E3 2011: Dark Souls Preview Hands-On

On the E3 2011 show floor, Dark Souls reminded us that an exhausting journey begins with a single, tentative step.

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You want hard? They'll give you hard. Demon's Souls earned GameSpot's 2009 Game of the Year title for many reasons, not the least of which is that it provided a steep and fair challenge without resorting to cheapness. Every swing landed where you expected it to; the game presented you with a tough but consistent set of rules, and then never broke them. Dark Souls is a sequel to Demon's Souls in all but name, so the phrase "spiritual successor" is absolutely apt in this case. On the E3 2011 show floor, we stood in a surprisingly long line before getting our grubby mitts on this upcoming action role-playing game. And Dark Souls didn't disappoint, delivering a small and focused dose of nail-biting action that reminded us of what made Demon's Souls so special a few years back.

We know that Dark Souls will focus more on open exploration than did its predecessor, though the demo didn't let us see exactly how that new structure would function. Rather, the part we explored was within an area called Undead Parish. As you might expect, Dark Souls has a dark medieval vibe, and the world is populated by dastardly knights, screaming wyverns, and other nasties that fit well with the world's ominous undertones. Before beginning, we were faced with a number of class choices: soldier, knight, witch, Solaire of Astora, and black knight. We were told that these were not the only available classes, however. Choosing the ultra-armored Solaire, we entered the world, marveling at the decrepit walls covered with ivy, before dispatching a few hapless demons undulating nearby.

This being Dark Souls, however, the demo did not continue to be a cakewalk. The controls work exactly as Demon's Souls did: you block and attack with shoulder buttons and switch between equipment and items with the D pad. Even innocuous demons might provide a challenge. They shield themselves and lunge forward to attack, so we had to be on our toes every moment, though we still managed to die. And as before, when you die, you drop all the souls you have collected thus far. (Souls are the game currency.) To recover them, you must return to your bloodstain, and so we did, good as new. Fortunately, the online communication features that made Demon's Souls so special are returning. You will be able to activate the bloodstains of other players to see a ghostly image act out the last few seconds of their lives, and you see the transparent images of other players as they make their way through the same places. And you can also leave notes for others and read theirs. One such note gave us this helpful hint: "Can't wait for the full version!"

There are more baddies than just those lanky demons, however. One new enemy was a large beast we'll call a rhino-boar, which barreled toward us, taking off a good chunk of health if it made contact. We quickly got used to the creature's pattern and slashed it in the backside whenever we could get in proper position. One enemy that didn't go down so easily--or at all, for that matter--was a nearby wyvern. This section was reminiscent of the famous world-1 bridge, above which a fire-breathing dragon would soar and bathe the world in its flaming breath. Dark Souls' wyvern did not take to the skies, though it did use its evil halitosis to burn us to a crisp. The trick here was sprinting to safe spots at the right times and letting the dragon kill the nearby enemies for us so that we could reap their souls.

The class we played also let us conjure lightning bolts and thrust them into the demons lurking in the murky shadows, which was great fun, though like in all of Dark Soul's combat, the timing was important. We're pleased to report that like Demon's Souls, Dark Souls is tough but fair. It provided a challenge, but we felt like the tools to succeed were always under our fingertips. And if you can't do it alone, why not bring another lost soul, or make an enemy? Dark Souls lets you join others in cooperative play, as well as invade other players' worlds. We saw such an invasion in action, and like in Demon's Souls, invading players glow a deep-red hue.

If you loved Demon's Souls, Dark Souls looks to have more of what you crave: precise action, great atmosphere, and a rough challenge. Mark the date: October 4, 2011. That's when both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners will get ensnared in the unforgiving and intriguing world of Dark Souls.

Discussion

175 comments
MPanthers
MPanthers

When they say co-op, are they talking about another online co-op or like a split screen co-op as well?

St1ckyB4ndit
St1ckyB4ndit

I'm very excited for this game to come out because I'm an xbox 360 owner so I didnt get to play demon souls but it looked very fun. So ill prob be getting this one since its for xbox too.

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

@DP1130 yeah man thanks for the advice, but i don't live in the US and games here are real expensive, there is a used Demon's Souls in my local store, but the price is equivalent to 50 dollars, and it is used. Games here are real expensive.

ChudWarrior
ChudWarrior

This game is inspiring. I am glad that it is going to be multi-platform. The fact that there is a co-op element is a very nice bonus. I would love it if they put that playable demo on live and the psn.

DP1130
DP1130

@kazumashadow I strongly..sooooo...strongly advise you to pick up Demon's Soul's first. Play it and see what ya think. You can gamefly it or get it for under 20 bucks, in some cases 10 bucks. If you decide you don't like it we'll you didn't throw away 60.00. Demon's Souls is a very challenging game. Dark Souls looks like it's going to be another beast. Don't judge it on looks alone.

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

Sure buy for me, i never got a chance to play the original even though i always been curious about it. Today's games are getting too easy, it's refreshing to get a challenge sometimes.

free_milk
free_milk

Hopefully this will have no spiders.

TimeBandit002
TimeBandit002

@BombayNugz bro u cant say demon souls is easy if u fail at pvp, pve is easy and just about tailoring weps to conditions and being careful of ur timing. So go on the ds forum and learn were the meat and epicness of demon souls lies.

BombayNugz
BombayNugz

people say demons souls was hard but it wasnt, it was surprisingly easy if you had half the mind to pay attention to your stamina and what your enemy was doing. hopefully they make the game a little bit harder pve... and completely eliminate all lag and i mean ALL lag from pvp cause i won 5 matches out of 400 in pvp and never died in pve lol well at least after ng+ i never died after i understood how things worked but the only reason i never died in pve is cause there was no lag... so please... no lag i really want to win in pvp once in a while

monktheking
monktheking

@rasputin - you're absolutely right about how taking your time helps with the difficulty. And you're right about the combat - it's awesome, tactical and tense.My issue wasn't so much with dying during combat. It was the traps and falling off ledges (that didn't look like ledges!) that upset me. Then i would have to work my way through the level again just to collect my souls. I guess the only change i would like to see is that you keep your souls no matter what. I suppose i'm just not as patient as i used to be. Again, don't get me wrong, i loved Demon's Souls - if you check me out on PSN @ Monktheking - you will see i beat the game with a respectful completion %. i was just hoping some of my personal issues would have been addressed in the sequel. This series is very close to being my favorite series of all time if just a few changes were made.

SneekyRatchet
SneekyRatchet

They should include different difficulty levels, easy, normal, etc. That would solve so many problems and would make it accessable to a much wider audience. I've played and passed Demon Souls many times, it's pretty easy now, but that's because I know where everything is. Needless to say, I'm hyped for this sequel, it looks action-packed and full of strategy. Never a dull moment in Boletaria.

rasputin177
rasputin177

@monktheking you make some valid points but I have to disagree on the difficulty. I think it makes sense that a sword to the head should take away most of your health. I enjoyed the realistic and intense feeling of the combat. Its quite rare in video games these days. I personally feel that if you took your time, learned the level, used souls for help, and took your time to upgrade your weapons the game was very tough but not cheap.

Nodashi
Nodashi

@slainta Here's the thing - not showing sales mean nothing. They are one of the most lucrative companies on the planet - not only gaming companies. Blizzard, on the other hand, doesn't hide things. Go ahead, look for their numbers. They are more lucrative than ANY console developer. Before you say they are milking WoW (and they are), remember all devs now milk franchises via paid DLCs. Usually exclusives are exclusives not because of costs, but because console manufacturers pay softwarehouses to do so. And they pay a LOT. They force devs hands not to go multi-platform so they can use the game to increase console sales (and, obviously, because they have a cut on every copy of the saled games for their platform). Piracy exists, but also exists for the Xbox360, and it's also no small deal. If that rationale was valid, PS3 would be the only console devs would worry about, when it's the Xbox 360 for most. The fact is, MS is better at this dirty game (or cares more about their console) than Sony, and noone does lobby and other slimy moves for the PC.

monktheking
monktheking

@rasputin. I was just expecting more. I'm more disappointed than anything. Monsters look and move the same way they did in Demons Souls - except for that Rhino thing. The enemies seem as slow and meticulous as they did in the first game. New weapons? Like what? I came across every weapon imaginable in Demon's Souls? A new world? The levels i've seen look IDENTICAL to Demon's Souls. I would hardly call Dark Souls unique - it's Demons Souls all over again. I just would rather spend my time exploring and fighting for a reason - not just for the sake of grinding - integrate the grinding into the storyline somehow. I mustve spent 50 hours in the first game just getting souls and leveling - it aint 1997 anymore. I don't mind a challenge (i've been gaming since 1984) but some evolution would be nice. A good example of a tough game which didnt feel cheap was Ninja Gaiden. Game was tough, but at least it was in the context of the game - you're a ninja fighting ninjas - that should be tough. The difficulty with Demon's Souls just felt cheap and took away from an otherwise excellent game. Feels like not much thought went into the sequel. I think that's pretty obvious.

rasputin177
rasputin177

@ monktheking A whole new world to explore, different monsters to fight, new weapons to wield and a new story to tell. The multi-player has also been changed in a significant way. Its already a very unique game and I am glad it has not been changed too much to cater to the masses. Seems like you just want to complain to me.

monktheking
monktheking

Dark Souls looks EXACTLY like Demon's Souls to me. And it seems to play exactly like Demon's Souls as well. Where's the innovation? Were any tweaks made at all? I had high hopes for the sequel but it feels like Demon's Souls 2.0. Sorry, but it's hard to get excited about another 200 hr grindfest without anything new to offer. For that i'll just play Dark Souls again. Can anyone tell me what's different?

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@anthonycg I never said or implied competition was good for the consumer?, I said it didn't hurt the consumer because the install base is large enough to be functional and consoles are cheap enough that you an buy one just for a handful of games. Sounds stuck up, but the prices really have dropped considerably. @batman_is_me Exactly! :)

rasputin177
rasputin177

The difficulty is way over hyped. As long as you don't play it as a hack and slash beat em up and don't expect to beat every level the first time you enter it was not that hard. It always kept you on your feet and alert but that is something many games are missing nowadays.

quinholo
quinholo

Man, i'm done with people complaining about the difficult of the game!! 1st of all, Demon's is not that hard. If after u know the mecanics of the game, u still can't play it...dude, you're a looser...go play CoD on easy!! 2nd The reason you keep dying is because you HAVE TO DIE...it's part of the universe of the game. If nobady dies, it will never be blue/black phantons, and the entire multiplayer experience won't happen!! I, for example, sometimes kill myself just to be a phanton. The game is awsome...love it, or don't play it!

quinholo
quinholo

Search for QuinhoFlores blue stone on the floor and you won´t find the game diffficult at all!! =)

Black_Adder_
Black_Adder_

I'm going for my second Demon's souls platinum trophy right now - simply because there still ain't many games that can be so much fun than Demon's souls. Who knows, maybe will get european version too and get 3rd platinum in this awesome game. Dark souls already is my game of the year right now.

slainta
slainta

BTW talking about exclusives.. If at Sony they had a bit of a brain they would have kept the rights for Demon's Souls and its sequels. Instead they are so dumb that the game got published by SCEJ in Japan and then it has been left to 2 other publishers for NA and EMEA. With Namco Bandai the last that now made the spiritual sequel multiplatform. It didn't take a genius to understand that a beautiful medieval RPG would have been a success in the western world..

slainta
slainta

@nodashi you forget the simple fact that to port a game costs money. That money has to turn out into a profit. Porting console games to PC could be a waste of money and business for 2 simple facts: 1) the same games for consoles sell much more than the PC equivalent. And please don't mention valve, because it's far too easy to hide behind something that on purpose does not publish its sales. 2) the easiness to get pirate copies on the PC does affect console games sales. Many that can get it for free on the PC for sure won't buy it for consoles. Apart from some trophies addicted. There can be NO OBLIGATION for anyone to write their software for all platforms, and it would be totally wrong to impose so, because small studios should be obliged to invest on skills they might not have. Different story should be for DLC exclusives. I don't think it's right that the same product gets spoiled in a platform or another. The money we pay is the same, so should be the full package.

Rostal
Rostal

@Zipper761882 You realize the game was much longer than 5 hours long right? Did you even get past the loading screen or was it too hard?

tomdan
tomdan

If this new Dark Souls is at least 10% of what Demon's was, it'll be perfect. I think it's the 2nd best PS3 game (1st MGS4) and one of the best titles of this generation so far, including PC. I really don't understand why there are people comparing Demon's Souls with Amnesia, like if they have something to compare. Don't get me wrong, I love Penumbra and Amnesia, they're like fresh air in the PC world. But Demon's.. what a beautiful game, I would recommend it to everyone to play it so they can see why we, the fans, love it. And for those who played Demon's Souls and don't fell in love, well, it's just not for you but that's ok. It's a shame I have to read things like that the game's only star is the difficulty. That people just didn't get it. It makes me happy to read everywhere that Dark Souls has the same mechanics of Demon's, because it was perfect the way it was. Loved the gameplay, the art, the ambience, the sound, everything.

Zipper761882
Zipper761882

Personally I found Demons Souls to be a lackluster game full of cheap deaths. They use difficulty to add length to what otherwise would've been a 5 hour game. This is not good development imo. I made the mistake of buying the first one after reading the Gamespot review. I will be renting the second one. Don't get me wrong I am all for difficult games. However I like my games to be difficult in ways Demons Souls wasn't. The only reason Demons Souls was difficult is because the enemies did alot of damage. That is it. Make those enemies do regular damage and you have a mediocre 3rd person action rpg. I just do not understand the big deal here. Difficulty should be increased in other ways, not enemy damage.

anthonycg
anthonycg

@MEDzZ3RO First you say competition helps the customer. Then you say competition isn't so bad because consoles are cheap to you. Then you finally bail out and say "no one's forcing you to do it." lol man.

anthonycg
anthonycg

@batman_is_me The argument has nothing to do with competitive business. It's about what's best for the CUSTOMER. Non-exclusives are good for the companies obviously but the customer is forced to buy multiple consoles for certain games. That is not good for the customer regardless of the price. No one is arguing that companies won't do what's best for them but that's not even the topic....

siegfield
siegfield

@MagusShade If Demon's souls has great atmosphere then what do you call atmosphere of Amnesia or Metro2033? If it has Great sound effect then what do you call sound effect of Deadspace? Story? don't say that plz! then What are Warcraft3, Longest journey or MGS?? Enemies fallen from stairs and ledges again and again If thats AI I don't know what to say about STALKER or Warcraft3? DS has good aspects, I don't deny it. its addictive &... but its not too big that you're trying to make it. Loving DS isn't guilt but please don't close your eyes to its flaws. If thats your expectation from a wonderful game then I have no more to say.

BreakingSpecter
BreakingSpecter

Hopefully Dark Souls will be easier that Demon Souls.

batman_is_me
batman_is_me

MEDzZ3RO is right, Nodashi is an idiot by feeling insulted about a business trying to remain competative. Back on topic, this game looks better and better everytime i see it. I know it won't happen, but it'd be cool if i could carry over my godly level 300+ character from Demon's Souls into this game :P

siegfield
siegfield

@black_cat19 @nikniklol If a game like Demon's souls has a good market then other game makers tend to make something like that for example battle mechanism in witcher2 (Thanks god it don't take anything else from DS). That's The Problem! maybe that's selfishness.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@Nodashi I understand the concept but you over exaggerate the problem. Good to know you're 31, why you've told me this is beyond me but good to know nonetheless. Both the consoles although old are still strong hardware-wise, they perform admirably; say what you like about the 4-5 year old tech, PC games still aren't that far ahead regardless of how powerful your system is. PCs are dependent on consoles for their own games to improve, owning a top spec PC is great but you won't find a game to use that now. You're not "forced" to spend anything, you choose whether you want so much that you're willing to part with you cash. Businesses will entice people to buy their product but not force them. Nobody is forcing the consumer to do anything, it's their choice. That's business for you, despise it all you like it's not going anywhere. One system has always been "the best" but it changes dependent on variables such as support and software. Not that it matters, it's simple; really want a game buy the system. It's something that has become so normal in modern business that it's rarely questioned. You want Windows, you buy a PC; want a never ending list of apps but an iPhone..etc.... everything's like it; it's all about businesses differentiating themselves with others.

Alizerothree
Alizerothree

I played this @ E3 and could not have been more satisfied and excited. It was definitely much more difficult than Demon's Souls, in terms of enemy ambushes, their attack patterns, and the overall encounter placements. Very very well done. "Beware of the enemies' cuteness"

Nodashi
Nodashi

@MEDzZ3RO Because you don't grab the concept. I'm 31 years old, I can buy a new console any day (thankfully I'm not on minimum wage too, I live in Brazil and here the Minimum Wage is around 350 dollars, while an Xbox 360 costs like 500 dollars). But it's wrong, it's accepting being played for a sucker and I'm not that kind of consumer. I don't want ONE MORE useless piece of cheap, bad quality hardware, I just want a game, I shouldn't be forced to buy a console to play it if I already own a console that can run it (along with a PC that could play it much better). It's called linked sale and it's an offense against consumers. FORCING you to spend ONE dollar you shouldn't spend is already hurting the consumer. It's not about being able to buy something, it's about being coerced by greedy companies. With releases to all platforms and PC and with cross platform play, noone would have to buy anything they don't want to buy. But Sony and MS would KILL to avoid it from happening. They KNOW the consoles are virtually the same and don't want to accept that people that bought other one will not have to buy theirs. That's why they force their hand to keep the industry entangled with exclusives and the damn system where you can only play with people using the same platform. It's disgusting, and makes me sad that so many consumers condone it for no other reason that saying to their friends "see, my console is better".

rascalalpha345
rascalalpha345

i thought the only scary part when playing demons souls was in the tower of latria. especially in the prison tower where those squid head mages kept blasting me with soul ray and then incapacitate me with green lighting ball. annoying times.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@Nodashi Why?, we're not arguing. As I stated cross platform multiplayer is already being explored. Consoles aren't that expensive, if you really want to play a specific game buy the system (like I first stated). Even on minimum wage of £5 an hour it would only take 4 days worth of work to accumulate that sort of money or whilst paying the bills, holding back 1 days worth of wages for 4 weeks. If they were more expensive it would hurt the consumer, but this simply isn't the case. For every game that's not on one system there's another on the other.

shaks101
shaks101

Looks like an incredibly tough, unforgiving game, that will push the limits of every gamer who plays it. Will I buy it? Probably... after Skyrim.

nikniklol
nikniklol

@siegfield who has ever rated DS for just it's difficulty they just like it because it strayed off from all those easy games but you probably haven't noticed how the game works and why it was so good it was innovating, unique, very addictive, with great level desings and music, a more tactical gameplay and so many more it may not have a good plot but if you didn't like it there is not problem in that maybe it wasn't your type of game but saying it is bad and it doesn't deserves sales won't get you anything but haters because there are a lot of people that appreciate this game so if you don't want to play dark souls just don't buy it no need to waste your time trolling it

Nodashi
Nodashi

@MEDzZ3RO I'm sorry, but this is becoming tiressome. It doesn't hurt thw consumer having to buy several hardware that behave virtually the same way to play games because of exclusives and artificial limitations like the lack of cross platform multiplayer? OK then.

MEDzZ3RO
MEDzZ3RO

@Nodashi Wrong. I own a Wii and a PS3. My brother owns a PS3, 360 and gaming PC. It really doesn't hurt the consumer in anyway whatsoever, not when the systems have a strong user base. Exactly, they are "forced" to buy a system based on a game/games they want. It's one of the many ways they entice potential consumers into buying. Neither Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo will risk making their first party titles multi-plat. They could potentially lose their share in the market. It's called business and it's unlikely to change for a long time. However cross-platform multiplayer is happening, Portal 2 (best game I've played this year) introduced it onto the PS3 and PC. The Vita and PS3 will have it and as rumored so will the 3DS and Wii U. Sims, MMOs, some RPGs, Valve titles and Blizzard Entertainment titles sell monumentally well on PCs. The majority of the other genres/games sell better on the consoles. Street Fighter IV, Call Of Duty, Mass Effect...etc..., PC gaming jut isn't as popular as it used to be sadly. It's now considered by many the "nerds" gaming system in popular culture. @siegfield You clearly never played Demon's Souls, it was far more then just a difficult game.

MagusShade
MagusShade

WOW. Demon's Souls was hard, but why are people complaining about unbalanced classes? I think you guys played a different game, because all the classes in demon's souls were just starter templates that you could turn into whatever you wanted. You could start as a knight but by your end game completely lack melee ability and be full magic if you wanted to. Also, Demon's Souls had the GREATEST level design. The atmosphere alone made people scared because of the dark and ominous nature of it. There was a story if you took the time to talk to everyone, and the AI was fine....enemy AI is what killed you over and over and over. So you people can stop trolling now. You obviously either played a different game and someone told you it was demon's souls, or it was too hard for you and now you're crying about it.

black_cat19
black_cat19

@siegfield No, that is not the truth, that is just your opinion, and it just so happens that many people, including most of the gaming media and thousands upon thousands of players (myself included), share the opinion that Demon's Souls was an absolutely brilliant game, which is why there's so many people excited for the sequel. Stop being so selfish; the world doesn't revolve around you, you know? If you're not looking forward to this game, then don't buy it, problem solved. Why do you care if others are, though, what's it to you?

adit942
adit942

looks promising...still looks like a really challenging and tactical game but not as brutally punishing as its predecessor ... graphics could use a little more toning up though

siegfield
siegfield

And Seriously how could you compare it to ELDER SCROLLS IV????????????????

siegfield
siegfield

Seriously guys what's wrong with you? I'm not saying difficult games are bad games, actually I love hard games like Supermeatboy. but you can't score a game just for its difficulty. supermeatboy is a marvelous game for its level design, sound effects, retro graphic style & ... . But I can't see much positive element in Demon's souls. I bought it because gamespot said so (It was game of the year after all!) but I earned nothing but disappointment. Demon's souls has nothing but hard difficulty and [LACK of soft gameplay, balance between classes, appropriate sound effect, STORY, good AI and... . Thats a big question: why gamespot announce it game of the year???? I don't have any interest in dark souls as well and I hope it doesn't sell well in future! I know I'll take dozens of reverse thumb but that was the truth I told.

KingofgamersX
KingofgamersX

its coming for Xbox!!! dude the gamplay gonna be a lot a easier than you think

Nodashi
Nodashi

@MEDzZ3RO And exclusives ONLY HURT CONSUMERS. Cretin policies hurt consumers. The fact that both MS and Sony stop developers from making their game cross-platform multiplayer compatible hurt consumers. If those policies ceased to exist, consumers would be able to CHOOSE between two nearly identical consoles and buy just one. You just have one of each other eletrodomestic, right? No, they are forced by exclusives to buy both, or to let pass good games they would like to play. You see, MS and Sony lobby to have greater profit, not to make "your" console game to have more people to play multiplayer with. And PC gaming is lucrative, I was just pointing Valva as the OBVIOUS example of this fact. I could also point to Blizzard Entertainment. Both, by the way, among the most lucrative companies in the gamins industry. But hey, what are facts when you can call people "PC gamers" and tell them to buy a platform or stfu. It seems to be very "in" nowadays.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

Demon's souls had the atmosphere nailed, only thing it was missing was a story. Hope this game covers it.

supertom221
supertom221

"We had some 360 fans who were sad because they couldn't play DS on the 360, so we wanted to solve that problem" Here's the Solution: BUY A GODDAMN PS3. First Metal Gear, then Tekken, then Final Fantasy, then THIS!!. Seriously, Microsoft should start thinking of their own new exclusive Games instead of stealing Others'.