Dark Souls

[Ignite 2011] Exploring the Dark

Dark Souls has finally been revealed. We detail every awe-inspiring moment from this week's live demonstration.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 4, 2011
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This may come as a shock to some of you reading this, but we love Demon's Souls. No, really, we love that game. So it should come as no surprise that the whole office let out a collective squeal of glee when the first details of the follow-up were revealed in Famitsu just a few days ago. Now dubbed Dark Souls (nee Project Dark) the dark fantasy epic looked to deliver everything we were looking for in a proper sequel to Demon's Souls.


Except this isn't a sequel. It's a spiritual successor. All that really means is nearly every gameplay mechanic that made one of the best games of 2009 so damned amazing is returning (save for the World Tendency stuff that would shift things lighter or darker depending on your performance in a particular level). Excited yet? You should be, because if you read our original news story (and if you haven't, go! Read!), you'd know that means the online components are returning, but with them comes an entirely new approach to the world, story and characters -- even if the games do share Souls as part of their name.

In truth, this isn't exactly a new world. In much the same way Japanese developers looked inward and culled the same kind of dark, foreboding atmosphere of their ploddingly slow King's Field series of first-person dungeon exploration games to build up Demon's Souls' look and feel, Dark Souls is once again tapping heavily into a kind of oppressive, bleak brand of fantasy.

That's in stark contrast to some of the stuff even Western RPG developers have been doing, instead choosing to populate their grassy plains and rolling hills with middleware-driven shrubbery and trees. Instead, From is seeking to play around with the idea of height more than just expansive views (though those are absolutely part and parcel with Dark Souls' presentation of the world. Case in point: the early parts of the live demonstration we witnessed owed more to the underbelly of the Minas Tirith mines from The Fellowship of the Ring than they did some sunny glade. An intricate series of crumbling stone walkways criss-crossed the view of the heavily-equipped knight and served as a easily identifiable landmark with which to head toward.

When we say "heavily-equipped," we mean it; the demonstration was starting at the very same place all of us will once we've created a character and finished the tutorial level -- a kind of overgrown collection of staircases poking out from thatches of dying vegetation -- but the knight itself was decked out in weapons and armor that would take hours to collect for most new games. He was so garbed because From Software is all too happy to point out that Dark Souls will be hard. Not just Demon's Souls-level hard, but hard enough that the team (made up of the same folks that created the last game and helmed by the same director/producer) hopes players will actually come to laugh at just how often the player will die.
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