GameSpot's 2009 Game of the Year winner Demon's Souls has a spiritual successor on the way, recently revealed as Dark Souls (originally under the codename Project Dark). The game is being published by Namco Bandai, and publisher/developer From Software showed off multiple areas during Namco's Ignite press event in San Francisco. Demon's Souls producer Takeshi Kajii returns, as well as the team behind the first brutal adventure.
Before getting into the demo, Kajii wanted to make sure that everyone understood that this is another third-person action role-playing game that's very much about strategic, tactical swordplay. He also made sure that we were all aware that, like its challenging predecessor, Dark Souls was going to be difficult. Death will come, and it will come often. So much in fact, that Kajii hopes players will find it funny. As in the first game, you will play as a customizable hero, but for the sake of a smoother-flowing demo, the knight was fully equipped, and all the HUD elements were turned off. After the initial tutorial, you'll find yourself in the middle of some old ruins, overrun with foliage and dilapidated stone structures. This is where you'll apparently be able to travel to different areas of the game, but in the demo we ventured up some steps off to the side to try to sneak past a slumbering dragon that's perched on a stone overpass. Undead warriors greeted the knight as he made his way up the steps, and Kajii pointed out that you'll need to be much more aware of your surroundings this time around, because you'll find that enemies will come after you from all directions.
Arrows and Molotov cocktails are just some of the things being tossed your way as you try to fend off enemies right in front of you. The dragon, which remained sound asleep, will wake up if you make too much noise, and if you want to snag the treasure right next to it, you're going to have to be very quiet about it. In this part of the demo, the goal was to reach the castle grounds, and we watched as the knight moved through narrow corridors and walkways and climbed battlements. A boss waited for us at the end of this area, a big brute with horns and an enormous club. It was slow, but there were archers on the parapet that made it difficult to focus. We watched as the knight climbed up the ladder and took out the archers and eventually returned to the top and jumped off onto the head of the beast for some extra bloody damage. Kajii explained that Dark Souls lets you play how you want to play, by giving you the option to use a variety of weapons that will all perform differently. It all depends on your play style and what you feel comfortable with. You can duel-wield different weapon types if you prefer, and there are more than 100 types in the game.
Like in Demon's Souls, the world is vast and created with great detail for you to explore. Everything that you see on the horizon can be reached in some way, so it's on you to tread carefully through the world. The atmosphere and lighting that made Demon's Souls stand out were also present here and equally impressive, from what we've seen of the various areas. After the boss, we moved to a misty dark forest area with moss-covered trees. Here we saw another example of the type of character you can play as. Kajii called him an onion knight, because he was a short, rotund fellow who even rolls clumsily when he does his dodge roll. In the next area we got a brief glimpse of what was described as an "underground hell," sparsely decorated with decaying trees, temples, and lava flowing all around.
The final area that we visited also happens to be the developer's favorite, and we can see why. It's nicknamed "Trap Road," and the entire dungeon is packed with booby traps and other fun ways to die. Deadly arrows will shoot out of nowhere, and the path is narrow, and the only way to get past is to weave through a row of swinging pendulum blades. Spells will once again be available to you, including one that coats you in solid iron to protect you from damage. You can't roll with this spell, however, but you'll be well protected against attacks. Another feature we saw is your ability to turn into a vase and tuck yourself among other vases to hide from other players. Like before, all the online integrated features will be included, so players can once again play together or against one another.
For those who can't wait to get their hands on another intense and unforgiving experience, Dark Souls will be released worldwide on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 by holiday 2011. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates.