Preview

Dark Souls II

20 of the most elegant and futile deaths we have ever experienced

I have 20 minutes to kill the Mirror Knight. Sounds simple right? Not in Dark Souls II where every enemy has the ability to make your armour seem like it's made out of butter. I must have died about 20 times in trying to reach the Mirror Knight and all I had to do was walk down a hallway and pass through a mist-shrouded door.

There's a touch of elegance that runs right through the entire Demon's Souls/Dark Souls series and Dark Souls II carries on that feeling. Travelling through the austere yet dilapidated corridors always intimates a hint of sadness for what the environment was when the world was new before magic and monsters took it over.

And so it is 20 elegant yet melancholy deaths I suffer but, with each one I inch one step closer to the goal. The first journey down the statue-lined corridor ended in tragedy. Little did I know that the statues that still had heads would come to life, in a way Dark Souls does so well, cutting my journey short before I could even swing a sword. Dark Souls II

The second journey wasn't much better. As I passed the first statue I noticed its eyes beginning to glow red and at least managed to get a few good hits in before I ran out of stamina and was run through once more.

After a few more attempts I managed to twig that the statues that still had heads were the ones that were dangerous and removing their heads before their eyes started glowing would make my life that little bit easier.

With each pass down the corridor I learned more identifying three more statues that come to life to cut me with massive twin-bladed weapons. I also discovered there was a sorceror at the end of the corridor guarding the door and shrouded in a malevolent-looking black miasma firing large bolts at anyone brave enough to reach the door.

A good few more attempts in and I managed to figure out he best approach is to kill off as many statues as possible before they came to life and then drawing the others further back down to a narrower part of the corridor to funnel them and take them on one at a time. This took a little bit longer to get right taking me up to the 18 minute mark on the demo. Dark Souls II

Once the horse-headed guards were defeated I took on the sorcerer. It was touch and go for a while but I managed to take him down with a relentless assault of sword blows. This left me free to head through the mist and confront the Mirror Knight himself.

He towers over the player with highly polished armour and a massive mirrored shield that reflects all attacks and has the potential to briefly render him invulnerable to attacks. On the offensive size he has a massive sword and a rather devastating lightning attack that requires precise timing to avoid. It's unblockable.

After dodging and diving around carefully I managed to whittle down about a third of his health and I felt like I was getting somewhere. “That's time up.” The intervention of one of Namco's guys my attention was drawn away only to look back to be greeted by, “You Have Died”. It was over.

This is every bit the kind of experience I was expecting from Dark Souls II. Its brooding locations and relentlessly tough combat has been carefully refined from previous games and from what I have seen it should deliver exactly the kind of fix that Dark Souls fans have been waiting for. Dark Souls II

Dark Souls II is due out on Xbox 360 and PS3 next March with the PC version to follow soon after. The preview build was played on PS3.