Namco Bandai had a playable demo of Dark Souls II which started by showing four classes: Sorcerer, Warrior, Temple Knight, and Dual Swordsman. Only Warrior and Sorcerer were playable, so I started with Warrior. The controls should be familiar if you played Dark Souls you rotate through weapons and equipment using the d-pad, right bumper does a slash, and right trigger does powerful thrust. The drawback of using the thrust is it’s a slow attack that you can’t cancel out of.
The warrior has a shield in his left hand which you can raise to block with the left trigger. Attacking and blocking depletes stamina and when your stamina runs out you cannot attack or defend. Basically, stamina forces players to be cautious about their movements instead of flailing attacks. In the demo, the warrior also had a bow which you can switch to if you want a long range attack. I had a generous helping of healing items life gems (which recover a bit of life), radiant life gems, amber herbs, twilight herbs, and a couple Estus Flasks. Estus Flasks are like “X-Potions” and completely restore your life.
I prefer magic characters so I switched the Sorcerer which has a sword as a secondary weapon and a staff as a primary weapon. The sorcerer also has magic spells including a Soul Spear-like attack and fire magic or Pyromancies.
The area I played in was called Fort Resistance and began with a ladder climb down into a castle-like area. I was greeted by an undead knight that looks kind of like the Silver Knight in Dark Souls, but has AI more akin to the Undead Soldier. This enemy carried a halberd and started with an overhead slash and then a horizontal strike. I blocked the attack and retaliated with a few sword slashes. As I stepped forward I woke up another undead knight armed with a sword and the fight became a two on one battle. I focused on finishing off the first knight and then defeated the second enemy. I looked below and there was a deep chasm. Across the way there was a narrow bridge that led to a dead end and another fight. I walked back and through a door to a prison-like area. A dim flame illuminated the room. Next to it was a dark passageway. I lit a torch using the fire and descended down a narrow staircase.
I saw two corpses to my left and thought this would be a good time to try out the Soul Spear-like spell. Sure enough, those were enemies and I got a preemptive attack while they were lying peacefully. Instead of fighting them head on, I ran back up the staircase. The undead knights pursued me and thanks to the narrow staircase they marched up one at a time. I waited at the top and fired another spell killing one enemy and finished the other enemy off with out a problem.
Confident, I ran down the staircase right into a huge armored knight holding a massive mace. Remember seeing the Fang Boar the first time? It was kind of like that. I wasn’t sure the Sorcerer could survive the encounter so I ran up the staircase again. The hulking enemy followed and when it got up top I rolled around it and back down the stairs. Pressing forward, I walked right into an undead knight throwing fire bombs and another arrow shooting knight protected by darkness.
Finally, I reached a door and as soon as I stepped outside another undead enemy with a bow started firing arrows. This is Dark Souls after all. Outside in an open space, Dark Souls II gave players options on how to explore the area. There were three choices a door to another closed space, a ladder to climb, and a path straight ahead. I walked forward right into an “invasion” where two undead knights and one of the massive mace wielding enemies appeared. I put “invasion” in quotes because while Dark Souls II will have similar online features as the previous game, Namco Bandai has not explained specifics. Also, the Dark Souls II demo was offline and this was a scripted event.
The next step was to touch a sword and warp to the next area. This takes a couple of seconds and you aren’t invulnerable when teleporting. If an enemy hits you during the traveling animation it cancels the hit forcing players to fight. Dark Souls II can be cruel and I was about to face the most difficult part.
A corridor led to the Mirror Knight, the boss in the Dark Souls II demo. As I walked forward, statues came to life and attacked me. A better strategy is to “kite” through the corridor, which means running past all of the statues and trying to touch the mist to move to the boss without engaging in a fight. The Mirror Knight was a tough fight since two hits could kill the Sorcerer. I tried an evasive strategy of rolling and using spells like an attack that rained energy on the Mirror Knight, but this spell only shaved off a sliver of life. The Mirror Knight also calls in other enemies for me to deal with.
Dark Souls II was shown on a high end PC with an Xbox 360 gamepad used to control the game. The framerate was smooth and the game’s graphics look better, but it’s hard to say how Dark Souls II will look on consoles. The animation work which feels more fluid than other Souls games should be consistent between platforms. Dark Souls II is in development for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.