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Namco talks Dark Souls 2 online - expect "enhanced" Covenants and invasion systems

"It's the sharing of emotions, the sharing of the loneliness with other people."

On the one hand, I'm desperate for news on From Software's Dark Souls 2. I want to hear about that bone dragon you'll stumble over in a certain hall, that miserable fat obscenity behind the prison door. I want to hear more about the new classes, the new Pyromancy spells and Miracles. I want to find out who stuck that aeroplane-sized sword through that mouldy temple.

And at the same time, of course, I want to hear absolutely nothing, so I can find out absolutely everything for myself, via the time-worn investigative tactic of repeated and ignoble death. In particular, I don't want to hear anything about the online functionality, one of the original's more abiding, persuasive mysteries. Why hello to you, Takeshi Miyazoe, publishing producer at Namco Bandai Games! Come now, tell me about the online functionality in Dark Souls 2! Related: I hate myself!

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Since Dark Souls came on the scene, there's been a glut of games that try their hands at asynchronous, embedded sharing and match-making strategies, the idea being that you won't have to push back from the world and its supporting fictions in order to play with others. Does From Software feel obliged to trump its earlier work, in order to stay ahead of the imitators?

"It's not something where we feel we have to," Miyazoe explained to us at Gamescom. "We feel there's a core element of the network online play that is unique to Dark Souls, and that the fans enjoy. The dev team really strives to avoid direct involvement with other players - I think there's a loose connection you have with other people.

"It's the sharing of emotions, the sharing of the loneliness with other people, so that you get that faint sense of comfort when you feel that another player's facing the same difficulties in the game, but without being able to have direct contact," he went on.

"Death is a big part of Dark Souls, but it's also the loneliness when you're facing the difficulties, you're that close to giving up, but you want to take that extra step, and having this loose connection with other players is one of the things that helps you to stride on."

Miyazoe was mum as to the specifics, as you'd expect/hope, but he was able to confirm a few returning features - player invasions and summoning, blood stains that display a ghost player's final few seconds of life, and the celebrated Covenants, divine or demonic allegiances that partly determine how you'll operate online. It's not clear whether any of the original's Covenants will return.

"We still have yet to reveal a lot of the enhancements, but the core elements of the network play in Dark Souls, such as summoning other players, Covenants that help or interrupt other players, will carry over to Dark Souls 2," Miyazoe continued. "Our dev team's goal is to enhance some of these elements even further, so that you still have that loose connection - how you interact with other players will be an enhanced experience, a new experience."

Perhaps the most tangible "enhancement" we've encountered so far consists of a boss - the fearsome Mirror Knight, who's capable of summoning other players to fight you through his magical shield, and is thus almost certainly the head of a new Covenant. For more on the world of Dark Souls 2, here's my gameplay preview from earlier this year.

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