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Dark Souls finally shown live

It's entirely likely that this generation's biggest sleeper hit (at least in terms of critical success) will end up being Demon's Souls. Originally published by Sony in Japan, the game languished - in entirely localized fashion - for a good nine months before finally getting picked up by Atlus and published properly here in the West. By that time, local critics were already discovering what hardcore importers had found out months before: it's good to die.

In an era where ample checkpoints and regenerating health are the norm, developer From Software reached into their considerably lengthy back catalog and sought to update their classic first-person dungeon crawler King's Field with a far more modern twist - at least visually. From a gameplay perspective, not a whole lot had changed; you couldn't pause the game, death could happen in an instant for those who weren't prepared and staid in their advancement, and when you died, you lost everything save for basic equipment.

This included the game's universal currency for both experience and store purchases, and the only way to get that cash back was to make your way all the way through the level you'd ploddingly explored with all the enemies restored. It was, in no uncertain terms, a gamer's game, the sort of stuff that flung those of us old enough to play through those classic controller-throwingly hard games as a rite of passage right back to our youth.

So why the history lesson? As was made abundantly clear at Namco's now-annual Ignite event here in San Francisco, From Software knows precisely what it’s doing with the King's Field reboot, and the Demon's Souls spiritual successor (now formally dubbed Dark Souls) reaches even deeper into that classic franchise vault to create something altogether alluring. Oh, and deadly. Really deadly - as in, "die so many times you start to laugh at how ridiculous it's become" deadly.

But lest you think Dark Souls is a direct continuation of Demon's Souls, know they are linked in name and visual splendor only; the world itself and characters from last year's death-dealing epic have no reflection here, instead culling the sort of grandeur and invitation to exploration of those old King's Field games.

It's fine if you've never played the series, honestly. The games were ponderous, borderline tedious affairs that moved at the pace a sloth would call sluggish. But they had an abundance of atmosphere, and as From Software prepared to show off the game for the first time to the public, we quickly realized that sense of atmosphere would become as much a character as the one currently trudging around the post-tutorial area where all adventures begin.

For the sake of the demo, this knight was given a rather unfair advantage: his weapons and armor were the stuff of hours of progress down the line for a normal player - something that was echoed across a variety of different locales and weapon/armor configurations pre-chosen for the demo. Given the game's promise of insane levels of difficulty, however, this was fairly understandable; a demo simply couldn't take place if one were to end up dying as often as most players likely will, especially given that Dark Souls seems to place far more emphasis on multiple types of incoming attacks. The dark fantasy equivalent of Molotov cocktails would arc earthward even as multiple melee attackers would charge in, and instantly we got the sense that the same measured pace of Demon's Souls would be absolutely paramount here.

Even as the demo started to hit its stride, showcasing the reality of From Software's "if you can see it, you can go there with enough time and patience" approach. This was echoed across the new item system, showcasing weapon drops as little orangish-yellow glowing spheres that would show up even at huge ranges. Such was the case with a massive dragon that was thankfully sawing logs rather than belching fire at everything that moved, but the challenge then became sneaking past it while juggling the aforementioned multiple enemies. One could certainly rouse the beast if one were, well, stupid, but instead the knight ducked into a conveniently-located tunnel entrance next to the dragon's tail.

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22 comments

  • crow476 - February 5, 2011 2:55 a.m.

    I loved Kings Field back in the day and I loved Demons Souls when I finally got a ps3 but I still have not finished it. Its almost like I don't want to finish it so then I can always look forward to playing a good game. Ya I know its a weird thought but it makes sense to me.
  • Gameguy94 - February 4, 2011 8:30 p.m.

    @ GamesRadarEricBratcher I would disagree. When I saw a video of the second section of the Tower of Latria I cringed from the evil foul look of the place. Of course you are correct in saying you have to play the game to fully understand it.
  • EricBratcher - February 4, 2011 6:44 p.m.

    @TheWebSlinger - Yeah, it's a strange thing, but you really can't "get" Demon's Souls without playing it. It doesn't look amazing in screens, but the visuals are really solid in "real life". The art style is a bit bland, but it's rich. The voice acting and audio are amazing. And there's a fantastic sense of melancholy desolation that I've never felt in another game, but that you simply can't feel without actually firing up the game yourself.
  • TheWebSwinger - February 4, 2011 6:24 p.m.

    I wanna try Demon's Souls. A lot. Only thing is, none of the screenshots or videos have made it look very interesting...this on the other hand, looks RAW.
  • Stridefizzel - February 4, 2011 5:47 p.m.

    I have to admit, playing and finishing Demon's Souls left a bitter taste in my mouth. I think the game was just way too hyped for me by the time I bought it, because although I definitely did enjoy it for several hours, by the time I got to the later levels I just got bored and a little frustrated. There's no real story that I cared about in the least, and no music to add any feeling or intensity to the levels (other than the main area where you bought stuff, which had the BEST mood song ever) I don't know, it was fun, I just didn't think it was as good as everyone said it was. And the ending was SO retarded, I mean come on! one other thing, I found a little "trick" in the game that once I discovered, I couldn't help but use, and I think it ultimately is what kinda ruined the game for me. Whenever I died, I found that if I hit the PS button and hit 'quit game', then you'd just quit out, load the game back up, and start at some point right before you died. This is really pathetic to take advantage of I know, and I tried not to do this because i knew it was kinda ruining the experience for me, but gamers know how easy it is to get angry when you die, especially in a game like Demon's Souls, and I couldn't help but exploit this every time. I'm not blaming the designers for this flaw, although I hope maybe this won't work in the new game. That all being said, I AM looking forward to this game alot, and I'm really excited its going to be very different from Demon's Souls, because that would have been boring to play through a game like that again I think
  • RebornKusabi - February 4, 2011 4:56 p.m.

    I LOVED Demon's Souls and played the **** out of it so I can't wait for this one, even if it's Demon's Souls in name and game only.
  • KiwiCommander - February 4, 2011 3:24 p.m.

    btw, doesnt the guy in pic 4 on the first page look like tower knight?
  • KiwiCommander - February 4, 2011 3:21 p.m.

    Wow, this game looks like its going to be better than Demon's Souls (which is no small feat). I really like the idea of failing to your death might not be bad because you just found a new area. The bosses look a lot more terrifying than in Demon's Souls, that boss in the first pic looks like a hairy flamelurker lol and since when did dreglins get bronze buckler shields? This game is going to be hard but worth it. Cant wait.
  • Howetzer - February 4, 2011 2:34 p.m.

    Shut the front door!!! Awesome, I cannot wait for this game!
  • JezzeZ - February 4, 2011 1:47 p.m.

    Can't wait, mustgetitmustgetitmustgetit!
  • cyclone306 - February 4, 2011 10:52 a.m.

    Can't. Wait.
  • CoktorBloktopus - February 4, 2011 5:40 a.m.

    sweet i have to try my hands at demon souls some time. now that I actually have some free time.
  • GAYMER - February 4, 2011 4:54 a.m.

    2011 just keeps getting better and better.... And my wallet hates me for it
  • blu_dud - February 4, 2011 4:26 a.m.

    More people should have bought Demon's Souls. I can't wait for this game.
  • Yaro - February 4, 2011 4:04 a.m.

    Also moar armor and ability to sheathe weapons plx.
  • Yaro - February 4, 2011 3:57 a.m.

    Awesome! I expect great things.
  • CrashmanX - February 4, 2011 3:53 a.m.

    The ability to hide as a piece of the environment. Dear lord, the possibilities are endless. However I do question one thing, if a player invades your world, will it be similar to demon's souls in that you cannot leave the area until they are defeated? or are they left to wander for eternity?
  • vadorsoul - February 4, 2011 3:25 a.m.

    I love demons souls... im excited, but scared of changes
  • Gameguy94 - February 4, 2011 3:21 a.m.

    Yeah that was the one and only thing I didn't like about Demon's Souls was how linear each level was. This however looks much more open. Can't wait!!!
  • NightCrawler_358 - February 4, 2011 3:09 a.m.

    Such an awesome game! the atmosphere is so compelling, not even broken by co-operative play. the dark yet beautiful scenery, the horrifying towers of bosses, the ambient thoughtful soundtrack! When i was stuck, i kept trying because it was so fun, then beat a certain boss, getting momentum to beat the rest of 8 bosses I had left in about 3 days! Demon's Souls was really a refreshing change.

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