Why Dark Souls II Won't Sell Its Soul

With the VGA 2012 surprise announcement of Dark Souls II, From Software directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura, may have pushed a few buttons amongst the hardcore lot of DS fans around the world. Their minds certainly blown from the unexpected reveal, it wasn't long before Dark Souls' enthusiasts began picking apart the trailer…and some did not like what they saw. "There's characterization!", they cried. "You can see their faces! And what's with the knight engaging is some sort of overt narrative that caped lady?" For many, the sequel's unveiling did not capture the spirit of Dark Souls, well at least up until the part where the knight was struck by about a million arrows. For all intents and purposes, Dark Souls is supposed to be about a bunch of faceless dudes surviving a demon-plagued kingdom. So I ask, oh mighty From Software, developer of the punishing yet rewarding Soul's franchise, is the series going casual, maybe even generic?

Following the trailer came phrases like "to attract newcomers" and “Dark Souls II will be more straightforward and understandable.” It's at this point where the paranoid, those that are most protective of this holy grail of old-school, gameplay-centered IP, begin to freak-out.  And as a fan of the series, I'm sort of inclined to agree…with the freak-outs. After all, what drew me to the series is how it wasn't really made for the casual gamer. I liked the fact that the lore — or lack there of — was a completely mystery, and was mostly buried in the world for the player to discover.  And honestly I don't need the game's mechanics thoroughly explained to me, and I don't want to know where I'm supposed to go next.  I mean, look at Ninja Gaiden 3 for example. It got a fresh set of directors that promised a fleshed out story and would be fun for newcomers, and ultimately turned out awful. But just to play Devil's Advocate for a second, I really do see where DS2's directors are going with their approach.

The thought of players being able to put down messages to guide others is pretty awesome. And it's interesting/ungodly how the only way to pass the first Seath fight is to die a horrible death. But a little guidance wouldn't hurt the Metroid-vania mentality of “where do I go now?” that Dark Souls has got going on. And there is just so much to be had in terms of gameplay, that it would take a time consuming wiki-thon to learn every little detail – not to mention the bits on humanity, covenants, etc. Without even the slightest bit of hand-holding players may have — Gwyn forbid –put points into Resistance, arguably the most useless stat in any game, ever. It doesn't mean however that the sequel can't very well be harder, just not in an impossible, you're-on-your-own kind of way. The arrow-assault the knight faces at the end of the trailer is a stark reminder that death is inevitable in Dark Souls, and chances are it's going to be a brutal one.

Lore was a huge part of Dark Souls, and the sense of mystery and subtle storytelling are its identity. There are a bunch of discussions about who's who and what exactly happened in Anor Londo before your undead avatar came to be — or back into being, or something like that — and started dying everywhere all over again. Now that it seems that there's going to be vehicles such as boats and chariots, it only means greater exploration of a brave new world. I know, it isn't quite the land of Anor Londo, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Many believe that the new directors' involvement in the Monster Hunter series instantly means more action, less substance for DS2. And if true, it won't be a giant hit to Dark Souls—the game pretty much owes its longevity to PVP. PVP was supposed to be a fun little mechanic to make game challenging for others, but when players started talking hit boxes and frame counts, a new society of  Dark Souls' lovers was born. From Software even accommodated this bunch of players with PVP arenas in the recently released Dark Souls DLC, Artorias of the Abyss. And with Dark Souls II comes dedicated servers, which should hush the “OMG, LAGSTAB!!” crowd. Dedicated servers aren't cheap mind you, and their return to the Souls universe is going to be a costly addition to maintain. And it wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for series creator Hidetaka Miyazaki.

While not directing the sequel Miyazaki is going to take a supervisor role to help oversee its development. He's insisted that the sequel will maintain its core experience, such as the difficulty. So Dark Souls II isn't necessarily going from sitting forlorn by the bonfire to frantically trying to cook meat over it while a dragon breathes down your neck.

Fans of Demon's Souls have done this dance before. When Dark Souls was first announced many thought it would be a watered-down version of its tough-as-nails predecessor. And while the debate on whether one is more difficult than the other goes strong even today, either of the games was in no way substantially easier than the other. But more importantly, Dark Souls felt like a true spiritual successor to Demon's Souls.  And with a much bigger development team, a projected 2014 release, and "hyper realistic" graphics that will no doubt wow each and every one of us, Dark Souls II has ample time to and man-power to fans fear to rest.

Written by Associate Staff Writer Bryan Le.  Questions for the author? Send an email to bduyle@gmail.com

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