A few very minor worries aside, I couldn't be more excited about getting lost in the world of Dark Souls 2, and untangling the many mysteries of Drangleic. This could very well be the finest remaining current gen only game on Xbox 360 - and also one of the most unforgiving.
At a recent press event in London, I spoke to Namco Bandai producer Takeshi Miyazoe about how the franchise lore came to be, the potential for DLC, and some of my theories about how Dark Souls I and II are linked. Beware - some mild fangirling ahead.
Can you talk us through the decision to have Dark Souls II show more emphasis on PvP elements?
Sure. We wanted to, I guess not necessarily enhance the PvP alone; we want to encourage or enhance the covenant system. What that means is, we wanted to get players to really take on their role within the world, and we wanted the covenants to help them to do that. By enhancing the covenants, that sort of naturally led to more PvP, summoning, and the online aspects of the game. That was an underlying concept from the beginning; we've always wanted to implement a dedicated game server for Dark Souls II, so that matching is more frequent. The goal of the game is not just to play from start to end, but to sort of live in the Dark Souls universe, to continue on after you've finished the story. To live in the world, and really take on the role of influencing other players who are facing the same difficulties in the game.
So are there more covenants this time, or is it around the same number?
Roughly the same number, but there are a couple more. But the way we've proposed the covenants is a little bit different from Dark Souls I in that, I'm sure the covenants in Dark Souls I were a little bit unclear in terms of their purpose in the game, and I think the covenants in Dark Souls II will have a deeper meaning I think; a bigger influence on things.
Will that meaning be more immediately obvious? I mean, part of the fun of the first game was working these things out for yourself.
No, there will be a lot of figuring things out for yourself, and that realisation is obviously a big part of the Dark Souls franchise. You know, FromSoftware not really feeding you any information at all is one of the unique and interesting parts of the game, so that is something that will stay. But at the same time, you do realise the true meaning of the covenants and how they actually function; I think the players will be able to immerse themselves deeper into the covenants themselves.
The obscure story is one of the things that fascinates me most about the series. How does FromSoftware roadmap that lore?
It seems that, based on discussions I've had with Tanimura-san and also Miyazake-san from Dark Souls I, at first it's very vague. They have these small ideas all over the place, and as they continue to develop and as they continue to think about the story, they start to piece together and attach everything and it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. And I've heard that one of the reasons they don't really - like we've said before, why don't you publish a book that explains exactly everything? He came back to me and said well, there isn't really anything [written down] because it's all in my imagination.