Dark Souls II launches next week, and From Software's follow-up to surprise hit Dark Souls looks set to be just as intricate as untangling a set of earphones that have been sitting in your pocket for a week.
Even more daunting: If you're a player familiar with Dark Souls, well, you can pretty much say goodbye to all the tricks you (may have) used to get through those ominous dungeons. Goodbye, rolling around like you're Sonic the Hedgehog! Arrivederci, invulnerable backstab animations! Here's a list of everything we know (so far) about Dark Souls II.
Warning: what follows might spoil your enjoyment of the game if you're looking to go in completely blind!
One caveat is that there's likely to be dozens of things that are still unknown, and that some of the stuff here might turn out to have, say, some kind of side effect or context that we just don't know yet. Understanding the original Dark Souls was a huge, complex effort that took gaming communities months and months, and there's no reason why that won't also be the case for Dark Souls II.
If you're looking to take the plunge into From Software's punishing RPG next week, here's what you'll be getting yourself into:
Matters of life and death
- You'll still die all the time.
- The act of healing has been changed heavily from the original Dark Souls. The Estus Flask persists, but it's much harder to find charges for it--you start with just 1. There's also consumable lifegems. Both healing items take a lot of time to activate, but players can walk (slowly) while using them.
- Your maximum health is reduced when you die, down to a maximum penalty of 50 percent. Going from an undead (hollow) state to a human state reverses the effect.
- You can recover your humanity by consuming a human effigy. Unlike in Dark Souls, these items do not have to be used at bonfires.
- There is a ring players can discover early on that makes players lose less of their health bar when they die.
The curse ailment is not as brutally debilitating in Dark Souls II, and petrification--which went hand-in-hand with Curse in Dark Souls--has been made a separately awful thing that can happen to you.
- Players can travel immediately between all lit bonfires from the beginning of the game.
- The controls for sliding down a ladder have been modified by default. Tapping the roll button will now cause you to drop instead of slide down. Don't learn this the hard way!
- You can now be invaded while hollow, although the game is more likely to have invaders travel to the worlds of players who are alive, and players who have sinned, ahead of undead players.
- Players can carry a torch to provide a portable light source that can also ignite beacons. When equipped, the torch replaces a shield.
- Items can be burnt at bonfires to modify the world. The Bonfire Ascetic will make enemies in the region stronger. It is irreversible. Burning a Human Effigy at a bonfire will also make it more difficult for you to be invaded.
- The ragdoll physics have been made less hilarious. No longer will you be running around with a fleet of dead cragspiders stuck to your feet.
- Merchants have limited amounts of supplies, so don't expect to buy 85 titanite shards whenever you fancy it.
- Traditionally in the Souls series, enemies have respawned when players rest at a bonfire. In Dark Souls II, the majority of enemies stop respawning when killed a certain amount of times.
- There's now a Small White Sign Soapstone, which allows players to be summoned into other games for a shorter duration of time than with a regular White Soapstone.
- Performing backstabs in Dark Souls II works in a completely different way to the original. Hitting an enemy anywhere in the back now triggers the animation, but players are no longer invulnerable when performing the move.
- Rolling has been changed. It is now much, much harder to evade horizontal attacks without taking damage.
- Jumping, which can be performed when players are sprinting, is now mapped by default to clicking the left analog stick.
- Levelling up your character is now handled by talking to an NPC at Majula, the game's central hub area, rather than at any bonfire.
- There is a new attribute: Adaptability. This affects movement speed and resistances. The other character attributes are vigour, endurance, vitality, attunement, strength, dexterity, intelligence, and faith.
- Characters now stagger backwards and are unable to move for a moment if their stamina bar runs out while holding up a shield.
- A guard break move has replaced the kick, with bigger weapons being able to stagger enemies for a longer amount of time.
- The weight load percentage of how much gear you've got equipped--used to determined how fast your character can sprint, move, and roll--is now shown in the inventory.
- The inventory and UI is cleaner and easier to navigate in Dark Souls II than it was in the original, although it is still quite complex.
- Players now get two arrow slots, allowing archers to flick between two different quivers without having to break the flow of combat.
- There are now three left-hand and right-hand slots per character, allowing for more versatile weapon builds.
- Dual wielding strategies are now viable.
- It is possible to respec your stats, but the item that allows for this is rare.
- Your equipment degrades at a faster rate than in Dark Souls, but resting at a bonfire repairs items. If an item breaks, however, it will need to be repaired.
- The starting classes are warrior, knight, swordsman, bandit, cleric, sorcerer, explorer, and deprived.
Covenants and online
- Dark Souls II, unlike its predecessor, will feature dedicated servers.
- There we be an area devoted to dedicated PVP, similar to the area in Dark Souls' Artorias of the Abyss DLC.
- Players can still leave messages for one another, from a preselected list of statements, and the game now allows for more complex sentences.
- There is now optional voice chat in co-op play.
- An item found early on suggests that players will be more likely to be matched with one another in co-op if they follow the same god. From Software has said there are 10 gods in the game.
And the rest…
- You should still always carry a Homeward Bone at all times.
- Dark Souls II does not immediately appear to be connected to the original Dark Souls.
- Original series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki only had a supervisory role for the sequel, and Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura have both co-directed the project.
- From Software says Dark Souls II has been built on an entirely new engine.
- The PC version will run at 60fps, offer improved textures over the console versions, and feature proper support for keyboard and mouse controls. It will require Steam to play.
- Dark Souls II will be released on March 11 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and on April 26 for PC.
- Preordering the title will grant access to the Black Armor Weapons Pack, which dishes out a selection of weapons and shields to players at the start of the game.
- From Software has said that DLC for the game depends on fan feedback.
Aching for more Dark Souls II information? You can read about Dan Hindes' first 20 deaths in the game, and follow it up with Tom McShea's six wild theories. And don't forget to watch Kevin VanOrd playing 20 minutes of Dark Souls II on GameSpot's weekly show The Lobby.