Dark Souls 2 factoids have been dribbling through the internet's fissures for a couple of weeks now, but rather than writing about it, I've been looking on worriedly like a dog confronted by a wind-up kitten. Controversy over Dark Souls 2 begins with the title: this is the first numbered sequel in a series that has hitherto shunned such crudely commercial concepts, and the first Souls project that isn't led by franchise creator Hidetaka Miyazaki.
Time to break things down. A new Famitsu interview with Miyazaki and Dark Souls 2 co-director Tomojiro Shibuya has surfaced, translated by Polygon; I've combined it with key learnings from Edge Magazine (via CVG) to produce a list of need-to-knows. Let the mildly anxious hype-mongering commence.
1. New blood means surprises
Miyazaki's absence from the ticket may annoy the faithful, but according to the man himself, bringing on new blood is vital to escape the noose of diminishing returns. "I don't want to restrict the potential the series has by having only myself work on it," Miyazaki told OXM in our latest issue, out on Friday. "It should have more surprises or unknown elements in terms of the gameplay. In order to achieve that, there should be new inspiration and new perspective."
2. It's easier to get into
If the presence of new brains is a positive thing, I'm a little disturbed by Shibuya's choice of words. "Accessibility to players who haven't picked up Dark Souls is definitely a key topic," he told Edge. "Right in the beginning when players first pick up the game is something that I will definitely focus on. To not immediately throw them into Dark Souls but provide a good introduction in terms of what the game's about and how the game should be played."
The idea of making a game easier to get into sounds perfectly above reproach on paper, but Dark Souls is a game that trades on, makes an artistic point of the player's chronic unpreparedness. It's purposefully at odds to the coddling mentality that underpins a game like Assassin's Creed 3, where players are painstakingly walked through mechanics in the course of a six-hour prologue, and for that reason, Shibuya's pronouncements are a little offputting. "Hopefully that adjustment at the very beginning of the game will help draw in players and get them addicted right away without immediately making players feel rejected [by] the game system itself."
3. It's geared for Western gamers
Following in the footsteps of many a Japanese publisher, Konami appears intent on grabbing Western audiences with Dark Souls 2. "The trailer embodies the sense of solitude and desperation, both of which are core parts of the previous games," Shibuya told Famitsu. "We concentrated on getting this across in a way that would easily come across even to overseas gamers. In my personal opinion, I think the angles and such you saw have a lot of uniquely Western-style tastes to them." I'm interested to know whether this "Western-style taste" permeates beyond the cinematic direction to the combat, exploration and level design. Resisting the urge to cry "cultural dilution" for the moment...