Demon’s Souls has become known mainly for three things: being exclusive to PS3; being incredibly, crushingly bleak and difficult; and being a surprise hit in spite of the first two. Dark Souls, its spiritual successor (but not outright sequel), is not only expanding its audience to the 360, but its developers have proudly announced that it’ll be much more difficult than Demon’s Souls ever was. And while that’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around, the evidence we’ve seen so far tells us that Dark Souls looks poised to be another huge hit with those who like a little suffering with their gameplay.
As much as developer From Software seems cheerfully dead-set on making the game tougher, with more huge, terrifying bosses and brutal run-of-the-mill enemies, its mantra is “very spicy, but edible.” To that end, they’re giving players access to better tactics and more ways to survive. One of these is a campfire checkpoint system (the lack of which made Demon’s Souls supremely frustrating), although it comes with a price: with every death, you become weaker and your enemies become stronger.
Why the cycle of resurrection and weakness? Well, your character is undead, which in Dark Souls is shorthand for “immortal, but cursed.” You’ll start out more or less normal, but every death will drain some of your humanity, threatening to eventually leave you a bony husk, like the other undead denizens of the monster-infested gulag you’ve been shipped off to. Only by defeating monsters – or other players – will you be able to regain part of your humanity.
Above: Also, the game looks just a little bit breathtaking
In spite of the merciless difficulty, though, the demo we played at E3 – fraught as it was with surprise attacks, repeated deaths and corridors that were home to creatures who instantly made us regret our wrong turns – was about 20 minutes of immense fun, and it left us hungry to jump back into the fray, outrageous odds be damned.
Jun 22, 2011