There has been a lot of talk and worry about Namco Bandai/FromSoftwares Dark Souls 2. People fear that Hidetaka Miyazaki being replaced by Tomohiro Shibuya as director could change the entire tone of the game. They fear that Dark Souls 2 may lose some of its hard-core edge in order to appeal to a wider audience… Which is a fair enough concern considering a lot of franchises have been ‘tweaked’ to the point where they are far from the experiences that drew fans to them in the first place. They worry that this could also lead to the story of the game becoming more coherent, which weirdly, it shouldn’t be. They fear that the Multiplayer/co-op will be changed from the genius summoning/invading system from the first game. These are all very valid concerns and if reports from E3 are anything to go by, it seems like the game is on track to give us the sequel we’re all hoping for. However, one thing that strikes me when I think about all of these concerns, is that that the driving force behind people fearing these changes (and my own personal worries) all stem from one thing. Emotion.
Dark Souls is an incredible game that brings with it a whole range of emotion… And I’ll be honest, frustration is probably highest on this list. So, whilst everyone seems to be pointing out what they want to see in the Dark Souls 2, I going to run through a list of emotional responses (that anyone who has played Dark Souls will be very, very familiar with) that I want to feel when I play Dark Souls 2.
A false sense of security
I started Dark Souls after my friend bought it for me so I couldn’t weasel out of playing it (taking advantage of my rules about my self imposed ‘Present etiquette’ – which states that if I receive a game/DVD/CD as a gift, I will play/watch/listen to it – even if I really don’t want to). I started the game and completed the Undead Asylum thinking ‘this isn’t that hard‘. Then I made the mistake of attacking the first NPC I came across, as you do. He not only cut me down but was then waiting to cut me down after I’d re-spawned. Again and again. Unfortunately, you’ll run into this feeling later in the game too, as you emerge from an area thinking, ‘I have mastered those enemies, all shall kneel before me‘, and then promptly get stabbed in the face by an enemy who can counter your best moves and isn’t damaged as much by the weapon you’ve been using for the last 4 hours.
Dark Souls plays its cards close to its chest. I’ve completed the game and I’m still unsure about a lot of things. You are given only the vaguest sense of direction and purpose and then sent off on an adventure. Characters will appear at random, on their own quests that you might never learn about. You will be asked to join ‘Covenants’ and genuinely have no idea why you should choose one or the other. You will face enemies who have weaknesses that you might never discover… or discover by accident. It’s a refreshing (if slightly daunting) aspect of the game… but a nice antidote to the hand holding that most games do these days.
Usually the only way of figuring out if you’re on the right path is to pick a direction and see what you can find. Usually you’ll find death (horribly, a group of reforming skeletons are springing into mind right about now), so figuring out where to go next can be an exercise in trial and error. Here’s a hint, it’s usually the direction that only ends in your dying twenty times, and not fifty. In saying that, Dark Souls is one of the best designed games I’ve ever played. I would constantly find myself getting to the end of a certain section and then realising that it lead to somewhere I had been before. This would usually lead to me standing in awe for a few seconds as I marvelled at how intricately the game had been designed but was then sometimes followed by me being pretty miffed that I possibly could have avoided certain enemies and traps if I’d only paid closer attention to that small crack in the wall that I ignored earlier.