Namco Bandai were one of the publishers I knew I had to check out at E3 this year. It was my goal to check out Dark Souls II and see just how this game compares against its two predecessors Demon Souls and Dark Souls.
With a presentation from CQC analyst Matt Warner and a hands-on session, I now understand what Dark Souls II aims to accomplish. There's been a stigma surrounding these games that it's designed to be hard on purpose. In actuality Namco only aims to make a realistic combat game that rewards players for putting thought behind their actions. Dark Souls II establishes this niche in a way that creates enthusiasm for the challenge.
Dark Souls II is built on a brand new engine, and this time around enemies are situationally aware of your actions. What this means is that enemies will respond to how you play and use it to their advantage. While watching Matt play I saw a boss start an attack, then as Matt went to rush the boss he switched up mid-attack and countered Matt's own attack. Something like this may seem small when reading about it, but I was so taken aback by this level of A.I that I yelled my excitement during the presentation. Enemies will also play dead on the ground and wait for you to engage in combat with another foe to get up and rush you. So it's better to prick any corpse on the ground just to be sure it's really a corpse.
Combat has also been fully motion captured, so you can expect it to look as realistic as ever. There's improved dual-wielding, but it is recommended for expert players due to timing being such an important factor. Classes are no more in Dark Souls 2. This time around the game takes your personal play-style into consideration then builds your character based on that formation.
Dark Souls I and Demon Souls were also known for their ability to connect with other players, and this remains in Dark Souls II. A feature I found pretty neat is being able to tell which areas the majority of your friends (and other players) died in. It makes the challenge that much more fun.
As a gamer, I'm known as one of the lesser skilled here at The Koalition. Dark Souls II made this hit home more than ever when I got my hands on it. Yes I died a good number of times, but I didn't feel frustration at dying. Instead I felt the will to get better, the will to defeat the intelligence of the A.I, and that's a great sign.
There are many compromises to be had in Dark Souls II. For instance, when the lights go out it actually gets dark to the point you can't see anything without a torch. Unfortunately, equipping a torch means giving up either your second weapon or your shield. So it's either endure the darkness with the risk of being caught off guard, or embrace one handed combat for the sake of seeing the environment around you. This is exactly how choice is supposed to work in a role-playing game.
Contrary to belief of the Dark Souls II community, Dark Souls II is not dumbed down at all. In my opinion it's on its way to being one of the most intelligent role-playing games this gen. I was never a Demon Souls or Dark Souls I player, but I will certainly be a Dark Souls 2 player.