Do you want to know how to make me excited about Dark Souls II? Simply say the words "Dark Souls." Heck, even if you mouth it, I'm sure to get a shiver of fear and excitement. From Software went one step further in fueling my frothing demand by supplying a new trailer called Dark Souls II - Curse. Though offering little more than quick-cut glimpses at various monstrosities I will soon be facing, it was enough to get my mind racing at the possibilities.
Portal to a different world
Picture one kingdom that is simultaneously thriving during its glorious heyday while crumbling amid its desolate destruction. Such situations contradict one another, but as I see a knighted hero approach a glowing shaft, I imagine a portal that lets you see the rise and fall of an empire. Dark Souls has broached time travel before in its Artorias of the Abyss downloadable content, but what if leaping through history were built into the core structure? The labyrinthine paths that connect the world would twist and turn as you viewed Drangleic through different lenses, with monsters appearing in unexpected places or leaving entire areas completely uninhabited, adding a level of foreboding that would make the creepy atmosphere even more unsettling.
Diverse fighting style
Many have argued that Dark Souls does have difficulty settings--playing as a mage is easy mode. I wouldn't know that from experience given that I prefer to fight steel to flesh, but it seems reasonable that attacking from afar would be safer than getting up close. Magic may be not just an option in Dark Souls II, but a necessity. As I examined the measurements of a long-armed beast that appears midway through the trailer, I realized how difficult it would be to fight by blocking and rolling, as was my customary style in Dark Souls. It would easily be able to reach around a simple shield, or interrupt my dodge with its extensive limbs. From Software may have realized that similar dodge-and-attack patterns could dispose of so many of Dark Souls' monsters and created something that demands more ingenuity, more creativity, if you're going to survive.
Your quest in Dark Souls II is to find a cure from the agony you're suffering from, but what if others sought the very curse that's eating away at you? This monster towers over you, easily lifting you off the ground with its left hand. And yet, if you look past the mummy wrappings covering its body, through the slit in its mask, you see its eyes. Human eyes.
Could that curse have caused the citizens of Drangleic to grow much stronger than their meager human frames would have otherwise allowed? With so many demonic creatures scurrying about this world, to fight someone of your ilk would be chilling. What have they become? And is their fate yours as well? Just like in Artorias of the Abyss, in which you questioned your very humanity, such a curse would make you question whom you're fighting, and why.
Dark Souls was almost too easy. After slaying beings whose sole existence was to end your life, you arrived at a door that let you catch your breath. Beyond the white fog lay a boss, so a wise player would reshuffle his or her inventory and heal. Such luxuries may not be possible in Dark Souls II. There is a brief flash of a horse-drawn carriage of death. Two horses that spent their time ferrying the dead in the pits of hell before arriving in Drangleic pull a warrior brandishing a deadly spear. And this trio will give chase outside of the tight arenas in which bosses usually rise. Dark Souls may have given us courage by letting us prepare; Dark Souls II will ensure that we're continually on edge. Our death could be speeding toward us right now.
Imagine entering a quiet room in the courtyard of an empty castle. After fending off flesh-eating slugs or four-armed trolls or whatever monsters reside in Dark Souls II, you're happy for a second of respite. Scouting the area, you find a tomb with a shaft of light illuminating it. Whose could it be? Upon closer inspection, you see a name etched on it, though it's difficult to make out what it says. And then, as you make out the first couple of letters, a creature rises from the earth, the gravestone sticking out of its back. Such surprises would be rare in Dark Souls II, so rare that you would never anticipate when your next death would come. But once it happens that first time, gnawing doubt would haunt your every step, making you move with such extreme patience that any chance for violence would be a welcome release.
Just thinking of phantom attacks makes me squirm in my chair. When a flash warns you that another player has invaded your world, your guard goes up, and you move even more deliberately so as not to spoil the successful run you were having. If phantoms exist to make your life even more miserable, then why would two invaders square off against one another? We see such a battle emerge briefly in this trailer, and I image that covenants are at the bottom of that feud. Imagine that you have an item that another covenant desires. If you can throw it in the lava lake, you are rewarded for your efforts, but others are striving to make it their own. When someone from that opposing group emerges in your world, they rush toward you. But they are halted by another. A phantom bursts through a portal to protect you, maybe for altruistic reasons, or just to get that item for itself.
With only a taste at what's in store for us come March, I can only imagine what From Software has planned for those dedicated enough to brave the many dangers of Drangleic. I cannot wait to see how this adventure unfolds, and will spend the next two months letting my thoughts drift toward what could be, knowing that the truth will be even more shocking.