Dark Souls II: Shibuya on the gameworld, awkwardness and accessibility

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Though Namco Bandai isn’t yet ready to confirm plans for a PC release of Dark Souls II, there was an unmistakably wink-wink quality to how we were told “we’re not denying it either”. Our demo was also running on a high-end laptop

One half of the directorial duo behind Dark Souls II, Tomohiro Shibuya clearly has more than a passing interest in fashion. He sports stylishly layered hair, his jeans are ornamented with faux-stencilled graffiti, and the shirt he’s got on displays a black-and-white photograph of a woman reclining on a sofa while wearing nothing but black gloves. One arm conceals her breasts, while a strategically positioned cushion keeps the image just softcore enough to ensure it remains tantalising without being pornographic. The composition of the photo is designed to tease viewers, and to kindle their curiosity.

Shibuya is here to try to accomplish the same trick with Dark Souls II, but it becomes quickly apparent that he doesn’t intend to be nearly as forthcoming as the woman on his shirt. She’s opted for black gloves, but he might as well be cloaked in the Tower Knight’s daunting plate armour.

His initial flurry of answers are vague. We’re able to establish that Dark Souls II will be a direct sequel to Dark Souls, and it will take place in an open world of similar dimensions to its predecessor but more dense with content. The game will not take place in Lordran, yet Shibuya won’t disclose the name of the setting. “The name of the world will be key to the story,” he says. “We will reveal it eventually, but not in the first announcement. If Lordran was to be an area in a world called, say, Earth, the setting of this game will be somewhere completely different. The two places won’t necessarily interact directly with each other, but, from a visual concept [standpoint] at least, it will be within the same world.”

Tomohiro Shibuya, co-game director, Dark Souls II

We’re told the story will once again revolve around a character who is cursed and seeking to find the cure for his affliction, but Shibuya won’t be drawn out further. He will provide no details about how much continuity there is between the story of Dark Souls II and its predecessor, nor explain why the player has appeared in this new region. “They’ll find out right away,” he says, “but that’s something we want to refrain from speaking too much about today.”

In the preceding interview, Miyazaki stressed that FromSoftware was interested in evolving the series to keep fans surprised and engaged. So if the key alteration from Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls was providing players with an expansive and seamless open world, what’s the defining change that Dark Souls II will offer us?

“The concept of time and the existence of time is something that will be key to Dark Souls II,” replies Shibuya. When we press for more detail, he simply rephrases the word ‘time’ with ‘eras’ and leaves it there. That’s as much as he will say, claiming that he doesn’t want to spoil the surprise for players. We’ll have to wait to see just what this clue means, then, but it sounds as though time travel between different epochs of the world’s history could play a role in the game. For a series that already shares so much DNA with The Legend Of Zelda, playing with time mechanics can only serve to strengthen that bond.

Any sequel in a beloved franchise gets stuck between the competing values of preserving the core of an experience that players have loved and the desire to offer up fresh enticements. Despite his caginess, Shibuya doesn’t intend to be shy about building on the foundation of the past games and changing things up.

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