One of the last things gamers expected out of the recent Video Game Awards was a trailer for Dark Souls 2. Originating with Demon’s Souls for the PS3 in 2009, the intensely difficult and brutal series has gained a loyal following. When Dark Souls went multi-platform last year, it gave Xbox 360 players plenty of opportunity to prepare for death. Soon after the trailer was released, though, the cheers were replaced with groans when it was announced that Hidetaka Miyazaki, who directed Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, would just be supervising the sequel.
Groans turned to cries of anger when new directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura claimed they wanted Dark Souls 2 to be more straightforward and accessible to players who are new to the Dark Souls experience. While change can be a good thing, fans are worried this goal of “accessibility” can change the experience for the worse. If handled carefully, Dark Souls 2 could be bigger, better, and more brutal than its predecessor. If not, it won’t be a pretty sight. These are just a few things that could cause Dark Souls 2 to fail:
Focusing too much on “easing” the player in
Making everything obvious
Another criticism of Shibuya and Tanimura’s direction is that they want to focus on making mechanics and story elements less vague. Though there is nothing wrong with making parts of the game easy to understand, if everything is made obvious to the player then it will take away from some of the mystery and the fun. Part of the fun of Dark Souls was not only digging in to the story of the game but also the mechanics. Sure, they weren’t exactly clear, but with enough time (and word of mouth), a lot was revealed. If everything is clearly expressed to the player, then there is less fun to be had when something new is found.
Changing the core combat mechanics
This should be obvious. Perhaps one of the most brilliant aspects of Dark Souls is how tight and well executed its combat mechanics are. It has often been said that games like Skyrim would be better if they had combat similar to Dark Souls. The balance of stamina, attacking, blocking, and magic is excellent. If anything dramatic were done to those systems, chaos would ensue.
Shipping with glitches
Games have glitches, that much is given. In a complex and massive game like Dark Souls, there are going to be glitches as well. However, some of these glitches can break the experience. Within a few days of release, people already found ways to gain infinite “experience” points (the same glitch was also in Demon’s Souls). The game also received many patches which balanced several things including armor, items, and more but also gave early adopters some advantages along with disadvantages. The good news is that such issues should be addressed before Dark Souls 2 releases.
Using Co-Op as a bullet point
In the quest to make Dark Souls 2 more accessible, one hopes that this doesn’t mean also making the game more mainstream. Online mechanics and certain “co-op” elements have been implemented in the series before but they always complimented the nature of the game. Developers (possibly influenced by the publishers) are finding ways to constantly push cooperative mechanics into games that don’t need them. Giving Dark Souls 2 a true co-op mode would alter the experience into something it shouldn’t be.
As long as these things are avoided and the trademark difficulty is in place, Dark Souls 2 will be a fantastic experience. The game is rumored to be released near the end of 2013 or possibly sometime in 2014. That should give the new directors plenty of time to prove all the worried souls wrong.