Dark Souls preview gives us clammy hands

We usually like to relax while gaming, but Demon’s Souls did something to us that made the experience unique – it intimidated us and filled us with anxiety, and yet somehow that was a good thing. We can’t explain it, but the game managed to bring out our inner masochist. It’s important to understand that we’re not normally patient with games that are frustrating. That’s why Demon’s Souls was special – it could turn a regular gamer into an ultra-hardcore one, bringing out the digital hero in the normally faint of heart. Just watching someone else play Dark Souls brought all of those feelings back, and we somehow felt nostalgia for that perpetual sense of anxiety – how twisted (read: awesome) is that?

Above: Nope, not intimidating at all

It’s hard to tell if Dark Souls, which is not a direct sequel but rather a spiritual successor, will be even more difficult than Demon’s Souls. We don’t know because for this preview the hero was decked out in badass gear and tons of health. Even so, everything about the world we saw oozed with intimidation factor. The demo started outside a castle, on the ramparts, with a peaceful and beautiful sky drifting overhead. The wind whirled past with a lonely tune, and anyone who hasn’t played Demon’s Souls would think nothing ominous was afoot. Having played Demon’s Souls, this simple scene was for us pregnant with dread. Dark Souls did not disappoint.

The hero walked in through the open doorway into a small stone room with a flight of stairs directly opposite the entrance. The instant a foot trod on the room’s floor, a series of arrows came shooting out of a hole in the stairs. That’s how evil the traps are in the “castle of traps” (the mere name of which will cause any Demon’s Souls veteran to shudder). You know you’re in a world of hurt when the freakin’ stairs are going to shoot at you. Of course, that little miserable surprise was quickly forgotten: at the top of said stairs stood a ten-foot tall snake man who promptly leaped down and began swinging away with his massive sword. With a normal character not buffed for a preview demo, we’ll bet the snake man will kill you in a couple swipes of his sword.

Despite being horrendously evil in its intentions toward the player, Dark Souls tries to keep things fair – a keen-eyed player would be able to see the hole in the stairs for that first arrow trap. Later, the hero came to a junction with another corridor, but the ground looked different. In fact, it gave a clue to what might happen: whereas the floor was nice flat brick everywhere else, in the upcoming corridor the floor had been worn into a long, curved groove. Awesomely, we were able to guess based purely on that detail what the next trap would be: a giant Indiana Jones rolling boulder. But of course this was Dark Souls, so just one boulder wouldn’t cut it. The hero had to time his sprint down the corridor to narrowly avoid the next oncoming boulder. Eventually he found his way to a giant room full of rotating gears where boulders would drop from above, land on a huge stone pedestal, and then a massive wooden piston would shove the boulder off down its deadly path. The cool twist was that the player could rotate the mechanism, changing where the boulders go, not only opening up safe passages but even blasting a hole in a wall to expose a secret area.

Above: Sorry buddy, we don't know what you're doing with that sword, but isn't going to help

In most games, arrows and boulders would be mundane hazards. But this is Dark Souls. Death has the same massive penalty that it had in Demon’s Souls: you lose all of your Souls (the game’s money) and to get them back you must work your way back to the bloodstain that marks your death. Normally we’re against huge punishments in games, but in the Souls games, it’s one of the main draws. The tension becomes immense when every corner of the game could have severe repercussions, and on top of that when you overcome the odds it feels like a level of accomplishment few (if any) games can match.

Still, if all Dark Souls had to appeal was its difficulty that would be a weak reason to play. Ask anyone who’s played Demon’s Souls and they’ll tell you about the sense of melancholy and loneliness, a desolate world that has a unique tone – just running around in these games feels different from anything else we’ve played, and Dark Souls looks to maintain that tone. Yet there’s another draw – the bizarre monsters. Dark Souls follows Demon’s Souls in lulling you into believing its monsters will be mundane – snake men aren’t exactly imaginative, right? But go a bit further in and expectations become completely turned over. We watched the hero enter a small room with a treasure chest in it. This chest looked exactly like one that had been opened earlier.

Above: We're pretty sure that's some giant ogre-thing throwing boulders at you

When the hero knelt down to open the chest, the chest came to life. But it wasn’t some boring, animated treasure chest. Freaky, lanky arms shot out of the chest’s sides and bloody fangs appeared from the chest’s opening, along with a grotesque, five-foot long tongue. We watched in horror as the chest gnawed on our hero’s upper body before spitting him out. The chest then instantly reverted to a normal, harmless-looking state. The hero, feeling indignant, thwacked the chest, but there was no response. That is, until we realized he’d just made the creature angry. Suddenly, creepy long legs telescoped from the bottom of the chest and the disturbing monstrosity became a vaguely humanoid and horrifically mobile threat. Even more gross was the revealed reality of its anatomy – it became clear that the giant tongue was really the thing’s head, and it was sort of “wearing” the treasure chest around its neck.

For more wonderful surprises, we had to look no further than back at the beginning of the castle. In the first run-through, the hero went across a stone bridge that was a gauntlet of swinging scythes. During a second run-through, the hero instead allowed himself to get knocked off the bridge where he fell to a large chamber below. Hey, cool, a secret area with some nice items and OH GOD WHAT THE F-

Above: Well, hello there. This weird statue has only one leg and crawls at you, which is creepy, but also seemingly unthreatening. Just wait until it leaps fifty feet through the air

Yeah, Dark Souls is so nonchalant about its badassery that it just casually throws an insane BOSS at you if you happen to fall off a bridge into a secret area. Still wondering why we’re excited about this game?

May 11, 2011


  • Eliath - May 15, 2011 11:58 p.m.

    @TheRandomFool Spells did have a lot of potential for being OP, but a bow build had just as much potential in my opinion. It made most bosses a couple hit affair (or one hit sometimes). Although the levels could still prove somewhat difficult if you relied solely on bows.
  • ObliqueZombie - May 13, 2011 1:59 a.m.

    Is this a 360 release as well? I never had the chance to play Demon's Soul on the PS3, but damn if I wouldn't jump on a chance to play it. It was one of the few PS3 exlcusives I was pumped to play, even if I knew I'd never truly play it.
  • BurntToShreds - May 12, 2011 10:47 p.m.

    It sucks that I missed out on Demon's souls for the PS3. Hopefully Dark Souls will be good on both the PS3 and the 360.
  • TheHowetzer - May 12, 2011 6:52 p.m.

    Cannot wait.
  • Swornthroughswords - May 12, 2011 2:15 a.m.

    I just can't wait.
  • TheWebSwinger - May 12, 2011 1:52 a.m.

    Ah, I see. I was afraid they'd changed the fencing-esque gameplay, or atmosphere, or something like that had changed. I'm stoked!!
  • RebornKusabi - May 12, 2011 1:52 a.m.

    LOOOOOVED Demon's Souls and consider it, Mass Effect 2, God of War 3 and Red Dead Redemption as the best games in the last 2 years. I cannot wait to play this, though I might be grabbing this one on the 360 since Demon's Souls didn't have voice chat and that was retarded lol
  • Aletheon - May 12, 2011 1:29 a.m.

  • parthy - May 12, 2011 1:10 a.m.

    @Gameguy94 Don't worry! We hate everyone that writes "first" on any thread
  • crumbdunky - May 12, 2011 12:17 a.m.

    From are good devs. From the nostalgic sunshine of Zelda/16bit homage 3D Dot Game Heroes to the evil, dank pleasure of the granite hard Demon's souls I've spent a good deal of the last year(I'm in the UK hence the slowness of actually GETTING DS!)in their thrall so this is a great thing to behold. 360 only gamers may niot quite know what's in store for them with this one and I'm hoping we veterans of the PS3 experience last time round will also get a few shocks from it too. Looking forward to this a lot more than Skyrim if I'm totally honest as this has the chance that it might, y'know, WORK day one and not have us paying to do the sodding beta/QA. A practise which, this week, spread to more devs published by Bethesda having, previously, seemed more set in stone for their own games(yes, you Splash Damage and Brink, you know who I mean)or sequels to their own games on THEIR engine. Orr am I just still pissed off about the vampire curse that screwed me TWICE in Oblivion? Skyrim will, no doubt be a great game but I'm sick of the Bethesda method and there's just no way i'#ll be preordering anything to do with them again-they seem to need at least a month or two to sort their games out after release so TES5 might as well be a 2012 release for me. Back OT-I got a nervy feeling just READING a preview for this-I'm such a massive pansy. Can't wait, though, and I'm actually glad more gamers will get to join in the sadism this time round(and masochism, natch). I haven't read much about the online yet-will it be a similar thing to the genius of Demon's? Here's hoping they push that even further.
  • GamesRadarMatthewKeast - May 11, 2011 11:46 p.m.

    The story, world, and characters are unrelated to Demon's Souls. It's just the tone and game mechanics that are the same. For all intents and purposes it's a sequel, but it tells an all new story. I guess in a way it's like a Final Fantasy sequel.
  • Person5 - May 11, 2011 11:24 p.m.

    @TheWebSwinger if I remember correctly, the developers themselves described it as a spiritual successor rather than a direct sequel, I mean for it to really be a direct sequel it would need a related story, and for all we know the story could be completely different than Demon Souls (Which being without a PS3 was one of the games I'm actually sad I missed out on, I'm glad I get this on my 360 though!)
  • Evilsafetyboy - May 11, 2011 11:21 p.m.

    From Software both hates and loves us and we wouldn't have it any other way.
  • Frexerik - May 11, 2011 11:17 p.m.

    fucking LOVED demons souls and i am sure that i will fucking LOVE this game! i am more hyped for this than skyrim!!!!
  • TheWebSwinger - May 11, 2011 11:10 p.m.

    Awesome awesome awesome. Demon's Souls was the best hacky/slashy RPG i've played since Oblivion, can't wait for this. That said, why do you describe it more of a spiritual successor than a direct sequel...? Even despite the lack of a hub world, it seems like a definite sequel.
  • BoobleDrop - May 11, 2011 10:42 p.m.

    i feel joy in my heart. just the trailer they have amazed me. the way those skeleton fingers twitch so perfectly, jumping down sword-first on that monster. OPEN WORLD DEMON'S SOULS?!!! there is a god, and he's waiting for me to walk into his mouth
  • TheRandomFool - May 11, 2011 10:23 p.m.

    WOOOO LOVED DEMON SOULS!!! But seriously, I hope they make spells have less CRAZY OP potential, or buff up standard things. Also, enemies that will 1-shot you are, and will remain, irritating as hell.
  • Gameguy94 - May 11, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    Oh crap sorry first. You all must hate me.
  • Gameguy94 - May 11, 2011 10:08 p.m.

    Firtst! Man Elder Scrolls 5 and Dark Souls in the same year? How awesome is that?
  • Valntyne - May 11, 2011 10:07 p.m.

    Fucking awesome.

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