I’m sure by now everyone has heard about Dark Souls II, and I’m also sure everyone has already done a fair bit of speculating on what the new addition to the Souls series will hold for all of us die-hard fans. I’m here to share my own opinions on what we may be able to look forward to and what we may not be looking forward to. Firstly, I’d like to preface that all of this is just my own speculation and is likely to change as more and more information about the game is released.
Anyway, let’s start with what we already know about Souls games. After making Demon’s Souls, From Software started work on their next instalment and looked to release on more platforms than just the PlayStation 3, but Sony wouldn’t let them make a direct sequel and have it be a multiplatform title. From Software went ahead and made Dark Souls as a “spiritual successor” to Demon’s Souls. Of course there are plenty of similarities between both games: the combat, leveling up and purchasing items with souls, the general layout of game progression with fog gates and boss fights; it’s pretty much just a new story and world. Yet, even there we have some subtle links such as Patches appearing in both games, and the 6th Arch stone in Demon’s Souls linking to the “Land of Giants” which I like to think gave some inspiration to the setting in Dark Souls, but that’s just my own thoughts on the matter. So now let’s move on to where that takes us with Dark Souls II.
Most of us were expecting the next game to also have a new name like the change from Demon’s to Dark, but given the fact that had From Software not released Dark Souls as a multiplatform title, chances are it would’ve been titled Demon’s Souls II and we’d now be looking at a Demons Souls III. They had done this in the past with the King’s Field games and Armored Core as well. So the fact that the new sequel is titled Dark Souls II even though it may not closely follow the story in Dark Souls (or be related at all) isn’t that crazy. On the other hand, this may be attributed to the current game industry’s fear of releasing new IPs under new titles. It’s never helpful to a game studio to release a new game and then have no one buy it due to unfamiliarity or not even knowing what it is. It’s just generally safer to make sequels to existing game series even if they take a noticeably different route with them. I’d like to hope that isn’t the case with Dark Souls II, but from what we’ve heard from the new Director–and the fact that there is a new Director–we’ll have to keep that fact in mind; for now, we won’t be able to really tell about that. With that out of the way, let’s move on to what we can hope to see in the new title gameplay/story wise.
Recently an interview was released with one of the new Directors, Tomohiro Shibuya (Yui Tanimura being the second new Director), and we got our first taste of where Dark Souls II will be taking us. The Director made some frightening claims such as making the game more “accessible”, having the story be more straightforward and direct, and making the title more action packed. From the get-go those sorts of things sound like a very big danger for the Souls series, but not all of it has to be bad. Demon’s and Dark Souls alike are both known for their incredible difficulty and that’s typically one of the reasons why people find the games to be so great and entertaining, but they also happen to have some downfalls that work to drive away new players. Things like the Poise system, or how important blocking is, and what to look for in new equipment, or how Sorcery and Miracles work. The games don’t do that good of a job of explaining these to players, and while it is pretty easy to just mess around in the game testing different things out, reading stat descriptions, or even just looking up a detailed explanation on the internet, a lot of people will just dismiss it as poor game design and get frustrated. The addition of a more detailed tutorial may be a bonus to the new game as long as it isn’t weighed down with scripted scenarios keeping veteran players down, of course there was mention of keeping the player’s options limited at the start of the game which is something to look out for.
Making the story more straightforward is a little harder to look on the bright side of. Discovering things like Petrus’ betrayal, the Darkwraith covenant, Ash Lake, or just having to speculate as you piece different item descriptions with item placements together to try and uncover parts of the story are some of the most enjoyable experiences when you’ve already beaten the game. Players can play multiple times and still notice new plot details. Having details like those openly presented to you on your first play through really cheapens the experience and doesn’t help to encourage exploration or discussion within the community. As for the new action, I’m just hoping they’ll keep it tasteful to the Souls series.
I’d like to try and not draw too much speculation from the trailer that was released. It was entirely pre-rendered, with no game play featured and was potentially just done to generate hype for the announcement. Whether or not anything we saw in it will feature in the actual game is still up for grabs. So any claims about how we’ll be locked into playing a single character or how we’ll have a love interest isn’t for sure. I’d like to believe that From Software takes note of how grand of a formula they’ve made for making role-playing games and will stick to it. Something like the “morality system” that was mentioned could just as well be similar to the World Tendency system from Demon’s Souls as that was vaguely linked to how you interacted with non-player characters. As long as they leave us with the ability to create our own character and going around killing any NPCs we like, I know I’ll be pleased.
All in all, at the current time there isn’t much we can really tell about what Dark Souls II has in store for us. Plenty of iffy points were brought up, but until a more detailed trailer or more information is released from From Software there’s no reason to get incredibly worried. I for one will be keeping my hopes up that they still manage to make an exciting game at least on par with the previous titles.