Dark Souls Impressions

We're promised an "even more difficult" follow-up to Demon's Souls in the shape of this spiritual successor.

Our latest look at Dark Souls in action takes us to Sen's Fortress: a gloomy, medieval-style fort on a colossal scale. One step past the portcullis, the knight hero is struck with arrows from a trap on a far wall. Two steps in, and a huge snake-headed warrior, with intimidating reach and speed, looms into view to skewer the knight with a huge curved sword. And just around the corner is a narrow walkway obstructed by swinging blade pendulums, with a spellcasting snakehead posted on the far side, poised to blast the beleaguered knight into the as-good-as-bottomless pit below.

Castle crashing.

So there's no dialling down the difficulty in this "spiritual successor" to the critically lauded (and hard as nails) fantasy action RPG Demon's Souls. Far from easing off of players with a less gruelling follow-up, the development team, still headed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, is ready to punish them more than ever. Accessibility is not the team's watchword. "This game is going to be even more difficult," says producer Kei Hirono cheerfully, watching his colleague creep the knight protagonist cautiously deeper into the fortress.

There's no surer sign of a tricky game than when a demonstrator, having played through a demo countless times, still inches slowly and warily through the level. Slowly, that is, until walking into a new chain of traps and baddies, where enemies, arrows, pitfalls, pendulums, and rolling boulders overlap in deadly, unremitting sequence. "There's nowhere to rest," says Hirono-san, as the knight flees from a boulder like an armoured Indiana Jones, just nipping out of its downhill path as a pursuing snakey foe gets crushed. (Some baddies are dispatched with sword and shield, and others with a fireball spell, but they are thankfully also susceptible to the traps spread so generously throughout the stronghold.)

In another nail-biting sequence, the knight hero goes to open a treasure chest--these confer goodies and appear throughout the level--only to have it sprout teeth and a grotesque tongue and set about chomping him in half. As he dashes for a fast-moving elevator platform to escape, the thing grows immensely long legs and arms and gives chase; it's an absurd, nightmarish moment, and the presumable relief of escape breaks the demonstrator's concentration enough to have him stand on the elevator a moment too long. There are long, cruel spikes at the top of the elevator shaft, waiting to drain his health bar, and they do just that; Hirono-san points out the bloodstains covering the platform floor--a sign of similar failures on previous trips through the level.

Ascending the fortress, the knight reaches a vast chamber filled with turning cogs and a mechanism firing boulders like a pinball machine plunger: the source of the endless boulders bowling around the fortress. Turning a control wheel in the centre of the room redirects the mechanism, sending the rolling rocks off elsewhere and opening up new pathways for exploration. As in Demon's Souls, exploring the large, dangerous environments is key.

Near the very top of the fort and back out in the open, the knight contends with an ogre pelting him with firebombs as he climbs the final steps, dodging the bombardment one moment and fending off a regenerating skull knight the next. There's barely time to appreciate the view: an epic panorama of the fortress complex below and, on the other side, a huge castle atop a nearby cliff. ("You can go everywhere you see," says Hirono-san.)

Finally, the knight comes face-to-foot with a greyish giant of a boss: an "iron golem," whose terrifyingly fast sweeping axe dashes expectations of a giant enemy with a slow, heavy attack. The knight, whose gear and abilities are maxed out for the purposes of the demo, makes a valiant attempt but is smacked down in moments, sent flying all the way from the top of the fortress back to where he started (and from where he may begin again, with teeth gritted).

My, you're a tall one.

The boss, says the producer, is maybe "one you can't beat alone," hinting at cooperative play beyond that of Demon's Souls' online network features, in which you could leave messages in others' gameworlds. The message-sharing online system, at least, will return in Dark Souls, though Hirono-san had nothing more to say on real co-op play just yet. We'll be waiting impatiently for more on the game at the 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

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Discussion

332 comments
GymFox
GymFox

Demon Soul's is simply one of the best PS3 games out there, and the matter-of-fact difficulty made it a completely worthy and satisfying experience. I can't wait for the next installment.... Be Wary of the Enemies Ambush

Agent-M
Agent-M

No news on the storyline of the game being reported or asked in any of the interviews, makes me feel nervous.

Noctisversus
Noctisversus

I am in trouble... Please recommend this message...

aermeus
aermeus

First one was awesome...so adding a bigger world with more story could make this one of the best RPGs ever...would like to see some type of crafting system as well.

Skirikidik
Skirikidik

I didn't find the first game hard so much as punishing. So long as you explored, figured out how to get the good items and didn't rush into things unprepared the game wasn't THAT bad. This game sounds like it's shaping up to be "hard as nails" though. I hope they add crafting or more customization, basically something to do other than getting beaten down (which sounds like that's how this one will be, a big smack down). Also, more NPC's would be cool, although the lack of them (by rpg standards) made sense within the story of the first one.

Skirikidik
Skirikidik

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Dragonballz290
Dragonballz290

This looks so awesome. I don't want this, I need it! =D

Oxy80
Oxy80

This looks really good, great graphics and gameplay looks decent so far, wanna see how it actually plays. But im def. not going to buy this, i wont even think about it even if it was 30 bucks. games that are purposley difficult and require you to do a level over n over n over just to get to the end and get ur butt whopped by a ridiculous boss n then maybe do the whole level again or go back to a checkpoint that was far away is not my type of game lol. I wish i could play this but ill end up breaking my controller, and i wont even be able to beat a level. I had a huge huge difficult time trying to beat Ninja Gaiden 2, i couldnt even get past 5th level on normal. so FORGET THIS!! lol, game is going to be amazing though but its meant for those who have patience and are able to play these games without giving up.

Thehobb
Thehobb

wow, this is supposed to be even more difficult than Demon Soul, and here i was thinking that it couldn't get any worse. love Demon soul, now i'm getting DARK SOULS!!!! :D

Laxer04
Laxer04

first.day.purchase. demons souls is my favorite game this gen, so i am completely stoked for this game!

B-Greezy
B-Greezy

I hope the flawless Royalty class returns in this one. Or maybe they realized it was a bit overpowered and removed it from Dark Souls? Either way, we'll find a way to make another powerhouse SpellSword.

KAM10000
KAM10000

Game Looks Nice. Nice Graphics & Hope that its Combat will be Good.

Buka_Pintu
Buka_Pintu

soon i will invade your world..the only you can do is pray to get better bigger place to hide..

apolloooo
apolloooo

don't play demon's sould because i have no ps3, but i'm still looking forward to this!!

IvanKavinski
IvanKavinski

Demon;s Souls was so awesome... It's so rare to actually be afraid to die in games. Feels so rewarding to conquer a level after getting slain so many times. Can't wait for this one.

elroy
elroy

This game is a mean jerk.

pappino360
pappino360

demon souls was to hard for me, it just got me frustrated. even harded would just piss me off

EdibleFood
EdibleFood

@sleepnsurf one of our many preciouses.

StillFreeTagger
StillFreeTagger

Demon's Souls was awesome...and I still haven't beaten it! Lol

Steel_Rain777
Steel_Rain777

Loved Demon's Souls and I can't wait this to come out. May have to get it on the 360 only due to the fact I have more friend on there to tackle the game cooperatively. I'm glad it's on both systems regardless, now more people get to enjoy the game and see why Demon's Souls has a cult following

theshonen8899
theshonen8899

@sleepnsurf: Oh hey, a consoledouche! Glad to see a templar fighting for a righteous cause, because what better way to spend your time than to argue about...video games.

sleepnsurf
sleepnsurf

Your precious is coming to my console. Hahahahahahahahahahhah

hochstreck
hochstreck

Finally a game which takes the right direction. Go away all you numb wannabe-heroes, which seem to care more about feeling great, than actually doing great!

sleepnsurf
sleepnsurf

@Misfitgraves18 Younger audience? Hmmm? Fact? Hmmmm... how do you figure?

Infinity_Gauntl
Infinity_Gauntl

I just hope that they get rid of the whole "World Tendencies" part of demon souls. That was a pain. ---Also a slight word of advice for future demon souls players- DON'T kill the merchant at the begining of the game they dont respawn!!!!

caccyducky
caccyducky

can't wait, they can take my money now dont care when game comes out...

Dark_December
Dark_December

Liking that kind of difficulty in a game is mostly generational. I'm almost 30 and can remember playing many games I could not finish when I was younger... Completing a game isn't why I play it, guess I'm saying it is not the destination, but the way you get there. Game design nowadays is mostly dumbed down for the masses.

Pumpkinhead3
Pumpkinhead3

Being brutally hard is a turn off for me. I don't understand making a game difficult intentionally. If it's too easy for someone, they can always change the difficulty.

Misfitgraves18
Misfitgraves18

I have a feeling 360 gamers won't really appreciate this. Most of them don't even care about Japanese RPG's. (hence Lost Odyssey). Also the fact that most of them are a younger audience and would probably get frustrated with this type of game very quickly.

EdibleFood
EdibleFood

On amazon dark souls for the ps3 is already in 18th place for top selling games. The 360 version isn't in the top 100. ugg

edurod1987
edurod1987

This is going to be a sweet punishment. haha

preacha91908
preacha91908

man i refuse to play a game thats so hard its frustrating..i play games to unwind not get pissed off

NexusSpawn
NexusSpawn

My heart starts racing from just reading about the overkill we are soon to play

sieg6529
sieg6529

This game is going to cause many a thrown controller. But I will love it, because it hurts so good.

Darth_Pietrus
Darth_Pietrus

@TheHappyCamper well i found demons souls not very hard at all but very cheap, u have to start the whole lvl over again if u die...

Samox
Samox

@slvrraven9 yes.

Black_Adder_
Black_Adder_

This is day one buy for me. I'm still trying to get Demon's Souls chinese version to get another platinum trophy and to know that there will be something even more awesome in the october... I love From software.

slvrraven9
slvrraven9

dark souls is on ps3 and 360 right!?

jailless
jailless

Only flaw of demon souls was the difficulty and this one will be even harder eh?No dark souls for me.

Keeper_Artemus
Keeper_Artemus

harder, eh? Like, if you die in the game you surrender your real soul and have to wait 1000 years to be reincarnated and try the game again? cuz that's what I'd do if I was them.

gashoe13
gashoe13

This looks literally insane. However, I think I'd love it. I've always wanted a more realistic take on a sort of game like this, where instead of running through a trap filled level arcade style, getting filled with arrows and stabbed with swords left and right, you actually have to be cautious and be careful to avoid every trap. The perfect mix of skill, brains and brawn.

turok0
turok0

looks epic. DS is the 2nd best game of all time in my book

simon1812
simon1812

I just hope for a better co-op system, something more solid and reliable, enable second controller maybe? or a system not unlike resident evil 5, you were always assured help with that system. the game is good and all but fighting alone got depressing sometimes.

Hladilnik
Hladilnik

Demon's souls was hard only at my first playtrough, then it became awesome.

Jdez15
Jdez15

:O this game is going to be even harder?!

kiopta1
kiopta1

I am not sure about how they are making this tougher than demon's souls. It was tough in souls 1 for 3 main reasons: 1. Bosses (very satisfying to kill) even small enemies and your environment required thought to kill/navigate not just charge and swing your weapon. 2. If you die you start over... weaker and without your collected souls (although your first step is to get that back). 3. Jerks can enter your world as red phantoms and ruin your day...nothing is as exhilarating as getting that "invaded" message and and doing battle with another...I had some epic battles in the first few sections of the castle's staircases leading to the throne room. That said if the only way they make it tougher is to make certain sections impossible to beat alone or have ridiculous traps then I am not sure if this is crossing the line from challenging to obnoxiously annoying....the later may keep me from enjoying it like I did Demon's Souls.

ironmonk36
ironmonk36

This will be the 2nd best RPG this year. Let's be honest, nothing can touch Skyrim.