E3 2013 preview: The world of Dark Souls 2 is beautiful, in a tough as hell sort of way
It's no secret that Dark Souls 2 is kind of a big deal despite being a niche title. The fact of the matter is that the game caters to a specific crowd: the sadists who love to be punished and get a thrill out of devilishly difficult games. Demon's Souls delivered that type of experience a few years ago, and then Dark Souls did the same, all the while improving on the formula set forth by its predecessor. Now developer From Software is looking to do all of that once more with Dark Souls 2, and if you're a fan of the series, you've most certainly got a reason to be excited.
Admittedly, I've yet to delve deep into the world of the original Dark Souls. That said, I spent quite a bit of time immersed in Demon's Souls, and this sequel to that game's spiritual successor fits right in, creating a haunting atmosphere riddled with intense challenges, devious enemies, and massive obstacles. Basically, Dark Souls 2 will give you more of the series' signature brand of methodically-paced gameplay and an immense sense of wonder to go along with it.
During my time with the game, I entered a treacherously barren locale rife with collapsed buildings and dilapidated structures. The whole thing was par for the course, and while I can't say I was exactly surprised by what I saw, I can certainly attest to the fact that Dark Souls 2 is a beautifully dreary game. There's just this impressive gloominess to the environments that makes you glad you're not actually there, but kind of makes you wish you were just because of how much of a spectacle everything is. Personally, I'll settle for controlling a character through this land, and I'll explain why.
Dark Souls 2 is hard. Of course, you didn't need me to tell you that. Even if you've never played the first game, you're likely aware of the high challenge in this series. This upcoming entry will not rectify the difficulty because there's nothing to rectify — Dark Souls 2 is a hard game for people who want to play a hard game. Pushovers need not apply, so if you're not fond of getting your ass handed to you by video games, there are oodles of other action-RPGs for you to enjoy. Dark Souls 2, like its predecessor, is a very specific game for a very specific audience.
From Software made it quite clear that it wasn't intending on changing things up from the first Dark Souls. Like that game, Dark Souls 2 features slow-paced animations that require good timing and come with a bit of a learning curve. It wasn't long before I encountered my first enemy, and coming out victorious meant I needed to pick my spots and strike at just the right moment. I was soon assaulted by two enemies at a time, prompting me to develop a slightly different strategy. Simply flailing my character's sword like a madman was going to get me nowhere, so I backed up, waited for an opening, and defeated my foes one by one.
It was when I came across a massive enemy that I was backed up into a corner. This beast of a character wasn't very quick, but his strikes were strong enough to knock me back considerably. Despite my best efforts, it appeared that I was hardly causing any damage. I soon found myself running for higher ground as the flight instinct won out over the desire to fight. That's where I decided to end my time with the Dark Souls 2 demo, because I knew that this time around, I would not, under any circumstances, be able to conquer this challenge.
I didn't leave the demo ashamed of myself. I was proud for actually taking the time to play a game that I knew would take its proverbial shoe — in this case a really pointy boot — and proceed to kick my rear end with it. When Dark Souls 2 launches in 2014 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, it's going to be a ridiculously pretty game to behold based on atmosphere alone ... then it's going to make you want to stab yourself in the eye with a rusty blade. Trust me, even if you love these games, you're going to get totally pissed when you fail.
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.