Interview: Dark Souls Gets More Melancholy

Dark Souls producer Andrew Davis talks to Gamasutra about evolving the systems established in lovably-ruthless Demon's Souls, and why the demanding games hold such appeal.
Demon's Souls was like one of those bad boyfriends -- the more it pushed players away, the more they loved it. It was an unlikely success in an era of accessible games, offering dark-fantasy action where precision and persistence could eke out a hard-won yet strangely gratifying trail to victory. From Software stops short of calling this fall's Dark Souls a sequel. It's more a spiritual successor? "Basically, it's a refinement of the sort of atmosphere and gameplay that was debuted in Demon's Souls," says Andrew Davis, associate producer at U.S. publisher Namco Bandai, talking to Gamasutra. Dark Souls, which will debut on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in the West, will strive for more interconnectivity between the game's different worlds. Where its predecessor placed players in a sort of undead limbo, from whence they could choose a door to a new area to conquer, "Dark Souls is a more fully-realized world of seamless transitions in between these areas," Davis explains. "They're all connected to each other in different ways." And the environments are more varied, presenting a number of different challenges. "You could have narrow paths on cliffs, or wide-open areas, or a castle filled with traps. Some places are in complete darkness," he says. Players will get to use a system that treats bonfires in the game as places of respawning and gathering. Players can recharge at bonfires, but defeated enemies and conquered obstacles will also be revived. "It still has the mechanic where you can die and lose everything," says Davis. "But if you've been paying attention, you'll be able to work your way back cautiously and regain all the souls that you lost." The appeal in the game's ruthlessness recalls the era of 8 and 16-bit adventure RPGs, he suggests, with sprawling interconnected areas and a high degree of precision necessary to make progress. "We think of Dark Souls as one of the strict sensei-s from the martial arts movies that's super mean to the hero, and everyone hates him but he's fair. After weeks of training, you feel like you've made some progress, and he'll acknowledge it with a nod," Davis laughs. Dark Souls also expands and refines the multiplayer system through "covenant" features that allow players to assist or invade one another's game. "There are a whole bunch of different mechanics for player interaction," says Davis. Finally, Dark Souls "definitely" aims for a more melancholy feel, Davis says. "The story carries this attitude, where the constantly dying and respawning thing is built into the storyline."

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