by Samuel Curd
previewed on X360
Easier to pick up
People who are interested in From Software’s Dark Souls most likely already know what it is all about. Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to the 2010 cult classic Demon’s Souls, best known for its crushing difficulty level and extremely satisfying brains-over-brawn gameplay. Button bashers were left behind and strategically thinkers plunged onwards into certain death. Demon’s Souls was hard, there’s no two ways about it and From Software promises us that Dark Souls will be even harder.
In an interview game director Hidetaka Miyazaki has reassured players that the game will be featuring a more in-depth tutorial than Demon’s Souls in order to get new players into the game. Demon’s Souls tutorial was short, tough and famously ended with you being smashed into a crimson stain by an ogre ten minutes in. This may have turned a lot of newbies off playing but it set the tone for the rest of the game no doubt. Hopefully the difficulty curve will be smoothed out somewhat this time around. But as we have been told the game will be harder I doubt it, so don’t expect to be slaughtering bunny rabbits with axes for the first few hours of gameplay.
Harder to master
The RPG formula is improved by adding some gameplay elements you didn’t know were missing, as well as rewriting a few rulebooks. Demon’s Souls showed players that dying would have serious repercussions and should be avoided, that multiplayer in an RPG can be a big improvement and that making a game tough as nails would increase the player’s sense of accomplishment tenfold. Dark Souls introduces us to some fantastic new gameplay elements such as a new weapon system, where every weapon you wield will be significantly different from another, even within the same class. You’ll think twice about trading in your pike for a +1 pike as it might be lighter and easier to swing. This kind of thinking increases a player’s bond with his/her weapon and encourage them to use it better rather than get rid of it each time one with better stats turns up. The only way I can think to improve this is the ability to name your weapon, I’d love to finish the game with a wooden sword called “Gary the wonder sabre”.
Also featuring is From Software’s unique approach to multiplayer. In Demon’s Souls players could leave messages to one another within the game world warning of traps etc. Players also had the ability to join one another’s game to lend a hand or invade another player’s game to slaughter them mercilessly. Miyazaki promises a more in-depth cooperative experience and the inclusion of more competitive modes. On a related note, players can find campfires dotted around the game world, acting as safe zones for players to spawn and gather to share their experiences. Details are thin but I’m expecting players will be able to recommend strategies to one another about the upcoming dungeon. These pseudo-online features will no doubt help players gain access to help should they need it, but won’t be thrust upon them should they want to go into danger solo.
Light versus Dark
Characters huddled around campfires and lighting their way in dungeons with torches, give the impression that there is a whole dichotomy dedicated to light and dark. As the sun sets the monsters appear, ready to rip apart any hapless soul stupid enough to wander outside after nightfall. Players will have more incentive to stay around campfires for safety and keep their wits about them in shadowy areas.
Monster design looks fantastic, and I’m not just saying that. Shown are humongous beasts and grotesque monstrosities that the player can climb onto and dispatch in various interesting ways. Players will no doubt have to employ different tactics when taking down lumbering ogres and human sized demons and undead soldiers. This ensures gameplay varies and may even add extra incentive to try the cooperative modes should one enemy prove too tough for just one adventurer.
First impressions of the game shows that Dark Souls is everything its predecessor was and more. Its unique dark aesthetic is beautifully brought to life so players will be able to see every bead of sweat running down their hero’s neck and each glistening fang of a ten foot tall sewer rat. Epic orchestral pieces with Gothic choirs will grace the soundtrack, and there will be plenty of humongous Monster Hunter sized enemies to battle. It all adds to one jaw dropping fantasy experience that will hopefully be as memorable as it is challenging.
Expect Dark Souls in the fourth quarter of this year.