Dark Souls II is currently undergoing numerous network stress tests as it slowly stalks its way towards release. Since we're going to be part of them we thought it would be fun to take a look at the events of the beta and post our thoughts and experiences to the site. If any readers have participated as well we would love to hear from you so please, post in the comments!

The first time you play a new game in the Dark Souls series you’re immediately going to feel like you’re in over your head. This is doubly true when there’s no instruction manual or strategy guide to pore over. You’re just going to have to figure this old the old fashioned way boys and girls! Luckily this is a game series where anyone who plays it is expecting to die plenty more times.

If you’ve played Dark Souls recently then the basics of the gameplay will at least feel familiar since there are very few changes to the basics. A few that stood out are the removal of the kick attack and the addition of dual wielding. Kicking has been replaced with a thrusting punch that shoves enemies back, serving the same function but it does feel a bit slower and harder to spam.

Dual-wielding is probably one of the biggest additions to the series and it’s incredibly awesome and insanely impractical. As it stands you can rock an enemy’s world by hitting them so fast that even quicker enemies can’t recover, letting you kill them entirely unimpeded. You can also still parry enemy attacks which results in an awesomely animated riposte attack. But since that’s the end of your ability to protect yourself it’s an insanely dangerous fighting style.

The demo we played went out of its way to illustrate that fact in typical Dark Souls fashion by having enemies ambushing from behind doors (coming through them) or leaping out of the shadows and not having a means of defense was a deal breaker in many occasions. This was doubly true when the giant blubbery executioner enemy came out, swinging at my poor tender character with his dual hooked blades.

While still in the beta stages it very much felt that the most effective fighting style was light armor, high encumbrance and strength mixed with one of the ultra greatswords. My Zweihander and I are now bff’s after the whipping we threw down on these executioners. However it should be rather firmly stated that all of this is very likely a quirk of the way characters were set up for the beta. After all you’re just kind of dumped into the thick of it so you don’t have a lot of time to properly build up a character, carefully pick your equipment and get used to its quirks.

One area that’s rather solid right now is the animations. Previously many weapons with the same sort of qualities (i.e. length, piercing or thrusting, etc.) shared animations but now there seems to be a much wider array of them. Most noteworthy are the backstab animations which are awesome. Rather than a generic stab animation for every weapon you get unique ones for each weapon type, so a short sword punches the enemy in the back to stagger them and then runs them through. Best though is the great sword since you get to knock an enemy to his knees and then hack into his head like it’s a piñata.

There were a few things I couldn’t quite figure out in the demo, such as what the difference between the Small White Soapstone and the regular one were but I did see Cracked Red-Eye Orbs for regular invasions and Red Soapstones for more organized dueling purposes. However since this beta is also a networking stress test there were a few issues with connecting to others… namely that I couldn’t do it. This might not entirely be their fault since my internet can be spotty at times and it decided to drop off when trying to play the game. Shame really, I only joined one game and made a fool out of myself by falling off of a cliff via not watching my foot placement when attacking.

Next time I’ll explore the possibilities of getting into a game with other people and not sucking at it. We’re also going to be trying to capture our adventures so others can see the hilarious ways that I manage to fail at playing Dark Souls II just like I do in every game in this amazing series.