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Scholar of the First Sin Makes Dark Souls 2 Harder Than Ever

Your soul is mine.

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From Software isn't ready to send Dark Souls 2 out to pasture just yet. Yesterday, it released a hefty patch for all currently available versions of the game that adds new story elements and tweaked multiplayer, among many other changes, and in a few short weeks, it will introduce a remastered version for PC, PS4, and Xbox One, titled Scholar of the First Sin. It's hot on the heels of the developer's PlayStation 4 debut, Bloodborne, a game that offers a Souls-like experience and a world full of new possibilities, but according to Bandai-Namco Global Producer, Atsuo Yoshimura, the same can also be said of Scholar of the First Sin.

We recently chatted with Yoshimura about the upcoming remaster, and he believes that beyond the visual improvements, Dark Souls 2 veterans will be lured back by other changes to the game, some of which drastically alter the Dark Souls 2 experience. This is something the team has been planning for a while. "Generally speaking, the development team always has the desire to improve what they're creating, so they always have ideas," said Yoshimura. "Right after we finished releasing all three DLCs, they said 'why don't we work on Scholar of the First Sin with all of the ideas that we came up with during the original development of Dark Souls 2.'" These ideas include things like completely remixing enemy placement, tweaking artificial intelligence, beefing up online player counts, and not least of all, introducing an invasion NPC that Yoshimura was very secretive yet excited about. If you have any doubts that the unique aspects of Scholar of the First Sin are worth purchasing Dark Souls 2 all over again, Yoshimura wants to put those to rest: "We aren't just asking players to purchase another copy of Dark Souls II for PS4 and Xbox One."

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Part of mastering a Dark Souls game is understanding the characteristics and locations of your enemies. According to Yoshimura, Scholar of the First Sin wipes the slate clean. "Enemy placement is completely revised in all areas of the game. It's not just several areas, it's all areas," he reiterates. "What makes this unique is that it completely changes the gameplay. For example, there were a lot of fireman looking zombies in the Forest of Fallen Giants, but you will recognize that the number of [these enemies] has increased. Also, their AI is improved. Previously, their AI was not that smart. It was easy for players to escape from zombies without actually fighting them. They're smarter than before. They'll basically chase players all the way down until they get killed, so it's really difficult to escape from them."

Yoshimura explained that beyond new enemy placement and improved AI, there will also be certain types of enemies that appear where you least expect them to. "Right after you start from the bonfire in the Forest of the Fallen Giants, you will see this hippo-looking guy in the River. He wasn't there [before]. Remember the elevator that takes you to the boss arena? There were no enemies there, but this time there are! All of those hardcore Dark Souls fans [probably] remember safe areas, but these are no longer safe. They need to come up with a completely new strategy in order to conquer each area in Scholar of the First Sin."

The new invasion NPC, the Forlorn.
The new invasion NPC, the Forlorn.

A big component of Scholar of the First Sin is the introduction of new NPCs. One, the titular Scholar of the First Sin, will provide supplemental story bits to flesh out the background of the world, but another, an NPC capable of invading your game, will prove to be the most interesting. Yoshimura explains. "We have new invasion NPC...this guy will be invading the player's world, and the good thing about this is that they will change the gameplay experience and give players a chance to get some rewards. I bet you have a question: what are the rewards? You will see, you will see!" Yoshimura preempts my next question. "That actually kind of leads to your question about any new items or [rewards]. Maybe! I say rewards because it's an enemy, so this guy probably drops something. I cannot go into details at the moment, unfortunately."

The team's gone back to tweak multiplayer, increasing the number of players in a group from four to six, but From Software purposfully left out one feature that some fans have been asking for: messaging and direct communication. Yoshimura explains why. "Although we will let players easily match up with friends, we're not going to let players directly communicate with other players. It's hard to come up with specific examples, but we're doing our best and we want to reflect all of the feedback from fans so long as it's not against the philosophy of the Dark Souls franchise that makes it so unique."

While it's clear that From Software listens to its fans, judging by the recent update and other changes coming in Scholar of the First Sin, that doesn't mean the developers are willing to sacrifice their vision for the game just to please everyone. According to Yoshimura, it's a habit that jeopardizes the quality of some games, although he wouldn't mention which he had in mind. "I'm not going to list specific titles, but I've seen a lot of titles that tried to reflect all of the feedback from fans and the actual product they come up with is like trash."

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By taking in some suggestions, tossing out others, and injecting their own desires, From Software seems to have cobbled together what may be the definitive version of Dark Souls 2 in Scholar of the First Sin. Unsurprisingly, it's also going to be a more daunting experience than the original. "I think it's obvious that it's a little bit more difficult than the previous game because of the number of enemies that we have in each stage," said Yoshimura. "Some strong enemies which weren't there [before] have been implemented in all areas, so it's more difficult." If anything will attract Dark Souls 2 veterans back to Drangleic, retooled enemies and a greater challenge will.

Finally, I wanted to know if there were any plans to revisit other games in the series, if not Demon's Souls (which is owned by Sony), at least the first Dark Souls. Yoshimura raised his pitch and had a sly look in his eye when he gave me his answer. "Ahhhh, well we're currently focusing on Scholar of the First Sin for Dark Souls 2. I know there's a lot of demands from fans for other titles from the Dark Souls franchise, but right now, our answer to them is Scholar of the First Sin."

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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