Dark Souls is the spiritual successor to one of the hardest games ever, FromSoftware's Demon's Souls. Dark Souls is being developed by the same team who devleoped Demon’s Souls and they promise this game will be even more difficult than Demon's Souls. It’s a cringe worthy goal but I have faith they will succeed. We've seen glimpses of Dark Souls here and there, and did an in-depth Dark Souls preview from a Namco Bandai event. At E3 2011 we got a chance to check out Dark Souls' intriguing multiplayer system.
I entered the dark cave in which the demo was being played at Namco’s booth, to my left and right all I saw were other players getting brutally massacred in the game. Honestly I had a good time just laughing at them repeatedly. I found myself constantly giggling at their failure. I knew I wouldn’t do much better though so I had a developer walk me through the multiplayer system. I don’t feel bad either.
The demo started with our character, the Black Knight, running through a level called The Undead Parish. Right away the developer pointed out a Bonfire, something new to Dark Souls; it acts as a checkpoint system. In Demon’s Souls you could play the game for quite a long time, die, and then be set back almost an hour or more which added to the challenge of the game, sure, but also lead to unnecessary frustration. Dark Souls’ Bonfire system is completely optional, but for those that don’t want to spend all of their time redoing previous content, it’s there. You can also regen all of your health at the Bonfires if you wish, but again, it’s optional.
Immediately after we walked past the Bonfire inside of a dark room of the castle, we stepped out on to the ramparts. The game is gorgeous, each brick and stone of the castle seemed to be placed with care. Plus, looking out over the castle you could see forests with hundreds of trees fluttering in the distance. It looked great, and if I wasn’t pressed for time I would have loved to just run along the castle, breathing it all in. Unfortunately, there was a Wyvern on the ramparts waiting to get its scaly hands on me.
The developer explained that in Dark Souls, how you play the game and explore the world is up to you. We could have both fought the Wyvern and got a lot of Souls from it, or we could have just kept going to see what else the castle had to offer. The world is open and seamless, but I wanted to see what the Wyvern was all about. However, as soon as I got near it, it lit me up with a nasty fire breath and I instantly died. I didn’t have that much time with the demo so after experiencing the Wyvern once, we decided to go check out more of the castle. Choices like this will pop up everywhere in Dark Souls, and obviously you’ll haves benefits if you take out the challenging minibosses, but they’re not a requirement.
As we walked around the castle, taking out skeletons along the way, I noticed some writing on the floor similar to the writing on the floor from Demon’s Souls. Dark Souls doesn’t feature co-op multiplayer like almost every other game out lately. Instead, there’s an option where you can enable multiplayer while you play. This new feature to Dark Souls allows random people, not your friends, to jump in to your game and leave helpful messages, aid you with a specific quest, or kill you.
Let’s say I really wanted to kill that Wyvern from before but was just having too much trouble with it. I could enable multiplayer in my game and ask someone to come in and help me. Opening my game world up for a random person to come in and help also leaves the door ajar for malicious people to come in and invade as an evil spirit and kill me. Players can also leave signs around the game letting you know they’re available to be summoned to your game and help out if needed.
Voice isn’t enabled, so even if someone is coming to help or kill you, they can’t talk to you. What they can do is perform gestures, like flexing their muscles or laughing at you. There won’t be any twelve-year-olds calling you a noob running around which is nice. Regardless of whether or not you go in to another person’s game to help or hinder, once you come back to your game you’ll return in exactly the same spot you left.
The aforementioned writing on the floor is another part of the multiplayer. Using the Wyvern example once again, I could have left a message on the floor saying something along the lines of “Warning, danger up ahead.” And then added some sort of other advice. The messages are limited to predetermined phrases that are in the game already, meaning you can’t write personalized messages, but there are a lot of phrases to choose from so you could get creative if you wanted to. You could even leave a message giving someone bad advice if you wanted, it’s entirely up to you. Once you write out a message it goes on the floor and players with multiplayer enabled might see the message if they walk over it.
Being the malicious chick I am, I wanted to keep invading other E3-goers games and kill them. It was insanely fun when I managed to do it, but what was even more hilarious was that before we could even find other players within their game they’d die to some other evil Dark Souls creature. For example, I kept trying to go in to games to kill people but a huge armored boar would always get to the person first.
The developer then let me in on the idea that in Dark Souls there are always different ways to approach every situation. He said that the people who kept getting owned by the boar weren’t realizing that there was a staircase in the area they could climb up to avoid getting impaled. Every miniboss and every situation has some sort of gimmick in Dark Souls, meaning if you’re having trouble then you probably aren’t doing it right. Of course the intention is that the game is difficult, but the answers are there if you can find them.
With that, my time with Dark Souls was up. I hadn’t been able to get my hands on it before, but now that I’ve seen how it looks and plays, I definitely want to know more. I find the multiplayer aspects to be intriguing, and I like the fact that you don’t get to choose who you work with or against while you traverse the castle. Look for Dark Souls this fall when it launches for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.