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Dark Souls finally shown live

As the demo progressed, felling a rat in the tunnels, then re-emerging into a labyrinthine series of walkways, the idea that these levels were taking full advantage of not just breadth, but height was made quite obvious. A far-off (and high-up) bridge was the goal, but the path was hardly a simple corridor: multiple diversionary routes leading to entire unexplored areas cropped up a few times, and there was the overwhelming sense that this was a world rife with the possibility of exploration.

It's something the dev team (composed of the same fine folks who made Demon's Souls, naturally) wasn't shy about, but actually seeing just how many twists and turns a level contained made it obvious that this was no longer a game where a hub led out to piecemeal sets of individual levels. Instead, the world was simply... there, beckoning foolish adventurers to explore with no real sense of where one should go or what may be lying ahead save for a far-off landmark to serve as a tempting point of reference.

It's something many western action-driven RPGs have done for years now, but instead of lush fields or wide swathes of undulating terrain, Dark Souls looks to have a decided height advantage. Take, for example, the instance toward the end of the lengthy (and varied) demo where a trap-riddled dungeon knocked the mysterious person playing the demo for us off a high platform with massive swinging blades. Rather than dying, the fall merely opened up a new area to explore. Sure, a player could make their way back eventually, but it hammered home the idea that falling into what seemed like a blind chasm wasn't an instant game over, but a transition to an entirely new area that may have been previously passed over.

This extends to the way combat has been revamped too, however. Consider the showpiece fight against an absolutely massive brute that leapt down onto a choked walkway while archers flung arrows at the player. After climbing a ladder to take care of the ranged attackers, the promise of over a hundred different kinds of weapons (all with their own animations and attack styles, mind) made itself that much more appealing. Though the brute easily leapt up onto the rampart to continue the fight (we’re talking an ogre-sized beast jumping up about a hundred feet – truly spectacular and surprising), he would pause below for a few seconds - easily enough time for the player to jump down and puncture his less-armored top with a downward thrust. It was a kind of contextual, environment-based attack we weren't expecting, and made for a deliciously brutal strike, a fount of inky blood spurting from the beast. Bear in mind this was an attack pulled off with a specific weapon, but if there are more environment-specific attacks, the old Demon's Souls-style parry/roll/strike system of combat may well look pedestrian by comparison.

The demo veered off course slightly, with From Software instead opting to expose just how varied the environments and equipment could be, first dipping into a pea soup-thick misty forest devoid of enemies, then a frankly hellish realm of lava lakes and ornate multi-tiered pagoda-style buildings in the distance. In both instances, the gear the player was using varied wildly from the more traditional armor and swords seen in the first part of the demo. The forest gave rise to the Onion Knight, a kind of wide-brimmed, lumbering-but-well-armored brawler that had something of an... issue rolling around. The fiery realm instead had the player decked out in what could only be described as a far svelter look: a kind of onyx-and-red suit of armor that looked vaguely samurai-ish - and a massive, curved blade to go with it.

As the demo headed back into more familiar territory, both visually and equipment-wise, we were treated to a brief look at the aforementioned trap-heavy temple, filled with enemies with snake heads. It was here that some of the magic was introduced; first a simple fireball, and then something quite interesting: a spell that would turn the player's body to metal, reducing damage, beefing up attacks, but turning the normal roll move into a kind of half-pitched lean. Sorry, metal's apparently just not very agile.

The demo closed out in a way that was infinitely more telling (not to mention rich with what-if possibilities). A quick spell was fired off that turned the player into... a tall vase. As it skimmed a few staircases and rounded a few more corners, the actual intent became clear when the player stopped to rest next to a handful of other, multi-sized clay jars: you can disguise yourself as the environment. Given that Dark Souls still shares its persistent online component and the act of jumping into someone else's game is still there (in fact, about the only part of Demon's Souls that didn't make it into the spiritual successor was the masochistic Light/Dark World Tendency that would actually make the game harder the more you died in an area), the idea of simply waiting, disguised as furniture, for some poor schmuck to go running by before ganking his hard-earned spoils had us giddy.

It's hard not to be hyperbolic when talking about the potential of Dark Souls. If Demon's Souls was a surprise hit, its spiritual successor has all the makings of a bona-fide hit, and with Namco Bandai's support in publishing the game this year worldwide, we're hopeful that an even bigger audience on both the PS3 and 360 will finally see what all the fuss was about last time.

Feb 4, 2011

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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.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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