Dark Souls 2's Trailer Delivers Disappointment

By Adam Ma on December 10, 2012, 9:02PM EDT
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Allow me to open things up with a little bit of poetry.

Undead knight wanders around
Rendered cutscene shows lots of action
Fear grips at my heart.

Watching a developer take any game into a different direction can be cause for both a lot of excitement and a lot of concern. On one hand some incredibly amazing games have been created from a developer looking to take a risk and change the formula that has made said franchise so iconic. We need only look as far at Mario to see that a single gaming character can envelop an incredibly broad range of creative titles. More often than being a beacon of developmental illumination developers choose to tweak a system slightly, changing some aspects of the gameplay while at the same time keeping a lot of what made the franchise so iconic in the first place (Call of Duty or Halo being great examples). But sometimes in the rush to be different a franchise can take a wrong step. For Dark Souls 2 the fear is that step may be called "˜becoming too mainstream'.

It's not as though the Souls franchise has been plagued with bad sales or poor reviews. Though filled with their own set of mechanical problems the series has done very well for itself, and in creating a set of incredibly difficult and seemingly niche games From Software has gained an immensely supportive player base. A third installment in the game seemed fairly obvious, and while there's absolutely nothing wrong with creating a deeper narrative within the main character alongside adjusting their world design to become a little more straightforward than Dark Souls the trailer still raises a lot of questions. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun to watch, but I certainly didn't feel like this was like watching the same franchise we've grown to love and rage at.

Somewhat slow, methodical and harrowing combat is what the series is known for. "Prepare to die" was an amazing slogan for their last game because that's what gamers expect to do when they purchase. It's unlike any other title out there which encourages players to fight against impossible odds; being killed in a Souls title is expected to be a part of the experience, so much that in order to learn some boss fights dying is near mandatory, let alone using a death to help discover all of the traps and tricks scattered throughout each level. Dying (and learning form those deaths) is as deep rooted a game mechanic as learning how to block and attack, so it's only natural that gamers expect more development on that particular gaming tool for any upcoming entries into the series. Perhaps From Software is taking advantage of the fact that I know the the game well enough by now, but none of that came through in the trailer.

Immediately I am reminded of Dragon Age 2, and the sacrifices that some developers make to ensure narrative and faster combat. Trying to determine if the same features that make a game so memorable are the same features that make the gameplay less accessible is an incredible task, and doing so means that both gamers and developers need to be on the same page. When talk of making the game more "˜accessible and straightforward' for all gamers I can only hope they're referencing the same things that reviewers have been saying about the last game. Making the route that players are supposed to progress down more understandable is a great choice, but it's not exactly like Dark Souls was difficult to understand. Pick a path which you can best succeed down, follow it until you die, grind up a few levels, rinse and repeat. It would be great to gain a little more clarity on what some items do, but unless the question is between making a linear pathing and removing the open world concept to make the game easier to travel I'm left working hard to think about what other elements would need dramatic changes. In fact, there's only one that comes to mind: difficulty.

It almost goes without saying that a less difficult Dark Souls would be absolutely heartbreaking. Perhaps it's unfair for us to judge the game based on their CGI hype trailer, but if that's the case why bother releasing a trailer that's completely contrary to the gameplay pace set down by its predecessors? Maybe it's just because we've all been burned too many times before by developer sequelitis, but Dark Souls 2 has a long way to go before it convinces me that everything will be just fine.

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