As much as I personally loved it, I still can’t believe the original Demon’s Souls was a hit, as it contains every single trait that’s supposed to doom a game to a niche market at best: a brutal difficulty, an incredibly nihilistic, oppressive atmosphere, and a control scheme which was only exceeded in needless, obtuseness by Monster Hunter. Yet despite conventional wisdom dictating that a game like Demon’s Souls should have been bound for immediate obscurity, the game proved to be a hit not in spite of, but because of these qualities, and the game struck a chord with gamers tired of modern games filled with patronizing tutorials and gentle difficulty curves.
Now Namco Bandai is readying the next helping of videogame-based sado-masochism with Dark Souls, which, despite the change in title, is more or less the direct sequel to Demon’s Souls (the change in title is due to Sony owning the Demon’s Souls name in Japan; this new game is being published by Namco Bandai in all regions and will be available on both PS3 and 360, unlike the original.) The name and the publisher are different, but it’s being developed by the original Demon’s Souls team at From Software, and anyone who’s played Demon’s Souls will immediately feel at home with Dark Souls.
All the things you loved about Demon’s Souls are still present in this new game: the game is as hard as ever (or perhaps even harder, if the developers claims are to be believed,) and most of the people in line ahead of me for the demo didn’t last more than a minute or two, with some even dying within moments of encountering the first enemy. The controls and HUD are almost nearly identical to Demon’s Souls, still requiring players to cautiously and slowly observe their surroundings for potential danger (and in this game, everything is potentially dangerous,) while simultaneously keeping an eye on their ever dwindling reserves of health of stamina. Even within the game’s short demo, it was clear that Dark Souls has managed to recreate the feeling of enjoyable anxiety that the original game constantly made you feel.
But while the core of the game hasn’t changed, Dark Souls has its fair share of improvements: the graphics in the demo were a noticeable step up from the original, and though it wasn’t available in the demo version, the developers are promising a vast, open over world (rather the small hub section that appeared in the original game,) for players to explore when they’re not busy dying in the game’s multiple dungeons.
Dark Souls looks to be more of the same, but speaking as someone who was completely addicted to the original, there’s nothing wrong with more of what this game is delivering. In an age where games are more concerned with coddling gamers rather than challenging them, games like Demon’s Souls and now Dark Souls, which not only refuse to patronize their audience but instead chose to revel in their difficulty, are always welcome. Dark Souls will be available for the PS3 and Xbox 360 this Fall.