After giving my full impressions for what I've played of Dark Souls II, I decided to break out the two boss encounters into their own article for two reasons: to go a little more in-depth on the game's combat, and to refrain from spoiling them entirely for those of you who are going dark.
[The Dark Souls II beta is currently under NDA, but Destructoid has been granted permission to publish impressions. All impressions must have the expressed written consent of a Namco Bandai representative.]
First up is "Skeleton Lord," which is actually a group of skeletons rather than a collective "Lord," but I digress! This is one of the most straightforward fights I've ever played in a Souls game, as it starts immediately after walking in with no cutscene or dramatic reveal in tow. Three skeleton mages were immediately staring me in the face, and with little hesitation I ran up to them and started hacking away, revealing more and more enemies rising from the floor.
Skeletons range from spellcasters, to melee swordsman, to the creepy wheelmen from the original Dark Souls dashing around the room at breakneck speeds. But in the end, all of these enemies are pretty straightforward and easy to dispatch, and as long as you keep moving around to avoid getting cornered or stun-locked, it's easy to whittle their numbers down. There is a small amount of strategy involved in terms of killing the initial mages, as killing each one spawns three new skeletons in their place, but it wasn't anything essential to victory.
The fight isn't anything flashy -- the "Skeleton Lord" lifebar is all shared by the collective army, and rolling generally avoids every attack they can throw at you. So long as you're keeping your eyes focused on the entire battlefield to dodge errant arrows, wheels, and spells, you shouldn't have much trouble with them. Even so, it was fast, fun, and a unique take on a boss fight, especially since the Souls series doesn't have many horde-like encounters.
In short, it breaks up the pace of fighting "giant formidable enemies" over and over.
The second encounter featured in the beta is the "Executioner's Chariot," which is a really fun fight, especially when you consider the first phase, which is more of a puzzle than a direct confrontation. Immediately upon entering the room, the Chariot revs up, and starts heading towards you in a circular indoor room.
This forces you to run in a clockwise pattern, and immediately I attempted to find a hole in the wall to avoid it, but the Chariot crashed into me, killing me instantly. I started laughing out loud at the absurdity of the fight, and quickly made my way back to the arena to take it on again. This time, I slowly made my way through the tunnel nook by nook, completely unaware of what my end goal was (my assumption was that I would be able to just escape the area).
Then I noticed the skeletons and mages. They're small additions to the fight at first glance, but when they're chipping away at you in each nook or stopping you from progressing, they can be a huge pain. Even still, I endured with healing items, and found my way through to the end of the line, pulling a switch that caused a gate to come crashing down, which the Chariot smashed into.
From there, phase two of the fight began, with the Chariot trotting towards me at a slower pace, using attacks like stomps, bucks, and charges. This part is fairly simple -- at least, it would be without all of the mages and skeletons constantly spawning and interrupting the fight, leading me into the Chariot's attacks. So I decided to start thinning them out, leading the Chariot further down the hallway if new ones spawned, which made for an easier encounter.
At the end of the day it wasn't a hard fight once you learned the "trick" (like the Dragon God from Demon's Souls), but it was still really enjoyable, and definitely unique. Aesthetically the fight reminded me of the chariot boss from Devil May Cry 3, which is a great thing.
All in all I was pretty impressed with the two fights, even if they were fairly simple to conquer. While I am a bit surprised that I didn't have much trouble besting them, as long as the game has fights as fun as these I'll be satisfied. Also, there's a distinct possibility that subsequent New Game+ runs should make these encounters even more taxing, so I haven't given up hope yet on a difficult Dark Souls II.