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LOS ANGELES — Dark Souls 2 is so hard, I actually died while playing it as an invincible sorcerer.
Maybe I’m just really terrible at this notoriously difficult action-RPG fantasy series. But among the other players at a pre-Electronic Entertainment Expo’s preview event hosted by publisher Namco Bandai last month, I felt like I was holding hold my own.
Until I somehow managed to die with god mode turned on.
Namco Bandai had two versions of developer From Software’s newest game available to play. One was the regular Dark Souls 2, where the lowliest of undead knights can and will kill you with just a couple swings of his sword. The other was Dark Souls 2 as well, but with this version, the player wouldn’t take damage from attacks. It had a necessary tweak so the writers would have a shot at finishing the demo in a reasonable amount of time.
I began with the normal version. I traveled down into a cavernous dungeon, tossed around some fireballs, and began to figure out which attacks worked best against each foe. For taking on the giant armored knight with his two little minions, that was a matter of dodging their gang assault and casting a lightning spell that would hit all three — something I needed to do repeatedly. Getting to that point and realizing that strategy, however, was the tricky part. I died countless times. So much so, I began to feel bad for the other people waiting to play, as they watched my sorcerer go down at different times in almost every corner of the level.
I gradually was able to get better and progress farther (considering the average of each play attempt). The trial-and-error process was enlightening, especially considering how demeaning it felt to die at the hands of the first unassuming nemesis (just like mistiming a jump against that first Goomba in Super Mario Bros.).
I eventually knocked out the big armored knight, but not without taking a few licks. So when I left the dungeon for a grassy outside area, I swiftly died at the hands of the next simple adversary. Sure, I was frustrated, but that’s what people love about this series: Getting your ass kicked and then improving your skills so the enemies don’t kick your ass as hard the next time.
But I had to know what was beyond that baddie outside? To get back there quicker, I booted up the special press version of Dark Souls 2 that was in god mode. It wasn’t easier at all, really. I actually did worse since I neglected all the tactics I had already devised. Even though I couldn’t take damage, the knights could still strike me down. So what happened when I got back to that grassy area? The chump that took me out the last time knocked me into a bottomless pit.
Even though my sorcerer technically still had all his health, he was stuck in limbo and we had to reset. Bullshit. But it’s fun bullshit for gamers who like a serious challenge (and won’t have an invincibility option to fall back on).
From Software is developing Dark Souls 2 for them. The team is improving the flow from Dark Souls to make the maddening gameplay a little smoother. A Namco Bandai representative told me that this means no more (or more likely, not as many) cheap deaths and less grinding through drawn-out areas.
Factor in advanced lighting, clothing, and environmental graphic effects thanks to the new development system From Software is using, and hopefully, the devout will be satisfied. They will have to wait until March 2014, however, when the game comes out for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.