MP is NOT returning, and the herb likely heals a set proportion of the original spell count of any weapon.
Now lifegems are an extremely interesting addition. There were complaints of a generous drop rate, however in the beta I suspect it was only a way to allow easier access to all areas up for testing. Crucially with these items the healing is different to estus- the action to use them is faster than estus, however their healing is done over time, more reminiscent of the Elizabeth Mushrooms in the Dark Souls DLC, though much less powerful. Their likely use in my eyes is for healing between fights, as in the midst of battle their use may be very limited. There was also a radiant lifegem found, which sadly was not tested, though it is likely to be either a) more powerful than a standard lifegem, b) able to heal other players in your world, similar to princess guard miracles or both. If the latter is true, they could become a valuable item, but also extremely infamous if the trend of ganking continues into the next souls game (which the covenant of blue certainly hints at). Interestingly as well, the effects of lifegems are actually stackable. The extent of this has not been tested yet.
Speaking of things returning from the old game, this time round not only weapons are returning (though some looking and feeling different), but armour sets from the previous games are present in the game. Particularly the “hunter” set and the “knight” set (elite knight from dark souls) are returning. Hopefully this means that perhaps the armour variety will be even greater this game than the last by using previous sets to help bolster the numbers. The new sets however are no let down, with all looking visually superb (finally with the addition of capes!) and the stats seem fairly balanced at the quick glance that players had of them. Apart from these changes, there are some key changes with old items: Humanity; which has now been changed into “human effigy” and the division of white sign soap stones into small and large variants.
Human effigy is very interesting. In terms of mechanics, it still turns you human again, and does so fully no matter how hollowfied you are. In Dark Souls II however, effigy no longer heals you. This is obviously due to the addition of lifegems and changes in healing system to attempt to prevent too much ‘cheap and easy’ healing as was present in the previous game. The lore side is interesting. Visually the effigy is much rounder than last game’s humanity and looks more human. Linking back to the lore about the dark lord soul from the previous instalment, one line reads: “It is said that the appearance you see is your own true form.” Dark Souls II indeed.
White sign soap stone reworking has been a topic of conversation. The change in the system to have a limited amount of time for each summon based on soap used, with the time reduced for each enemy slain by the summon is a very unique change, and certainly effects gameplay. This measure is seemingly designed with ganking in mind, though the presence of covenant of blue counteracts this. The other area it targets is reliant hosts. It was a familiar sight in Dark Souls, however now that summons have less time to deal with the level, the host needs to take more weight. Certainly this change is intended to make this happen. However, in the beta it was not clear what the times were, in fact no one saw any summons leave the world from running out of time. This could mean that the time given is in fact rather large and more than enough for competent players, though I suspect it may have been a longer time given to test connectivity between players in the beta.
Overall, the items are mostly similar- though with some key differences to the previous game. These changes are sure to vastly affect the game, both in PvE and PvP. However, the full extent of these changes cannot be known from the small time frame the beta is set with.
Enemies, Bosses and NPCs
Enemies (on a 1-10 rating scale of how big of an ******* they are)
Dead Guys: At the very beginning of the beta you see what appear to be corpses. You can hit them which makes them pretty pissed off and come at you bro. Or you can walk by them and in effect they may as well be dead. There’s a chance they drop some of the crappy armor (ragged robes I think I got from one). They’re unarmed and barely a threat however they do highlight what appear to be AI improvements. Their slow shuffle will contrast the speed of later enemies and I found that they’re more deliberate in movement. For instance, after hitting them with throwing knives, they moved enough to where a second throw generally missed (with lock on). They score a mere 1/10 on the ******* level
Torch hollows: These guys return pretty much untouched but are more clever on the ambush. For instance, I fell into a dark area (on purpose of course) and found them slowly circling me. The location they’re dedicated to has something to do with this but overall it seemed more difficult to isolate mobs in groups. As in, they work better collectively in II. They’re a solid level 2 *******.
Rogues: These seem similar to the assassins in the Depths in Dark Souls. However, they’re a lot faster. They most often will pursue you until one of you is dead and they are the best ambush enemy in the beta. They do the dead guy trick, as well as hiding in the dark. One is deliberately hiding behind a door. He smashes through and attacks at just the right time. Another is set to jump UP a ledge at you which is surprising already but it’s also possible based on your reaction to another rogue that he’s number two in the fight. Did I mention some of them (one in the dark even) are archers? Did I also mention that the melee ones have fast combo attacks and spinning jump attacks? The ******* meter flies up once you start seeing these guys. One more did I mention; they’re hard to backstab due to the new mechanic. After the shove to set up the critical I found them using the momentum to get out of my range. They’re around a 5. They’d be a lot higher with more health.
Fat guys with sickles: They’re fat guys with a giant sickle in each hand. If you’ve seen pictures of enemies from the beta it’s these guys. They can be easy to flank and perform a critical but you need to pick the fight location. Small bridges and trees can make this tricky. Their wide sweep attacks can hurt you bad and make a tough recovery. With the Warrior class at starting level it uses ALL of your stamina to block one hit. With a partner they’re a cakewalk. I’d say they’re on par with the Rogues at an ******* level 5. Black Phantom versions (which the beta has) are a 6.
Huntsman: I have no idea what they’re actually called but since they’re in Huntsman’s Copse and they seem completely fixated on finding humans to kill, I’m calling them “Huntsmen.” They look similar to the Rogues or general hollows but a lot taller. They’re not as fast as Rogues but they don’t forget you either. The Fat Guys might get caught on a tree and you can run away but not these guys. Keep running or head an area you might have an advantage in. They use man catchers (think titanite Catch Pole from the first game) and are generally aggressive. They’re midway between the Rogues and Fat Guys with most criteria (medium speed, medium damage, can be backstabbed but not super easy to flank). They’re a level 5 ******* too. The Black Phantoms versions though amp it up to 7. While the technique to kill is the same, they try to lure you into a group of four AND two of them replace their weapon with a whip. The whip isn’t harder to beat but you need to be aware of which one you’re fighting.
Unknown Knight: Before the chariot boss you’re greeted with a Black Phantom Sentinel who appears to share some characteristics of the warrior class perhaps. If the Greatsword is the same, it’s likely that this gentleman is known as “The Pursuer.” He doesn’t do much pursuing though, having an aggro range that goes away if you cross the bridge (the only time in the beta an aggro range came into play that I saw). His heavy shield and armor make him tough from the front. The area you fight him in can make it tough to flank him. A duo will make short work of him but solo he’s an epic *******, earning a score of 9. On a fun note, he will fight you on the rickety bridge. How many of us learned that the heavy attacks of a Greatsword will make your character move a little bit? How many of us have taken a dive off a cliff because we swung a weapon when we weren’t on great footing? It applies to him too. Keh heh heh heh!
Skellies: These guys return and are about what you’d expect. ******* rating of 3. They’re a little more challenging than a torch hollow but barely. If a Necromancer is still in play than they’re maybe a 4.
Necromancers: Similar to the skull lantern ones in function (they revive the dead, surprise). They aren’t very aggressive with their magic attacks and once found they’re a fast kill. They appear to use Dark Magic. They’re also about a 4. They’d be lower if they didn’t hide and revive skellies.
Executioner’s Chariot: This guy got some press before the beta with released images of a chariot barreling down on the warrior character. That’s a good concept of the fight. However it’s a lot more involved than just running away or dodging, etc. When you enter the gate you see a cutscene of a skeleton pulling a lever. This raises a gate somewhere and out of the newly opened archway comes a two headed, dark magic Breathing Horse pulling a chariot of death. The wheels have spikes which can do severe damage if you think you can just hang around and the chariot with spikes nearly scrapes the walls. The arena is ultimately a circle with the Chariot whipping around at crazy speeds. Immediately to your right when you enter is a pit. The Chariot can jump this to complete his circle but it’s a big barrier for you. Turning left sets you face to face with a bunch of skeletons. They will revive. There are two necromancers hiding in little nooks along the circle. Killing them is easy enough, however the nooks are the only safe places (there’s more than two nooks but both necromancers appear in one each). So when you’re face to face with a necromancer, you’re trying to either shove them out of the hiding spot or kill them fast enough to allow you in. All while a few skeletons are pursuing you in most cases. Killing the necromancer fast can drain your stamina meaning you turn to face a pile of skellies you can’t block for long. The good news is that all you need to do is prevent them from getting in the nook with you and the Chariot will TCB for you. Eventually you will come to the lever which of course closes the gate. A brilliant animation of the horse crashing and the Chariot and Rider smashing to bits follows. Then the horse get up. And GLARES at you. And now you have a real fight. It’s aggressive and pretty agile for the arena limitations which was bad news for my slow moving Warrior. It was hard to avoid hits during melee and I found myself hiding in the nook a couple times to heal. The Horse can still get you but it takes him longer to track you and smack you around. The wonderful video of the fight on this site shows a Dark Magic fire breathing type attack that looks pretty grim. I didn’t get a chance to see that one personally. As a reference for difficulty, I had leveled a good deal at this point and used aromatic ooze on a longsword to do a lot of fast, high powered hits and still had difficulty with the Horse. All in all I was very impressed with the fight. Killing the horse unlocks the area in which Tiny Gren is found.
Skeleton Lord: I call this “guy” the “Skeleton Horde of Doom” or SHOD for short. He’s about what that sounds like. You enter the fog to see one life bar but attached to a group of liches. The liches are pretty much pushovers but they like to run away and try to use ranged attacks. Once you close on them the fight is yours. Each kill lowers the life bar. However, some normal skellies make the fight a little more complex. Also, as you kill the liches other skeleton types appear. Royal skeletons (they wear a crown) show up and are bigger and a little stronger than the normal types. Last but not least, Bonewheels arrive for the party. They’re kept mostly the same but one mechanic change led to my death the one time I got here (as a summoned phantom). I was doing well and really smacking the bone around and two Wheelies saw me at the same time. They made an “X” path across my torso and BOTH hits registered. I had been hit before by a Wheelie and lived to tell the tale. I had full life at this point so I can say for sure that both hits were registered. The good news is that I received a message from the host saying he beat them. WARNING: IMPENDING RANT! I’ve read at least one other reviewer call this fight “cheap” because the difficulty is predicated on the gang approach. Seriously? That’s the gripe? The fight is adrenaline packed and I can honestly say that it’s nice to see the change ups here. It’s not a hack and slash game where the great horde is only beat by hitting the attack button fast enough. It’s a stamina nightmare fight that makes you choose where your attention is. It necessitates deliberately setting up tactics to deal with the variety and number of monsters. Real life tactics work well here as choke points can be viable, running away to isolate the fastest enemy into a one on one fight, etc. were all things I was doing right away and the ONLY reason I didn’t die quicker. Fast action and martial strategy increase your ability to survive. Sounds good to me.
Melentia: The merchant at the beginning of the beta. She sells stuff and tells you a little of the story in vague Dark Souls fashion. I found myself completely convinced I was playing Souls with this character. She provides yet more evidence that the roots remain the same. Of note is that she has a number in the picture of each item she sells that tells you how many she has available. This is a new feature but one I can say is pretty cool. Killing her holds no value except that I learned from the experience that graves pop up in the person’s place.
Buy something, anything…
Come, now…Help an old woman… And buy something…
Keh heh heh…
My name is Melentia.
You a stranger to this land?
All we get is strangers these days. Everybody’s gone and run off!
Drangleic’s been a pile o’ rubble since the war fought long, long ago.
When the Giants crossed the sea.
Seemed like the battles would never end.
Poor folk like myself had nary a place to sleep.
That’s why I keep all me things right with me.
You may travel light, but methinks you bear a burden of your own.
Everyone’s so stingy around here.
You’re my only customer.
Don’t make me beg, now, buy something!
-When walking away-
Lovely times, these are…
Tiny Gren: This guy is a little jerk (actually little, his character model is much smaller than the player). With the Warrior class he pretty much tells you nothing about anything. I’ve heard inklings he’s the gate to a covenant called the Brotherhood of Blood (his item descriptions seem to suggest this is accurately named). However, since the Warrior is in a potentially antagonistic covenant he blew me off. So I killed him. He’s a pushover and I got him dead so fast I can’t be sure of what he fights with but I want to say it had a curved blade. This could be significant in the retail version as there were hints of a katana in the beta files that no one has been able to find to my knowledge. The katana description is similar to the Despatcher Hood and Robes which are the prize for picking on a little person.
Gren’s Dialogue (to Warrior):
-FIRST TIME TALKING-
Oh, you trot along home.
This place won’t be any fun, not for you.
What is it?
Oh, you trot along home.
This place won’t be any fun, not for you.
*You can see why I killed him*
You can read more about Dark Souls II here.