I have never played Dark Souls. I believe I should probably preface this article by making this fact clear. The original Demon's Souls hated me.
It hated my mother. It hated my whole damn family. I died so many times in my first hour of playing the game I just could not continue it. That being said, I can appreciate the nature of Demon's Souls and its successor, Dark Souls. I can understand that the games have their hard-core fans who love the challenges the games provide, and while I am not one of them, I can fully respect them.
So there's me, having given up Demon's Souls and never played Dark Souls, trying out the Dark Souls 2 demo this week at Namco Bandai's Tokyo headquarters. Somehow opportunity had placed me in front of the demo machine, so I took it.
The demo began and I chose a class from a selection of prepared characters. Going for the neutral, vanilla route, I chose a warrior, and entered the game. The blood message system is still present – though it is no longer tied to items and is a selectable command, rather than an expendable item – and a message left on the ground told me that I may want to light a torch in the spot ahead. I lit a fire and then proceeded to light a torch as the message said. Another blood message suggested that perhaps I try jumping off the cliff ahead, to which I obediently complied.
After the "YOU DIED" screen disappeared and I respawned as an undead/hollow, I decided to ignore the second message and instead headed in the opposite direction. I encountered a shambling zombie which I was able to quickly dispatch before continuing down the path. I killed a couple more zombies before I came upon some run-down remains of a fortress that I entered and was almost immediately surrounded by 4 or 5 zombies – I don't know, I died before I could properly count them. I respawned at the starting point again, this time with less HP.
According to the developers, playing as undead/hollow is no longer as beneficial as it was before. Other players can now invade your game when you're undead/hollow where they couldn't in the previous game. Consecutive deaths also lead to a penalty of decreased max HP with a penalty of up to 50% of your original HP. Dying too much also causes your character appearance to change to a more "undead" look. Dark Souls 2 director, Hidetaka Miyazaki revealed that "Under certain conditions, the penalty can be more than 50%" and that under this unspecified circumstance, a player's character would be "much more ugly."
Edit: The director of Dark Souls 2 I spoke to was Yui Tanimura. Hidetaka Miyazaki is not working on Dark Souls 2. I got the names mixed up.
Resurrection is now done by using an item called a "Human Effigy" that can either be found or bought. Since I was playing a demo, I had been supplied with infinite Human Effigies, so I quickly used one, restoring myself to full health only to be killed again in less than a minute.
I reset the game and tried anew as a different class. This time, I tried the dual-wielder, since duel wielding in cool. Not cool enough to make me any good, though. I died and respawned a couple of more times before I came to the conclusion that I would never be able to get any further and put the controller down. Next to me, another player was fighting some creature I would never be able to defeat in some spot I would never be able to reach...
So, it looks like Dark Souls 2 hates me as much as Demon's Souls did. Which is to say, the game is gritty, unforgiving, and something I am entirely no good at. Director Miyazaki (Edit: Tanimura, not Miyazaki) stated that where the core theme of Dark Souls was "Humanity," this time, the core theme of Dark Souls 2 is "Curse" (Not the status affliction, but some other "thing"). I suppose that I'm "cursed" never to be any good at these games. Demon Souls 2 may not be "for me," but it never pretended to be, and I admire it for that.
Dark Souls 2 will be out for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in the US on March 11th and in Europe on March 14th. A PC version will be released after at an as-of-yet unannounced time.
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.
To contact the author of this post, write to cogitoergonihilATgmail.com or find him on Twitter @tnakamura8.