Dark Souls II isn’t about to let up. Despite some concern among the fan base that the developers are easing off and making this sequel more “accessible” (a word From Software has used in the past), the message remains clear: Get ready for a challenge because if you come in unprepared, your ass will get handed to you. The beta test has resulted in all sorts of positive feedback; it’s especially positive to those who were concerned about that “accessible” term. The designers will still present us with an extraordinarily taxing game that tests our strategy and skill.
It seems clear that From Software has retained the core of Dark Souls and its predecessor, Demon’s Souls . Perhaps they may have streamlined things a bit and made the entire adventure slightly less intimidating, but those seeking a stiff challenge won’t be disappointed. Hacking and slashing? No, none of that here. That’s a good way to die in record time. Whipping open any door you see the instant you see it? Bad idea. Not bothering to observe an enemy’s particular combat style and equipment? A good way to get your hopes up and then have them dashed. Only the wise and the diligent will succeed here, brave warrior.
And don’t forget that this franchise has helped to pioneer the idea of multiplayer interaction within the realm of a single-player adventure. Provided you’re connected to the Internet, you can leave messages for other players. Common ones include “Warning,” “Danger ahead,” Proceed at your own risk,” and of course, the deceptive, “Clear path ahead.” The person leaving that message may be somewhat childish and if he gets nailed, instead of warning a fellow gamer, he might guide the unsuspecting to yet another grisly death. However, there are a few changes to encourage message-leaving and specifically, helpful messages.
Firstly, you can leave Blood Messages without a certain item; you can just write whenever and wherever you like. Second, although you could rate the quality of any given message before, now there’s incentive to aid rather than hamstring. If you receive a positive rating, a little of your health will return, and fans of the series know just how critical each shred of health really is. Therefore, not only is there a good reason to stay connected with others, it’s beneficial to be of assistance to others. There are a few other alterations as well, which will make the experience that much more dynamic and…well, that much more difficult.
For instance, staying in Hollow form will no longer stop other players from entering your domain. On top of which, if you keep dying in Hollow form, your health bar will be reduced after each death. In other words, what they’re saying is that you have to be immensely careful when Hollow. As for Summoning other players to participate in your game, there are a few restrictions now. For instance, summoned partners can only stick around for a set period of time, or until they’ve taken out a set number of foes. When either limit has been reached, they’ll be automatically transported back to their own game. This is players won’t be so reliant upon others to succeed.
Lastly, multiple Covenants will be available; these are essentially guilds comprised of adventurers similar to you. For instance, as you may have seen in some of the official screenshots, being a member of the Blue Covenant allows a Blue Sentinel to rush to your aid whenever you’re threatened by an invading player. Other Covenants offer specific bonuses; it’s up to you who to join. All told, Dark Souls II doesn’t sound like a game that’s more in tune with the mainstream masses. Quite the opposite, in fact; it sounds like the sequel all the fans will cherish. The spirit of achievement and accomplishment drives these games, and you will be appropriately rewarded for your ability and stick-to-itiveness.