|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: From Software, Namco Bandai Games|
|Pub: Namco Bandai Games|
|Release: TBA 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
Before I get ahead of myself, let me clarify one thing. Dark Souls is not a sequel, but rather a spiritual successor to the 2009 critically acclaimed Demon's Souls. Codenamed Project Dark, Dark Souls was recently announced as the official title by developers From Software and Namco Bandai Games. Aside from some gameplay upgrades, the main reason Dark Souls is not being called a sequel is that it takes place on a new world with a new storyline.
How you explore this new world will also be a new experience. In Demon's Souls, you travelled to the different locales from the "hub" world, Nexus. This is also where you would purchase new equipment. In Dark Souls, all the locations are connected and transitioning between them is seamless. Although Dark Souls is in a different "universe," the setting remains a dark medieval backdrop, with eerie forests, temples, underground areas surrounded by lava, and plenty of ruined castles to explore. Nothing is set in the world just for looks either. If you see a tower in the distance, you will be able to travel there and explore it. The game looks gorgeous, but every inch presents possible danger. If you were worried about what fiend lay in wait around the corner in Demon's Souls, you'll probably want an extra pair of underwear close by for this one. Also, because of the more open environment, expect surprise attacks from all angles and distances.
Many gamers, even über-skillful ones, would easily claim the harsh difficulty of Demon's Souls is unmatched. Well, if you hoped that developers would take that critique into consideration, prepare to be sorely disappointed. Dark Souls will be just as hard, if not harder than its predecessor. Learning from mistakes made in battle and adjusting strategy through memorization of your surroundings and how each monster attacks, will remain a strong focus. Expect to die (a lot), but take each death as a learning experience. With patience and persistence, every battle can be won, and the rewards will be well worth the time, effort, and many deaths. The ways to die are so vast and varied, you may even yearn to discover all the different methods. Deadly arrows, slicing pendulums, and gigantic beasts will send you back to try your luck time and time again.
To help, many different weapons and armor can be acquired, each with a unique combat style. With light and heavy sword, daggers, maces, axes, shields, and many other choices, there are over 100 different combat combinations to test. While you may become attached to a particular weapon set, remember that this is highly strategic combat, and certain combinations may work better against certain monsters. Spells will also bolster your combat capabilities, with many different variations to explore. Fireballs, spells that turn your skin to iron to make you tougher (but slower), and even spells that turn you into a vase to evade detection, all help round out your tactics.
The developers have taken great care to keep the online network system from Demon's Souls intact, which arguably remains one of the more clever utilizations of multiplayer in any game. You'll still be able to check out the bloodstains of other players, watch how they died and learn from it, as well as leave hint messages for others to find. There will be no dedicated servers this time, instead a more "mutual role-playing" experience can be expected. From Software hasn't revealed any specifics about new online features, but my best guess (and hope) is that co-op will not be limited to a party of three, and that it will be playable in a more concrete fashion than the soul forms from Demon's Souls. Another big hope is that voice chat will available in Dark Souls. Although the emote system worked well for Demon's Souls, being able to verbally strategize with other players before launching into a tough boss battle is something I'm crossing my fingers for.
Finally, Xbox 360 owners will not be left in the dark (no pun intended) for Dark Souls, as this one will be released for both the Xbox 360 and the PS3. While the PS3 will probably have an edge in with the visuals, I expect the gameplay to be equal on both consoles, with a quick response time for the complex controls.
No official release date is been confirmed, but developers are hinting at fall 2011. With the core gameplay intact from Demon's Souls, and upgrades in difficulty, exploration, equipment, and online features, Dark Souls aims to be a worthy successor.
CCC Freelance Writer