If the opening half-hour is any indication, the Lost Crowns DLC takes what you learned in Dark Souls 2 and throws it back at you with a slight curveball spin. I'm loathe to spoil much - half the fun of a Souls game is discovering it for yourself - so I'll keep things brief.

The E3 demo started me in Shulva, an underground, barren burgh seemingly just a bridge-suspended-over-an-abyss away from the dwarven mines of Moria. I had little time to appreciate the architecture because within seconds of descending the first rocky staircase I'd woken up a slumbering skeletal knight. He as a sole enemy wasn't tough to outflank and backstab. Of course, it's never that simple with Dark Souls 2.

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Dark Souls 2 (Crown of the Sunken King E3)

The next group of enemies, four archers, were placed in two devilish banks across narrow platforms overlooking the below. As soon as I approached engaging distance with the first pair, the second bank started firing at me, forcing me into a swift retreat. That set the tone for the next 25 minutes.

Exacerbating the lack of space were those curveball elements I mentioned. After navigating another set of perilous walkways, I stumbled upon a clump of the green poison-spitting statues. After running past it and avoiding its green toxic spitballs, I turned to the rep on hand and said, "They just chuck poison at me, right?"

"Yes," he replied, "Except it's different when you attack it."

Like a death-defying cat, I went back and satiated my curiosity by swiping my longsword at the clump. I won't reveal why this was a mistake, but I will say my next decision was to run.

There were a few moments like that in this opening area, like the undead soldier whose charge at me seemed to propel him yards across the ground, or the belching red flies that camouflaged among poisonous sacs. Nothing really struck as notably fresh or particularly unnerving in my brief time with the demo, but considering at this point I've put something like 100 hours into Dark Souls 2, it still managed to keep me on my toes.

As someone who liked Dark Souls 2 but felt it didn't provide the same punishing journey the first two Souls games provided, I hope the DLC not only provides "more challenges" as promised by Bandai Namco, but also more challenge. Either way, I'll be there when the first chapter, "Crown of the Sunken King," hits PC and Xbox on July 22 and PS3 on July 23.
[Image: Bandai Namco]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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