Dark Souls 2
Namco Bandai Games

When I finally bought Dark Souls after months of hearing how wonderful it was, I sank four or five hours into it before deciding I disagreed.

I see the appeal of the challenge, and it's clearly a well-made game, but it is simply not for me. In my opinion there isn't enough fun to be had in the endless cycle of death.

Its difficulty curve wasn't so much a curve as a large jagged spike plunged straight into you at the game's opening, and that was an opening I became very familiar with. I can't pass judgement on the game as a whole, and I wouldn't want to, but I can pass judgement on its first few hours.

For me the start of Dark Souls is akin to greeting someone into your home with a swift kick between the legs. Just, why? Why be so blunt?

So with this mind I decided to head to Namco Bandai's London office and plunge into sequel's first few hours to see if I liked it any better. After all, I can't have been the only one put off the original by its misguided welcome.

Dark Souls 2
Namco Bandai Games

Dark Souls 2 opens at a slower pace. After an impressive, tone-setting introductory video a hooded figure awakens in a moon-lit field and the player takes control.

Noticing creatures in the weeds I ploughed straight ahead and toward a shack. Here another video led me to the character customisation menus. Greatly overhauled from the original game, character models are aesthetically a whole lot better and everything is organised in a much friendlier manner.

I selected my class, my perk, my name and my appearance, then set back out the door I entered through. To my left was a path I thought would lead me onwards into the game, but it contained nothing but a large troll. "Right then, straight into the deep end," I thought.

The troll wasn't anything like the first game's Asylum Demon, and I dispatched it with little trouble. In fact I was starting to feel good about things. Of course that feeling didn't last long, but it was an important feeling to have and one which was absent from the first game. 

I passed back through the shack and through the back to the game's first bonfire, which I lit and sat by to replenish what little health I had lost. Then I moved on to the next area, which contained something the first Dark Souls lacked – a recognisable tutorial.

Dark Souls 2
Namco Bandai Games

I died during it of course, but so far I was happy. Dark Souls 2 has a friendlier start that eases players into the ways of the game much more gently. Less a slap to the face than a hearty slap on the back from someone who doesn't know their strength. It's approachable, but still tough. 

The world of Drangleic is open from the very start. There was no real need for that troll-adorned pathway I mentioned earlier, but it did establish that this world is full of places to explore.

And explore is what I was most keen to do, so after a failed attempt at defeating a different troll I ventured forth through a cave and out onto a sun-drenched hillside. The orange sunlight lit a small village that serves as a sort of hub for the opening few hours, which contains tradesmen to buy armour from and three potential roads to take.

This is where Dark Souls lost me all over again.

I ventured down each path but was met every time with failure. I tried and tried, but couldn't get very far at all. Down one path was Heide's Tower of Flame, a ruin littered with 10-foot-tall knights wielding swords, shields and giant clubs.

Down another was the Forrest of Fallen Giants, which was easier to traverse due to its easier-to-kill hollow soldiers, and finally there was a third path at the end of which was a door blocked off by a statue, defended by beasts with swollen appendages I'd rather erase from my mind. 

Dark Souls 2
Namco Bandai Games

Progress was slow to non-existent beyond this point and eventually my time with the game came to end, leaving me as wound-up and frustrated as I expected to be left. I was unable to explore this beautiful and interesting world because the game was preoccupied with smashing me over the head with repeated reminders that Dark Souls is difficult. 

So, as expected, Dark Souls 2 failed to win me over, but this is probably good thing.

From Software's new game isn't going to make any new friends, but it doesn't need to and clearly doesn't want to. While I didn't wholly enjoy it myself, for Dark Souls aficionados this is exactly what they want. 

Additions to the sequel include the ability to travel between bonfires from the start, health that is easier to manage with relatively plentiful life gems and a streamlined online aspect which includes voice chat for the first time.

Rest assured the game is still tough though. Those around me at the event were a lot further ahead but still dying enough to leave me confident this is still the abusive partner of a videogame that many love so much.

The original became a hit slowly over a long period of time, and its fan-base still continues to grow. Dark Souls 2 isn't looking to use the good name of its original to appeal to the mass market and top the charts. It simply wants to continue to build the series's appeal as gradually as its predecessor, while also building upon and evolving the game that came before it. 

Dark Souls 2 will be released Friday 14 March.