Dark Souls 2 PS3 preview – “I’m looking at the man in the mirror… and now he’s killed me”

The worrying stops here. Because we’ve Dark Souls 2 on PS3, and it’s hard. Really hard. In fact, little more than eight seconds passes between taking the pad and our first death. And it doesn’t let up. Climb down ladder… dead.

Defeat first enemy, take on second… dead. Open door… dead. Embark on boss battle against man holding giant mirror… really dead. It’s not just this brutal cycle of reincarnation that is pleasingly familiar, either. Because in terms of core mechanics, playing Dark Souls II feels a lot like playing Dark Souls – simple, satisfying, and all about patience.

Dark Souls 2 PS3 preview

The game possesses the same combat system, one which squeezes a remarkable amount of depth from, for the most part, just the shoulder buttons. R1 utilises whatever’s in your right hand, L1 the left. But in a key change, that sinister mitt can be used for more than holding a shield or proffering a torch – now it can actually swing a weapon.

“Hastily hammer left on the D-pad the wrong number of times and you’ll end up being eaten by a toxic sludge spider”

And we all know what this means: double wielding. This immediately enhances your offensive options: pop a lightweight sword in each hand and you’ll now be swinging more freely than a bored Orange County housewife.

And that’s not all. You can now carry three weapons at once as opposed to two. Which at first will mean a whole lot of confusion as you hastily hammer left on the D-pad the wrong number of times and end up being eaten by a toxic sludge spider.

But once you get to grips with it it’s another way in which to better prepare yourself for the horrors to come. And, in slightly less exciting news, shields can also be wielded with two hands now, for those times when you just can’t muster anything except the armadillo defence.

There are still concerns, such as the new system which allows for warping to any lit bonfire right from the start, removing one of the previous game’s most satisfying achievements. But in terms of the feel of the gameplay, our hands-on is glorious. Better animations make everything smoother, and a new engine has upped things considerably in the looks stakes.

Improved AI also means that bad guys are able to take their anger out on you in more ways than before, and fewer pre-canned animations mean group attacks are more dangerous than ever. And then there’s that Mirror Knight, who we swear vengeance on from now until the sun burns out. Or until the game’s March release, at least.