Dark Souls II
Dark Souls. The name alone is enough to send some into a horrific Vietnam style flashback reel, and not without reason. Dark Souls (and its spiritual predecessor for that matter) are incredibly notorious for their punishing difficulty, harkening back to some of the more old school RPGs of decades past. Demon’s Souls, the original title of the Souls series, was primarily cult driven. It was Dark Souls that was the defining moment for the series. This may boil down to the fact that Dark Souls ended up as a multi-platform game, whereas Demon’s Souls found itself restricted to the PS3. Veterans of the series have been rejoicing these past few months upon hearing of Dark Souls II. That’s right. Namco Bandai is giving this bad boy a sequel.
Of course, when a game is slated for release in March 2014 it leaves you enough time to debate possibilities. But debate in excess can lead to panic. Panic made no less prevalent when you hear the new directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura talking of making the game “more accessible” and “more understandable”. This came as a shock to most of the fans, as its predecessor left the task of unravelling the world in the hands of the player who would have to eke out details from item descriptions and cryptic dialogue with less than trustworthy characters. The directors have since apologised for the casual use of ‘accessible’ and went on to say that the implementation of accessibility in no way makes the game any less challenging. The issue with Dark Souls and (to some extent) Demon’s souls is that many of the core mechanics of the game baffled first time players. For example, the covenant system of Dark Souls (basically a PvP mechanic) was something the player had to accidentally stumble across in order to access, some needing pre-requisites such as items or stats. The game made no attempt to point out to the player how the system worked or how to even access it. This is something the directors want make significant alterations to.
We have already seen some footage from the trailer at E3 2013 and more recently in the beta. It looks absolutely stunning. We get more fluid animations, breath-taking lighting and (surprisingly) decent physics in addition to the iconic grimy and bleak environments of the series. The art style doesn’t look to disappoint either. The beta has revealed enemies such as hulking, sickle wielding brutes and dark, sinister skeleton lords. There have even been some enemies that make a return from previous games. Namely: Bonewheels. You heard it. Frustration incarnate is coming home. The system of ‘Humanity’ has been altered. Instead of unintentionally rewarding players for being undead and avoiding online conflicts, those who die will not become undead but will lose a segment of their total health upon respawning and remain under threat of online invasions. Total health will decline every time you are killed until you have only 50 percent remaining. This can be restored by consuming a ‘human effigy’ which replaces Dark Soul’s ‘humanity’ item.
As was previously mentioned, the covenant system returns. All players can aid others in the form of ‘white phantoms’ to give hosts that extra bit of help when progressing through an area. But this time there is a catch. Phantoms only have a limited time in the host’s world. With every enemy killed, the timer jumps down by a number of seconds. This removes the possibility of phantoms babying players through entire areas as with Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls. There have been 3 covenants revealed so far. One covenant that sends players into other player’s worlds as a black phantom, tasked with slaying the host. Another covenant sends players to the worlds of those who are at the mercy of black phantoms, tasked with defending the host and defeating the black phantom before returning to their world. The final covenant can be joined in order to receive the help of blue phantoms. With dedicated servers, we can expect to see the same high octane PvP action that has dominated the community of Dark Souls.
Not much information about the plot has been revealed. The story will allegedly follow the player who is attempting to find a cure for their curse. Presumably this curse is the curse of the undead which plays a very important part in Dark Souls. Whether or not Dark Souls II is a prequel or a direct sequel remains a mystery for now. We can only hope that the story remains cryptic, something which has greatly pleased veteran players due to the lack of hand holding and the added replay value. Dark Souls has dealt with the idea of parallel worlds and time travel as a way of explaining the PvP system. It’s entirely possible that Dark Souls II may be both a sequel AND a prequel. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Dark Souls II seems to be shaping up nicely. The fears of it being made more casual have been put to rest, leaving only fears of the despair that made Dark Souls the monster it is today. ‘Prepare to Die’ was the lesson Dark Souls taught us, and no doubt we will have need of it again. But this time it will not be enough. Now we must go even further. It’s time to ‘Go Beyond Death’.
Written by Elliott Buddo