Dark Souls II Preview – Closed Beta Impressions

So there I was: about to enter a cave when I noticed a message on the ground. The inscription read “Listen Carefully,” so – naturally – I stepped inside the unknown rock shelter with the speed of a snail. Unfortunately, as I was too busy keeping my ears open to any kind of noise, an unexpected blow came from behind. The outcome? “YOU DIED.”

That’s right, folks: the sequel to one of the hardest most punishing games of this generation – if not THE most punishing one – is on its way to once again punish you for every mistake you’ll make. The first Closed Beta for Dark Souls II has just ended, so here are some impressions from my first two hours of play.

After clawing my way through a dark forest, a few caves, and some ruins, I am left with the impression that this game is more or less the first Dark Souls, only with way better visuals. Don’t get me wrong though: this was still an excellent experience which only left me wanting to play more.

Dark Souls II offers you six characters in total: Soldier, Warrior, Sorcerer, Temple Knight, Dual Swordsman, and Hunter. First, I started with the common Warrior, then switched to the Sorcerer, after which I spent the rest of my available time with the Dual Swordsman (which was my favourite). The most unique of them all is obviously the Sorcerer, with the others differentiating themselves through the usual statistics like stamina, strength, their affinity to particular weapons (like the Hunter and his bow) and so on.

True to the franchise, the blood stains, bonfires, the ability to leave messages to others, and to see them in their own sessions – as ghosts – are all back. If you’re new to the franchise, know that, when activating these blood stains, you will get to see a player’s last seconds of life. This makes the stains an important part of the game, because they will always make you aware of possible imminent dangers, like enemies or traps. Also for newcomers: the bonfires represent your most beloved sight in the whole world. There, you have the ability to save your progress, upgrade your character, and even light a torch for those dark forests or caves. Be aware, though! Every time you rest at a bonfire, all enemies on the map come back to life (except for the bosses).

The Beta also introduced a new type of enemy: a giant fellow with scythes instead of hands. When fighting every last enemy in Dark Souls II, you only need to keep one thing in mind: patience. This is not your usual FPS or action/adventure game in which you can spam the attack button and expect to win. The second you start button-mashing, the second you’ll be greeted with the “YOU DIED” screen. After learning your enemy’s patterns, what seemed to be downright impossible to kill, will actually be a walk in the park.

And that’s the beauty of Dark Souls II: it does never give you a break – literally, as even managing your inventory happens in real-time – but when defeating all opponents and making it to the next bonfire, you feel a sense of accomplishment which very few games can deliver.

One thing which I found annoying was the fact that I couldn’t summon other players in my world, nor invade them. Every time someone would try to come into my session, an error would appear on the screen. Why would the developer enforce a two-hours limit, if it wouldn’t even allow players to actually battle together? Another quirk was the AI, which sometimes was simply standing still while I was depleting its life. It’s still a Beta, so it’s to be expected I guess.

As mentioned above, what does seem like a massive improvement are the visuals. Dark Souls II’s world and its inhabitants are much more detailed than its predecessor’s. The soundtrack was kept to a minimum though, only to make for a more chilling atmosphere.

All in all, after almost breaking into tears multiple times during my playthroughs in the first Dark Souls, I have to admit that I enjoyed this small Beta for its sequel. Sure, there wasn’t anything really new here – besides its presentation – but I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of what Dark Souls II really has to offer. The next Beta will take place on October 27th, so expect another coverage of it the moment it ends. You can check out some gameplay from the first Beta below.