Dark Souls is the "spiritual successor" to From Software's Demon's Souls. What does "spiritual successor" mean? Dark Souls is being developed by the same team with the same thematic elements. Dark Souls will be a bigger, better, and more difficult evolution of Demon's Souls. It's not a sequel in the sense that it will carry over characters or objectives, in fact Dark Souls takes place in a different universe.
When Dark Souls begins, you're trapped in a prison. Upon escaping, you realize that you may be the only one who can free the land of its curse. That's all the backstory you're going to get to start with.
What We Know:
We last saw Dark Souls at Ignite 2011, Namco Bandai's press conference. There we saw some gameplay from an early build of the dark fantasy-RPG. During the presentation, we were reassured Dark Souls would have everything we loved about Demon's Souls: a solitary RPG experience with souls, castles, enemies with too much armor, and of course, fatalities. In fact, we were promised "10,000, 100,000,1,000,000 deaths." Sadly, everything I saw there was on one small screen for an entire room of people. By the time it was over, I was ready to see the game up close, and I finally got the chance this week.
We What We're Seeing Now:
The demo we saw was for an area known as the Castle of Traps (The name is still pending. I suggested Ackbar Fortress. I assume Namco Bandai is mulling over that right now). The castle was briefly shown to us at Ignite 2011 to display how there's nowhere in Dark Souls where you're safe.
As soon as I sat down for our latest look though, I noticed that Dark Souls has more color. There were hues of blue in the knights armor, and he was wearing bright gold gauntlets. Granted, this knight was the over-powered, maxed stats, demo-only knight. Walk down a corridor, and you'll see the torches on the wall are bright, guiding you in vibrant orange. The game is still very much the literally dark game you expect. There is plenty of gray and variations of gray, especially in the castle levels, but there is a noticeable addition of more colors.
Once the knight started going through the level, he immediately stepped on a raised tile. Spikes shot at the knight; he was unable to get away. If the knight didn't have an advanced health bar, he surely would have died. Death number one.
The next room had the first enemies, Serpent-monsters. These serpent enemies looked like Lizalfos with a snake torso; other variations had a cobra head and torso. They were armed with a shield and sword. After a series of dodging, defending, and stabs, the enemies were dead. The knight moved across a bridge with giant swinging blades moving in alternative synchronization. I was told how key timing was, but even if I did fall, I would have the chance to explore a new area that may have items I would never come across otherwise. That is, if you survive the fall. The knight didn't. Death number two.
I heard a rumbling sound as the knight headed down a narrow corridor. As I neared the end of the hallway, I saw another serpent enemy in the doorway. Right as he noticed me coming towards him, I could see lust for my blood in his eyes. I'm being a little dramatic, but you get it. And in a blink of an eye, a rock boulder came rushing down the stairs, taking the serpent with him. Boulders, why'd it have to be boulders?
The boulder trap is a reminder the traps that are working against you are working against the baddies too. Throughout the rest of the level, the boulder remained a problem, pushing the knight off whenever he wasn't looking. I don't know what number death we were on at this point. The level ends as you walk out of the castle and down a bridge; no cut scene, no map sequence, just a new world to explore, and die in.
A feature from Demon's Souls that has carried over is the ability to regain the souls you lost. A blood stain and glowing orb will appear where you died previously. Similar online features will return as well like orbs, or the Beacon Fire, where your friends died, or messages from other gamers. A new mode will be called Oath System, however no more details were shared.
Loot can be found in pots, chests, and on select enemies. For the most part, once you kill an enemy, that's that. Don't think this means less loot. Bigger enemies will drop plenty of items for you to choose, from weapons to armor. Dark Souls is similar to a western RPG in that you can design your hero before you start the game. You can choose your starter stats, your sex, and appearance. Throughout the game, you'll unlock more armor options, leggings, chest plates, helmets etc. Weapons have different purposes. You'll also be able to specialize, whether it be more combat or magic focused. This particular knight had a huge mace. It was slower but it crushed an entire row of pots. As always, knowing when to use a particular weapon is key to survival.
On the subject of chests, I came across one that wasn't aligned with the wall. It struck me as odd but that feeling of uneasiness didn't stop my greed from trying to open it. This is when I learned about enemies that are actually treasure chests. Yes, not even your loot is safe. The baddie had long legs and arms with an even more disproportioned tongue. Again, the knight would have died had my stats not been stacked.
Dark Souls doesn't have a map, a GPS, radar, fortune teller, or anyway to figure out where to go. The game is built on the idea that you'll learn from your mistakes. And I assure you, you'll make plenty. Dark Souls doesn't have a linear plot, and you can discover new areas seamlessly. This means no loading screens and no teleport sequences, but this also means your objectives aren't initially clear.
Dark Souls will be playable at E3, so you can bet we’ll have even more details about it before it launches this fall. Dark Souls will be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360.