Dark Souls II

Dark Souls 2 interview: on covenants, curses, co-op, storytelling and more

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Dark Souls 2 will be arriving on consoles in March, with a PC version scheduled for an as-yet-unappointed time shortly thereafter. How will the sequel build on the moody, punishing and beloved first game, itself an extension of From Software's RPG tough nut, Demon's Souls? What will the new covenants be like? Will there be a way to easily team up with specific pals? Will DS2's storytelling retain the light touch of its forebears? Who better to ask than DS2 co-director Yui Tanimura, who also answered questions about PvP, voice chat, the PC port and more in our recent email exchange, presented for you below.

PC Gamer: You’ve said that Dark Souls 2 will not be easier. However, it has a bigger budget than Dark Souls, so will be expected to sell more copies. How do you appeal to a wider audience without compromising the harsh difficulty the series is known for?

Tanimura: Dark Souls 2 will focus on streamlining the game play experience to more directly portray the pure essence of the Dark Souls experience. This includes elements such as the strong sense of achievement of overcoming the challenges in the game, and also the “loose” connections players have with other players in the online space. Our goal is to really focus on having players deeply immerse themselves into the world, and fully take on their roles within the game play experience.

PC Gamer: On the other hand, do you think there’s a danger you’ll overcompensate and make the game harder? For example, many people came away from your demo last year saying the Mirror Knight was too hard, and that enemy AI is generally smarter.

Tanimura: Our aim is not to develop a difficult game. Our aim is to tune the difficulty to a level for players to be able to overcome and sense the highest sense of accomplishment possible. With this, the AI will be tuned to react more naturally to the player actions, but at the same time, the player controls and motions will be more natural and fitting to the actions carried out. I hope players will continue to learn from their mistakes and carry out multiple trial and error to conquer the challenges that await, and defeat the enemies that stand in the way. We try to tune so that the games difficulty is not a result of the players reflexes or ability to effectively use the controller, but will be based more on the player’s ability to learn from mistakes and be flexible in strategizing, and paying attention to all that happens around them.

PC Gamer: In Dark Souls, players could become afflicted by stackable curses, but this was removed in a patch to make it fairer. Will you be monitoring fan feedback in Dark Souls 2 and providing patches in this fashion?

Tanimura: We always try to listen to as much player feedback as possible. We don’t have any plans for patches at this point, but do continue to aim to provide the best game play experience possible.

PC Gamer: What are you doing to improve the online side of Dark Souls 2? Will it be easier for friends to find each other, for example?

Tanimura: We want to maintain the “loose” connections with other players in the online space, and will not have any ways of directly playing with friends, but we do understand the requests for a closer connection amongst friends, and so we will add elements such as items to narrow in your co-op partners, and also add voice chat in specific situations.

PC Gamer: Dark Souls’ DLC introduced the ability for players to interact with each other using stock phrases. How will players be able to interact this time? Will there be new gestures, or even full voice communication?

Tanimura: The gestures as well as blood messaging will remain in Dark Souls 2 in a very similar way that it was implemented in Dark Souls. Further, as mentioned above, voice chat will also be implemented in very specific situations when playing co-op with other players.

PC Gamer: The DLC also introduced a dedicated PVP arena. Will this be returning, and are you introducing anything new to appeal to PVP players in Dark Souls 2?

Tanimura: There will be dedicated PvP situations, and if you look at some of the screenshots that we have revealed, you will see that there are some with phantoms of the same colour facing each other in battle.

PC Gamer: Players can affect other players’ worlds from their own world, for instance, by leaving messages and bloodstains. Are there any new techniques players can use to passively impact each other in this way?

Tanimura: Blood messages, bloodstains, and ghosts are important elements of Dark Souls that will also be carried over into Dark Souls 2. We have further added some additional features that will impact how players are matched against other players for a more in-depth online experience. As for the passive impacts to other players, the experience will be very similar to that of Dark Souls.

PC Gamer: Specifically, what did you learn from your recent beta?

Tanimura: The main purpose of carrying out the Beta testing was to understand the potential issues that exist from a programming standpoint in the game. We did view the player actions and game play styles but our main focus was to clear out the major network and game play issues that existed. In this sense, we hope to be able to deliver a high quality online experience in the full version of the game.

PC Gamer: What are your character’s motives in the story? Why is he on this mission?

Tanimura: The character finds himself in the Dark Souls 2 world under a curse, and the character’s mission is to find the cure to this curse.

PC Gamer: What can you tell us about the time-travelling mechanics in Dark Souls 2?

Tanimura: We cannot reveal very much at this point. Please look forward to more information to come.

PC Gamer: The series is notoriously subtle with regards to story. Are you aiming to keep this approach in Dark Souls 2, or will you be more direct?

Tanimura: The storytelling methodology will remain very similar to how it was carried out in Dark Souls. Our aim is to have players explore the world and piece together their own story based on the NPCs they speak with, and the items they find.

PC Gamer: The PC port of Dark Souls had a low frame rate, locked resolution and poor controller support. How are you ensuring Dark Souls 2’s PC version will be better?

Tanimura: The PC version of Dark Souls was a simple port to provide the PC version to fans as soon as possible. However, the PC version of Dark Souls 2 will include the so-called standard PC game features providing a better, more in-depth gaming experience for PC gamers. We are currently doing our best to finalize and deliver the PC version, and will hopefully be able to inform players on feature sets in the near future.

PC Gamer: Will the PC version be moddable like before?

Tanimura: We are still working hard on completing the PC version, and will update players regarding the features soon.

PC Gamer: Are you improving or changing the way covenants work, and if so, how?

Tanimura: Covenants will still remain to be a very important element of Dark Souls 2, and we have further enhanced the feature to allow players to take on a stronger role in the online space. We hope that the newly added covenants will help players immerse themselves deeper into the world and interact with players of other covenants. Some of the covenants we have announced are the “Way of Blue” and “Brotherhood of Blood”, but these are still the beginning to the Dark Souls 2 system.

PC Gamer: Can you explain how the new covenants, the Warrior’s of Sunlight, the Guardians of the Bell, the Brotherhood of Blood and the Blue Sentinels, work?

Tanimura:

  • Way of Blue: Covenant with devine protection of gods of Blue. When apostles of Blue are invaded by dark spirits, they can receive assistance from other Way of Blue members.
  • Blue Sentinel:  Covenant to protect the blue apostles from the merciless beings. He/she will be automatically summoned to the worlds of Blue apostles who have been invaded by dark spirits.
  • Brotherhood of Blood: Covenant of immortality haunted by blood. Its purpose is to sacrifice blood for Nahr Alma, god of war. Repeated invasion to many player's world.
  • Heirs to the Sun: Worship of the sun, now a lost belief, was once widespread amongst great warriors. Covenant to worship the sun with its purpose to help other players.
  • Bell Keeper: The twin bells symbolize the bond between two lovers who could never be united. The bell keepers are the eternal guardians of the bells.

PC Gamer: Last year you conducted a contest that let fans design a shield to appear in the game. Will there be any opportunities for fans to design more content in the future?

Tanimura: The shield design contest was something we carried out for Dark Souls and for Dark Souls 2. We don’t plan for any additional opportunities, but I hope fans were able to enjoy the contest and look forward to seeing fan created content in the game.

PC Gamer: Are there opportunities to irrevocably change the world? For example, in Dark Souls you could turn Anor Londo permanently dark, and if you kill a merchant he’s gone for good.

Tanimura: We want to prevent as many spoilers as possible, and hope that players can look forward to the surprises we have implemented.

PC Gamer: Which class do you recommend for beginners?

Tanimura: All classes have their characteristics. For Dark Souls 2, we have fine tuned the class system to better define the differences. We hope players will try out different types as they spend time on the game, and discover their own fighting styles.

I personally would recommend the warrior since it’s the one that starts with a shield, and is fitted for an orthodox fighting style.

PC Gamer: Will luck be returning?

Tanimura:Yes

PC Gamer: Could you explain how world tendency works?

Tanimura: There isn’t any world tendency in Dark Souls 2, but Dark Souls 2 involves a dedicated game server, and so there may be instances where certain happenings or events are carried out, but we have not been able to reveal anything at this point.

PC Gamer: The dark wood grain ring from Dark Souls changed the evading animation to a flip. Does Dark Souls 2 contain any methods to change your usual animation?

Tanimura: We are not ready to reveal information at this point.

PC Gamer: The pendant gift in Dark Souls drove many fans crazy as they struggled to discover its meaning. It turns out it was a gag. Why must you be so cruel?

Tanimura: The intent wasn’t to be cruel, but we hope players were able to enjoy it as a part of the Dark Souls experience.