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Dark Souls first look preview

by Garnett Lee

Dark Souls (which we learned yesterday will release this October) is the follow-up to 2009’s sleeper hit action role-playing game Demon’s Souls. Note that I said follow-up as opposed to sequel. Though the new game will play similarly to its predecessor in many ways, it holds no story connection to the original and takes place in a new world. Many of the unique elements will carry on in the game, such as being able to leave messages for others playing the game, see how they died, and help–or hinder–their progress in the game. It also promises bring back, and even ratchet up, the difficulty level that became one of the original’s calling cards.

New Dark Souls screens

I got my first chance to see Dark Souls in action and, while brief, it offered a tantalizing look at the hack-and-slash heavy combat. I watched as the game’s producer guided an armored knight into the aptly named “Castle of Traps.” No sooner had he entered the first chamber than did we hear the ominous click of a pressure plate followed by a ball of lightning.

This presented a good opportunity to illustrate the character’s dodge-roll ability. With a sword in one hand and tower shield in the other he was able to get out of the way quickly enough but that will vary based on equipment. Stripped down to lighter gear, a character will be able to move faster, with more agile moves, and lose stamina at a slower rate. Of course that all comes at the expense of giving up the extra protection all that armor provides.

Two snake-men then attacked allowing for a demo of the combat system in Dark Souls. Hands are matched up to the triggers on the corresponding side of the controller. So in this example the right triggers executed a fast or heavy strike with the sword in the character’s right hand; the left triggers controlled the shield for either a block or a sweeping parry move.

Between the combinations of gear and weapons to be equipped there should be a number of tactical options for fighting. Against the snake-men a well-timed parry with the shield proved invaluable, leaving them vulnerable to stabbing kill move. Later in the demo the hero came up against one of the best-looking treasure chest mimic monsters I’ve ever seen. When he went to open it, the chest sprouted arms and pulled him head first into the gaping maw its opening lid had become. Once the hero pulled free and came back to attack, the chest surprisingly sprouted long legs and moved quickly to snap back at him.

The castle environment illustrated the design’s intent to make open spaces that encourage exploration. In several locations a combination of traps and paths created a maze that would be easy to get lost in. And in several spots, unexpected drops and wrong turns led not to death but yet other areas to poke around in. The last of these was a dank pit that turned out to also be the lair of a rather large and mean looking demon. Not ready to take on that powerful a foe, it was time to run away and conclude the demo.

I expect we’ll get to play Dark Souls at E3. In the meantime, check out the new screens and video which show both the Castle of Traps and several other environments from the game as well as some in-game footage of combat.

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