Punishing, unrelenting, merciless – not normally adjectives said positively on behalf of a game, that is, unless that game is Dark Souls 2. Created by From Software and published by Namco Bandai, Dark Souls2 is an action-role playing game that will demand the very best of its players if those individuals want to succeed.

In fact, during the E3 demo, it was quite clear, the team behind Dark Souls 2 wanted to quickly dispel any rumors that DS2 was “more accessible” (read: easier). The formula found in the previous games of this franchise of “learning through death” permeates every part of this latest iteration. Just putting hands on this game, you quickly learn there is no easy mode.

Where From Software has made the biggest leap is in their game engine. Completely built from the ground up for Dark Souls 2, this engine brings improved graphics, physics and lighting effects. These improvements were obvious in the demo as the combat looks smoother than ever before and they’ve added true dual-wielding of weapons. More than just graphics and physics, From Software has really beefed up the enemy AI in the game. Enemies will play dead in order to catch you unawares or better yet, try to figure out if you’re trying to exploit the AI. A fault the developers found players taking advantage of in the previous games, the AI is now trained to acknowledge your misdeeds and take action to correct it.

I think they’re really going for something special with Dark Souls 2. The game will now look towards your preferences and fighting style before moving you into a class rather than you having to choose a class without ever picking up the controller. From Software definitely wants to keep you on your toes. Even during the demo, our demonstrator, Matt, was surprised by an enemy and let out a surprisingly girlish “eek.” And if you can surprise the guy who’s been playing for days straight, you must be doing something right.

At the end of the demo, we were shown a boss known as the Mirror Knight. A seriously bad guy, this boss was able to hack off 50-60% of our hero’s life bar in one shot. They even informed us that other players can hop into your game during this boss fight by having their character bust through the mirror on the shield. Once again, we were reminded how brutal Dark Souls II can be when we were informed that our intrepid demonstrator, Matt, had only defeated the Mirror Knight once in his time at E3…out of 14 times.

Dark Souls 2 is set to arrive on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC in March 2014.

Dark Souls 2 Official E3 Trailer