Analyzing the Dark Souls II gameplay demo
Earlier IGN released the world-exclusive gameplay demo for Dark Souls II and with it comes a ton of new information. The demo is fairly long and while much of the game seems to be the same there are changes in this sequel and I want to take apart interesting bits of the demo and see how that impacts the game.
The first new feature for the Dark Souls series is the option of a dedicated dual-wielding of weapons. While this existed in the original to an extent and in its predecessor Demon's Souls, it works differently in the sequel. The dual-wielding animations appear more fluid and the attacks come out in rapid succession. This means that you will have twice the damage in one turn of attacks rather that readily alternating between your left and right hand weapons.
The trade off is that you don't have a shield and you might be left defenseless. It's interesting to note that while the parry animation isn't shown, parrying with dual-wielding will most likely be different than when doing so with a shield. Probably, this is for a pure damage output sacrificing nearly all defensive options. Dual-wielding is also important as it begs the question as to how two-handed weapon styles will work. I believe that dual-wielding and two-handed styles will both exist for the same purpose: maximizing damage output, however, the attack animations will be different allowing the player to choose which style he or she wants. It's a matter of choice and the different movesets offered by the two styles will dictate the flow of battle.
Torches are a new addition to the game. Just like the previous game, Dark Souls II will have a ton of dark areas. You can light and carry your own personal torch on your left hand while holding a weapon on the other, This means that whatever you were holding on your left hand previously is no longer usable or the option to dual-wield or two-hand is also unavailable. It's an interesting idea since this means that players can no longer shield everything in a given area and must rethink how to approach an area and the enemies that lurk within it. This dynamic takes the players out of their comfort zone and definitely fits in the style of the series' unrelenting and brutal nature.
Whether the torch will have stats or not will also make a difference. Judging from the demo it seems like you can block with the torch and take no damage and it's unclear if this will remain the same by the game's release - most likely it will not. Your entire arsenal and attack/defense patterns will also be completely altered in torch-required areas. This beckons the question, will there be alternatives to torches? There were items that you could use that lit up your surrounding area without sacrificing the use of your left hand in the previous game. We'll have to see if a similar option is available.
The demo also mentioned the ability to reflect projectiles. Enemies no longer only throw knives and shoot arrows it appears. One knight hurls a gigantic axe and you can possibly hurl it back to the enemy or swipe it aside. It'll be interesting to see how this works in a group fight setting. More interesting will be if you can throw weapons at your enemies yourself and possibly pick it back up in the future. If this is indeed the case then PvP will certainly be interesting as tactical throwing of weapons can be used to lighten your equipment load and whatnot.
Enemies are also different as it seems they can directly interact with the environment. In one instance you see a large creature breaking through a stone wall or a dragon that will destroy a bridge. These changes will dynamically change encounters and you can prepare for them too. Let's take the example of throwing weapons, if it does exist in the game. You can have a field of dropped weapons on the floor. You aggro the enemy and as it's busting down the wall you can hurl all of the dropped weapons on the floor. If it misses and lands on the other side, you can pick it up and try again. Additionally, you can throw weapons that you might not want to use anymore and pick something else up on the battlefield. It could be very interesting in how it works.
However, additions are not the only thing in the game as there a few changes and tweaks. If you check out the HUD, you'll notice that a few things are substantially different. First of all it appears humanity won't play a large part in the game. Rather, where humanity would normally be, there is an icon of the moon. It's not exactly sure what this means but it could mean that there might be day and night cycles in the game. If so, maybe enemies will change their locations depending on the time or maybe different enemies will appear altogether. Or it could be purely a cosmetic change. The equipment visuals on the bottom left have also changed. Previously fours squares constantly took up space, it seems like you can expand and collapse this to a single square, which will be the healing item slot. Additionally when the squares are expanded to four there appears to be a small gauge below the left and right handed equipment slot. This could stand for durability and the meter will deplete as the equipment loses its edge. It's a nice addition if so.
While Estus Flasks are still in this game, it seems there are also other healing items available beyond it. Humanity could be used to heal up in the original game but the video shows a healing stone that acts similarly to Demon's Souls herbs. There might be more healing items available in the game and as a result the difficulty could be tuned to the readily available healing items at the player's disposal. In the previous game only Estus Flasks and Humanity were the only healing items. It'll be interesting to see how all of these new changes will working in tandem.
The last major change mentioned was keymouths. You can insert keystones into keymouths and unlock a new area. This could open up new ways to access areas that could either be challenging or easy. More importantly, it could hide treasures or other benefits that the players can use. It's unsure how easy it'll be to come across a keystone and how many keymouths are available to access in the game but the idea of being able to choose what areas to unlock, when to unlock them, and how you want to proceed through - if you even want to - is interesting since it supports the idea of exploration that the game is known for.
One thing that was completely left out in the gameplay demo were multiplayer components. There were no markings on the ground giving hints and there were no signs of other players running around. This component is most likely not ready to be shown or they chose not to show it just yet. It's disappointing but the game by itself still looks great.
Much of how Dark Souls II looks and plays seems largely reminiscent of its predecessor. It makes sense considering it's a sequel. The additions and changes don't seem to change the formula all that much either. Rather, just like what the Q&A video from IGN said, they're aiming to emphasize its core ideas rather than adding new features. You can definitely feel that. It'll be interesting in the coming months to see what other new bits information will emerge but until then... don't die.
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