Dark Souls II retains similar mechanics from its predecessors in the Souls series. Being known for its difficulty, both bosses and standard enemies have the potential to kill the player in only a few hits. Bad play is punished severely by most enemies, opportunities for recovering health are limited, and as in Demon’s Souls, each time upon death, the player’s maximum health is reduced (to a certain lower limit) until the player expends a rare item to reverse it. The game uses a form of joint currency called “souls”, which are used as both experience points for leveling up and also as currency for purchasing items from shops. Upon death, the player’s entire collection of souls are dropped; the player can recover their dropped souls by returning to the spot where they died, but if they die before picking them up, the souls are permanently lost.
Multiplayer in Dark Souls II uses the same format as its predecessors; players have the choice between co-operative play in the form of being “summoned” into another player’s game world, or player-versus-player through “invading” other worlds. Both forms of multiplayer occur pseudo-randomly, although matchmaking formulas are used to pair characters at similar levels together.
The game allows the game’s difficulty to be adjusted by mechanics built into the game. The game designers placed certain items early in the game allowing newer players higher basic damage and defense than they would normally have at that point. For more experienced players, the designers placed higher skill cap items early that do more damage if executed correctly. Other penalties, such as the health reduction on death, can be significantly reduced with certain items. This allows the player to set the game’s difficulty based on their experiences with the game, rather than through a menu option.