Welcome to Dark Souls II: You're Already Dead

Dark Souls II prepares to inherit the flaming mantle of death from its punishing predecessor without a hint of remorse.

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When From Software announced Dark Souls II, it dared to utter the most damning words possible--streamlined, accessibility, mainstream--causing those invested in scouring the treacherous underbelly of gaming's unforgiving realm to rankle like an abused dog. Trying to draw in a wide audience has caused many developers to remove difficulty from their offerings, subsequently squashing the feeling of conquest that comes from rising above seemingly insurmountable challenges. So the thought that Dark Souls II would travel down that same sanitized path burned with the ferocity of a drake's flaming breath. Would Dark Souls II stoop to the level of so many of its casualized peers, or would it stay true to its own stubborn beliefs?

In an unassuming conference room in New York City, director Yui Tanimura answered the question that has been swirling around Dark Souls II ever since it was announced late last year. There would be no easy mode. After allaying our fears with those simple words, the feeling of unavoidable doom lifted like a passing fog. The game is built upon the satisfaction of completing difficult challenges, he explained, so undermining the joy that encompasses a well-fought victory would cause Dark Souls II to topple from the delicate precipice it's built on.

The importance of those words cannot be overstated. The Souls games are a relic from a time when games demanded serious investment to complete. An era where nothing is handed to you; where the scars of failure chronicle the difficult path you traveled before reaching the summit. The threat that Dark Souls II would wrap a protective arm around anyone who wished to inhabit its crumbling castles and murky swamps, ensuring that even those with only a passing interest could explore the eerie confines was too much to bear. Dark Souls II should offer an inhospitable respite for those who fear being made soft by the failure-free experience offered by so many other games. And it's an incredible feeling when the director of Dark Souls II recognizes the place this franchise holds, and doesn't taint its unrepentant appeal.

The Souls games are a relic from a time when games demanded serious investment to complete.

So what did From Software mean when it said that Dark Souls II would be more accessible than its hard-hearted predecessors? Tanimura talked about removing the "tedious" aspects so you can focus on what makes Souls so eminently engaging. For instance, it wasn't until halfway through Dark Souls that you unlocked the ability to warp between bonfires. In the sequel, you will be able to perform this vanishing feat from the beginning. This ties in to the less-restrictive level design as well. Dark Souls II will once again take place in an open world in which each section is ostensibly a level in itself. However, the order in which you progress is more flexible than before. With more choices, you can forge your own path through the decimated world, so having warp points should limit needless backtracking.

It will be interesting to see how more freedom affects progression. In Dark Souls, although you could often choose which section to attempt, the game made it clear when you chose one beyond your means. If you entered the graveyard instead of climbing the mountain path at the outset, for example, you would meet a quick end from a deadly gang of skeletons. Without so much as uttering a word, Dark Souls nudged you in the right direction, burning a memory of failure in your mind so you would revisit the most dangerous parts when you became stronger. However, with more areas open at once, it's unclear how Dark Souls II will maintain its razor-sharp edge throughout. In games such as The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, enemies level up alongside you, so they always offer the same relative challenge. Will Dark Souls II have to concoct a similar system? Or will From Software find another way to keep the difficulty high no matter which path you take?

The only other "tedious" aspect that Tanimura was willing to talk about pertained to weapon upgrades. This process will be made more straightforward in Dark Souls II. He didn't go into detail on what changes would be implemented, but he did say that grinding would be reduced. This may mean that you no longer have to procure rare items to infuse your weapons with more power. Although such a shift would keep you progressing, it might not be the clear gain that Tanimura envisions. Repeatedly slaying groups of enemies to gain precious shards provided a vacation from the unnerving tension that is such a frequent aspect of Dark Souls. You could cut enemies to shreds without your heart beating through you chest, which let you exist in this dreary world without the accompanying dread. If Dark Souls II lessens the perks of demon slaughter, it could make an already terrifying adventure even tougher to bear.

Dark Souls nudged you in the right direction, burning a memory of failure in your mind so you would revisit the most dangerous parts when you became stronger.

It doesn't appear as if Tanimura has any sympathy for hesitant players. From the 20 or so minutes of action From Software showed, Dark Souls II may be even more difficult than its infamous predecessor. What's interesting is how the difficulty will be implemented. In Dark Souls, combat served as the backbone for every encounter. Ready your shield, steady your sword, and patiently march through the punishing lands, always on the lookout for enemies waiting to attack. Such is the case with Dark Souls II as well; however, there are puzzle aspects too. In one scene, wyverns flood the skies as you attempt to cross a feeble rope bridge. As you're halfway across, high above a canyon, a wyvern lands on the bridge, snapping the ropes holding it, and you, aloft. You fall to your death. Clearly, there is a way to cross the bridge, but you need to exercise your brain rather than your brawn to accomplish that.

In another area, a silver chariot barrels toward you. Though you see it coming from a distance, its speed is incredible, and even rolling out of the way doesn't clear you from its rampaging path. Once again, the person playing the demo died. However, this encounter, too, can be overcome with quick thinking, though the developers didn't reveal how to stay alive. Puzzle solving looks like it will be a bigger element of Dark Souls II than its predecessor, which should mix the difficulty up in interesting ways. That runaway chariot had one other important element as well: it's a boss fight. Bosses no longer stay at the end of levels, waiting for you to end their lives. They set out to hunt you, and fight you, when you least expect it, forcing you to stay alert lest you die from an unexpected strike.

Elsewhere, this is the same Dark Souls that you remember. The story unfolds in vague whispers and hints, forcing you to piece together the expansive history that ties this broken world together. Silent areas stretch on endlessly, racking your nerves as you wait for an enemy to leap from the shadows, ending the terrifying wait. One enemy tempts you to walk behind it, and when you face its barrel-plated backside, it crushes you with a backward splash. Another one hides behind a locked door. Lodge an arrow in its peering eyes, and it will break down the door, and the wall, to come after you. A knight waits on a narrow bridge, slinging axes your way. With a well-timed swing of your sword, you can repel his attacks. But if you miss, your life ends in a flash. This is the Dark Souls you remember, where death lurks around every corner, but you continually push forward to prove your worth.

Many times, when a sequel debuts, it bears such a striking resemblance to its predecessor that it's difficult to get excited. Dark Souls II is able to avoid this trap because of its very nature. There is nothing like Dark Souls out there now, no game dredged so clearly from the ashes of gaming's cold and forgotten past. That Dark Souls II is more of the same is a good thing because what it is, what it represents, is the antithesis of what modern game design has become. It is a cruel, unforgiving beast that relishes in doling out hellacious punishment. It's the furthest thing possible from mainstream. Its obstinate nature burns at its core, forcing novices and experts alike to move slowly through environs with steely determination. It is the great equalizer. This is the Dark Souls you remember, where death lurks around every corner, but you already knew that. You're already dead.

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Discussion

1568 comments
Neo_OnionKnight
Neo_OnionKnight

The wolves will howl! The children will cry! And my blade shall bathe in the blood of my foes! And their blade bathe in my own! The saga of Death continues! Oh Praise the Sun that we enter the darkness again!

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

I want this game NOW!!!! 

thebruceshow
thebruceshow

I want horse combat system with armor upgrades and customizations. We already have the targeting system in place, if you want to build on a already great game lets upgrade it, not create the "same thing" just new areas and armor?! Im not saying the whole game needs to be accessible by horse, in some cases you will need to spot the horse out side the cave, or befor you enter on the cliff ledge. This would be a true challenge for production, but if they did it, would set the bar in multiplayer combat. or you could just make a similar sequel to turn a quick buck like everyone else.

jehannum666
jehannum666

Please, From Software, can we have a better button lay-out on the XBox controller than Dark Souls? Better yet, how about preference options? While you're at it, how about a patch for Dark Souls that does the same? Great game, great combat system, frustrating control choices on the XBox 360. All I'm sayin'...

maitkarro
maitkarro

If bosses want to chase me they can do so in by falling into the depths with me, or without me if I get lucky. Also the last two games are supremely good, difficulty is just right for me, as I don't rush into things, I take it step by step, though run like hell from approaching doom if possible, like for example even when I first time played it I didn't die by the skeletons in the graveyard with a wanderer (as always), if you don't stay to fight them that is.

Wayne_Alfonz
Wayne_Alfonz

I don't get it... The Xbox 360 is a 7-year-old hardware, yet how can the games still look this good in it?

sum_guy09
sum_guy09

i just hope they really make it harder & make some improvements on the multiplayer. i want this game to have a little more longevity & replay value than the 1s before it, and i want it to be difficult no matter how well u think u've learned the enemies or how many times u beat the game. but most importantly i don't want it to be a pain in the ass just finding ppl to kill/invade.

joe_chebs
joe_chebs

Fantastic news to have some comments from the Dev Team at last, and a huge sigh of relief that they will be sticking to their guns and keeping the difficulty element high (as it should be!).

I have now fallen into the trap of constantly opening this page and looking at the in-game images over and over again haha. U think it's a great thing when you enjoy a title so much that you simply cannot wait for more! Sure the first DS absolutely punished me beyond belief but after 300+ hours I'm still going back for more and more play throughs, without a doubt amongst the best game I have ever had the pleasure of playing and to know that another is looming round the next corner really is awesome news!


Lets have that release date soon please guys!

Android1138
Android1138

The wait is killing me. I've run out of things to post walk throughs/tips on for DS1 :) 

Bring it on!

buckwild73
buckwild73

it's good that they're sticking to their guns & not making it mainstream, but i doubt i could handle the trauma of ds again.

tightwad34
tightwad34

Dark Souls>breathing, eating, sleeping, possibly sex?

TheKemosabe
TheKemosabe

After a very stressful and painful playthrough of the first Dark Souls, I don't think I can handle another one. lol

petar555
petar555

Bring it on Dark Souls II, I cant wait to explore every corner and die then try again and  feel that accomplishment. Now I have a reason to live... or to die a lot

donmega1
donmega1

Hey everyone for like 17 minutes of real gameplay  and interview with the creators of dark souls 2, head over to ign, a real gaming site. Gamespot is starting to jump the shark.

SKErwin
SKErwin

@jehannum666 i like your comment, it's just the Xbox controller is different compared to the ps3 controller

lindallison
lindallison

@Wayne_Alfonz  

I agree its amazing what current gen consoles can still do when you consider their core specs.  

But as for DS II all the sample game play seen thus far has been running on a PC, so its not going to look that good on the consoles.

maitkarro
maitkarro

@Wayne_Alfonz They can look real, the real question how well does it play, also on PC it's gonna be superior, also it's gonna be modded like the DS:PDE with framerates over 30 and new textures.

Sfr528
Sfr528

@sum_guy09 Well, more replayability in my case sounds impossible.  I've easily put in 500+ hours into this game since buying it when it came out.  Yet, I think with the changes you mentioned the replay value would depreciate.  How can From Soft balance enemy design to persistently challenge players without downright resorting to creating unfair and cheap encounter designs.  One of the best aspects of Dark Souls, to me at least, is this feeling of accomplishment when you finally mastered a boss/enemy pattern.  

It's also fun going through the game with different builds and seeing what kind of crazy stuff you can pull off.  One of the most fun runs I had was going naked with no shield and a longsword to attack with.  Parrying everything with my bare fist and dodging out of the way of other stuff was insanely fun (and incredibly hard)... and more importantly would be impossible to do if the difficulty was a cheap and random experience.

maitkarro
maitkarro

@sum_guy09 And I'll make sure everyone who invades me I'm just gonna waste their time and disconnect them, well me from them, unless I'm with someone else, then I'm gonna help as much as I can, to kill all Invaders. Never invaded someone, never will.

Gravfall
Gravfall

@tightwad34 Sex after being killed too many times to let off some frustration and then back to being killed.

thebruceshow
thebruceshow

@123whatever @thebruceshow Skyrim doesn't have a multiplayer combat system, skyrim already has horses, so adding them would be mute. Oh yea and I didn't say Skyrim. The requests and direction imo already lead to horse combate. ie open world, silver chariot enemy. These are the request and improvments made in dark souls 2. im saying just take it one step further... 

Wayne_Alfonz
Wayne_Alfonz

 @maitkarro @Wayne_Alfonz Yep no doubt about that... but what I'm saying is. The PS3 and 360 runs with 256MB RAM and 256MB Video Graphics card memory. I know the PCs nowadays are way way powerful but can you imagine running this on a PC with 256MB RAM and 256MB graphics card? The RAM alone will cause the game to crash and texture mods will be just as impossible as with the consoles, no? If you really wanna compare the PC with the consoles, compare it with PCs using 7-year old hardwares/components.

sum_guy09
sum_guy09

@Sfr528 @sum_guy09 well it is what it is... it was put in the game for a reason, not so ppl can disconnect, which is lame anyways...especially if u do it a lot. if u simply refuse to engage with fighting other ppl or are gonna rage quit/disconnect, then u have no business playing online...plain & simple. so either play offline or hope you summon plenty of help in time before you get ur ass handed to you.

sum_guy09
sum_guy09

@maitkarro @sum_guy09 if u don't want to get invaded then don't play online, simple. disconnecting isn't natural or how the game is meant to be played, where as getting invaded is & is when the real difficulty comes into play. but if u wanna play it on "easy mode" then play offline.

tightwad34
tightwad34

@CRAPCOM1926 I have never seen more people get off topic in my life. It's quite insane. I think they got ADD or something like that.

thebruceshow
thebruceshow

@Spagalicious @thebruceshow whats the difference between riding back and walking back.. you still would fight enemies on the way??? I already addressed level design by saying in some cases you would have to abandon your horse to enter a cave or walk a narrow ledge. The major improvement in dark souls over demon was open world, and now look a silver chariot rider?? hmm, whats next, how about in "some" areas have the player ride a horse where horse combat may be promitted . They will always be working on cheap shots and engine deaths, but im looking for a sequel.

Spagalicious
Spagalicious

@thebruceshow @Spagalicious you'd be ruining a key component of the game by taking out the consequence of dying and having to walk back. Horse would not work for the games level design, requiring the player to traverse hard to reach places on foot for high risk/high reward. I just feel it would do little to improve the game. :) and that time would be better spent ironing out lag kinks to prevent cheap shots or engine-related deaths.

123whatever
123whatever

@Wayne_Alfonz @maitkarro and they're able to achieve these feats because its a closed and universal system. although pcs are much much more powerful, their hardware differs so greatly from user to user, so its hard to get the right optimizations... developers still believe the majority of pc users are duo-core.. even though the norm is quad. on consoles, developers can focus on 1 specification and achieve much greater results, but even today, there are few... and i mean count them on your hand, that come close to utilizing the full console.

123whatever
123whatever

@Wayne_Alfonz @maitkarro you're actually completely wrong, where did you get your specs from? both systems run on an i series hybrid setup with a 512mb vram ddr3

maitkarro
maitkarro

@Wayne_Alfonz @maitkarro For the sake of comparing, I would take what's the best out there, as what was the best of the console and what was the best out there in PC department in the same price range, last one perhaps, where the game could be run on. Also when consoles have come out eventually to the public market there are already out superior PCs, even at the time when they were picking pieces for the consoles, they were going for budget not for most bang out of the buck. As you know Sony was loosing money per PS3 for a sometime. And then there is the optimization... if the games aren't equally made to each of the hardware then there is actually no way to compare fairly, only to see that this consoles runs this kinda stuff better than that console, but that console makes up for that kinda stuff, while PC still gets the most enhancements, but is very likely to crash if port was iffy. One example is, on consoles all the old games still run exactly the same as the day it was released, if not counting patches, but the newer games on consoles are more demanding, and when you have a PC that can run the new game as good, it most likely will run the older game better than on console part, but vice versa also applies, older PCs that run the old game as fine as on consoles, can't run the newer game that well, so it's most to OPTIMIZATION. For example go buy yourself a Quadro graphics (can run 16 3D development tasks and so on at the same time though) that are priced over a Titan and see how well you will do without drivers for gaming, well there might be some custom ones.

Sfr528
Sfr528

@sum_guy09 @maitkarro While I find PVP to be a rather fun and engaging experience, I can hardly fault players for not wanting to be forced into it.  Some players enjoy multiplayer as more of a cooperative experience -- it really is unfair to punish these players with invasions.  To be clear, I do enjoy invasions, I find that mode of gameplay to be fun -- but I would be perfectly fine with an option that disables players from invading you while allowing you to cooperate with others.

As for the 'real' difficulty comment and 'easy mode' -- grow up, please.  Being invaded does not increase the difficulty of the game in the slightest.  If a player decides to invade and attack me while I'm defending against a bunch of mobs and I win -- I don't feel like I'm this amazingly skilled player but that I got lucky.  If I am invaded and lose that has nothing to do with difficulty either... you can't judge a games difficulty by invasions.  Sometimes you get a player who is far below your skill level and its no threat, sometimes the player is going to destroy you with their twinked out character....

Gravfall
Gravfall

 @jhcho2 I actually answered @CRAPCOM1926 on his little rant about ign being sucky. I can see how you easily get misguided by the comment system here.

jhcho2
jhcho2

@Gravfall @CRAPCOM1926 @donmega1  

It's not the 'heading over to IGN' which ticks them off. It's the fact that he thinks Gamespot is shit and yet still finds time to post his comments here.