Namco Bandai was one of the final exhibitors to be confirmed for Manchester's Play Expo. Their team would be bringing along Dark Souls II
and a challenge for anyone brave enough to take them on:
Will you join the elite select players that have managed to slay the Mirror Knight, or will you, like many others before you, fall before his knees and submit to his might? You will have 20 minutes to find and beat him, so use your time wisely and make every hit count!
Players had to choose carefully. Would you slay the Mirror Knight as a Warrior, a Sorceror, a Temple Knight or a Dual Swordsman? Once the choice was made, we were loaded into a ruined stone building. A hole in the floor with a ladder leading downwards represented the only direction to take.
At the bottom of the ladder, we were met by our first enemies; a pair of undead soldiers (not the same undead soldiers with which Dark Souls
fans will be familiar) shambled towards us, armed with a halberd and a sword respectively. This battle wasn't challenging, and the enemies were defeated after some clumsy shielding and sword swinging while we got used to the controls. A quick venture over the bridge to our right yielded another undead soldier and a life gem, something that was likely to be needed later on. Back across the bridge, a nearby doorway led us down into a stepped chamber with a barred window and a pile of bones, next to which lay an undead soldier. He was dispatched with just two swings of the sword. To our right, a burning lantern highlighted a doorway with steps that led into the darkness. We lit a torch and pressed on downwards.
The corridor below led in two different directions. To the left stood two undead soldiers, who by now were becoming a familiar sight. Ahead of us stood a more challenging foe. A heavily armoured knight, twice the size of his companions and complete with a fearsome-looking and sharp mace, blocked our progress. None of the three were happy to see us. The only way to prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed was to use the doorway to filter them through one at a time. While the plan did not go smoothly, we survived.
The next chambers yielded more undead soldiers, barrels, boxes, rubble and bones before ending at a wooden door. Upon opening the door, sunlight hit our eyes as we crossed a makeshift wooden bridge over a deep chasm towards the building on the other side. One undead soldier tried to prevent our progress but was easily pushed over the edge to his death. Further up stood a different enemy. This soldier was bigger and more agile than those that we had just encountered. His bow meant that we had to take a more cautious approach and he took more hits to defeat. A ladder led up the side of the building, but there was also a wooden door opposite our entrance. If neither of those took our fancy, there was the option to walk alongside the chasm and bypass the building completely. Conscious of time ticking away and the need to make it to the Mirror Knight, we bypassed the building.
We approached the next building, which could only be accessed via a hole in the wall. Just three steps down the corridor, we were surprised by the appearance of three glowing red enemies that materialised out of the floor. The Gravelord-style appearance didn't hide the fact that this was a reincarnation of the heavily armoured knight that we had faced before, and he was accompanied by two glowing undead soldiers of the original type. Not only was he dead set on destroying my character, he was also fairly good at destroying nearby walls. By far the toughest battle that we had encountered so far, we barely made it out alive. The corridor carried us over the chasm and back outside where there had never been such a welcome sight as the inviting bonfire that lay in wait in a hollow in the next building. From here, we warped to the next location.
The new warping animation caused our character to be shrouded in smoke as the screen faded to black. After a few seconds, we emerged via a cloud of blue smoke into a vault-like chamber. Ahead lay a corridor lined with pillars on both sides. At the bottom of every pillar sat a statue clutching a spear. As we passed, their eyes glowed red as they sprang to life. At the end of the corridor stood a shimmering portal, but to get to the portal we had to pass the portal's guardian. With a purple haze emanating from his dark cloak, the horned figure would use his staff to throw blue fireballs at our approaching character. Combined with a total of ten living statues, the odds of surviving this battle were ridiculously low. Sure enough, we met our untimely death.
On our second attempt we took a different approach. We ran towards the end of the corridor as fast as our legs would carry us, ran around the guardian and used the portal. We lost half of our health doing this, but it was worth it. The portal took us outside into a stormy set of ruins where our target stood. Here was the Mirror Knight.
The Mirror Knight is not easy to defeat. He will run at you with his sword. If you are further away, he will leap at you in an attempt to slam his sword through your skull. He will raise his sword and summon a lightning attack in which he throws balls of lightning at you. He will plant his shield into the ground. The shield doubles up as a mirror through which he can summon a knight to attack you. During his summon you have two options; you can choose to damage the shield so that another enemy cannot be summoned, or you can choose to attack the Mirror Knight while he is vulnerable.
Namco Bandai said that they would be posting the pictures of the victorious gamers onto their Facebook page. To date, there are no pictures on this page. There is a reason for this. The majority of those gamers that reached the Mirror Knight met the same obstacle that we did -- we ran out of time (and died on numerous occasions). If the rest of the demo sounded too easy, the Mirror Knight (and the corridor preceding him) brought the franchise's soul-crushing difficulty back to the forefront. Fear not Dark Souls
fans; your game is in good hands.