Action RPG Demon’s Souls was memorable for several reasons. Its dark, grungy fantasy world was brilliantly depicted. Its level design and integration with the online realm were excellent. And last, and most notably, it was brutally difficult – a point that earned a certain amount of criticism, but also an overwhelming amount of praise.
A cult hit, developer From Software will soon be back with Dark Souls, a spiritual sequel to Demon’s Souls that revisits the same murky universe and, we’re told, increases the challenge still further.
The same sword and magic attacks will make a return, as will the neat little innovations that originally appeared in Demon’s Souls. Players will again be able to leave messages to fellow adventurers on dungeon floors, and you’ll still see glimpses of other players’ deaths – of which there will be many.
From Software’s sadistic way of lacing every inch of its games with hideous traps, enemies and extremely difficult bosses is more strongly in evidence than ever. Even the game’s treasure chests are out to get you, as far as we can tell.
And yet, much like Demon’s Souls, the appeal of this new game lies at least partially in its extreme difficulty level. Each mistake teaches you a valuable lesson in how to play the game properly – a process that will possibly have some players wringing their controllers in frustration, but will prove refreshingly progressive for others.
In a console gaming climate where developers feel the need to hold a player’s hand through every step of their experience, it’s refreshing to encounter a series of games that hark back to a time before endless on-screen prompts and dumbed-down gameplay.
It’s thought that From Software is going to reveal lots more about Dark Souls at this year’s E3 expo, which will be particularly exciting for Xbox 360 owners, given that the previous Souls game was a PlayStation 3 exclusive. At last, 360 players will be able to experience the almost comical array of gory deaths the game has to offer for themselves.
New to the game will be the ability to leave items lying around for other players – an expansion of the earlier game’s online components mentioned earlier. You’ll also be able to step into another player’s game at key moments, and see exactly where they went wrong, and even lead other players safely through hazardous areas – or, if you’re feeling really uncharitable, shepherd them to an early grave.
It’s all further evidence of director Hidetaka Miyazaki’s trademark gallows humour, which delights in hiding deadly monsters round corners, or booby trapping entrances to atriums. Miyazaki’s even dubbed one stage a “trap themepark” in honour of the sheer number of bloody ways the area can kill unsuspecting players.
Dark Souls is, in short, a Zelda game reprogrammed by Takashi Miike, with extra RPG depth thrown in for good measure. That may sound like a warning to some but, for us, it’s a sky-high recommendation.
Dark Souls will be out in October for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In the meantime, here’s the latest, lengthy trailer.