Dark Souls II was officially announced last night at the Spike Videogame Awards. We’ve already seen it, and it’s the cover star of our next issue, E249, out December 20.
An eternal battle rages at the heart of Dark Souls II. On one side stands the stern force of challenge, the very soul of the Souls series. It has inspired thousands of fans to hack their way through two of the most demanding and rewarding games of an era, fans who expect at least the same test on the next go around. On the other side is the bright promise of accessibility. And why not? Why shouldn’t FromSoftware and Namco Bandai open Souls up to a wider audience when it could otherwise be in danger of becoming stuck in a cult cul-de-sac?
There are many, after all, who have been put off by the series’ habit of obscuring its best assets from all but the most committed. Entire systems, such as Dark Souls’ covenants and Demon’s Souls’ World Tendency, remain mysteries to even reasonably experienced players – wouldn’t it be a service to the games to help everyone understand them better? On the other hand, isn’t the very nature of the Souls series about obfuscation and what it makes you work for? Aren’t its greatest pleasures about the slow crawl of discovery in a world that refuses easy interpretation? What would the series lose if it was made more explicit?
As we find out in issue 249, the answers to these questions are in the hands of game directors new to the Souls series, Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura, who have taken the reins from Hidetaka Miyazaki. Their descriptions of how they intend to mould Dark Souls II into a more approachable form seem reasonable. But Shibuya admits that their approach will be influenced by their individual characters. “I personally am the sort of person who likes to be more direct than subtle,” he tells us. “[Dark Souls II] will be more straightforward and more understandable.” We sympathise if that sort of statement concerns you, but at the same time, we can surely agree that we would all like to see Dark Souls attain as great a presence as The Elder Scrolls. How it gets there is a worthy matter for debate, but it’s certainly a noble task.