For many, the frequency of video game death is a make-or-break notion; die once, fair enough. Die twice, frustration sets in. Die a third time, and controllers are hurled as the game’s designers and difficulty curve are abundantly cursed. But that is most certainly not the case with fans of Dark Souls, a game that has player death placed as one of its fundamental design pillars.
As proof that From Software is going to be keeping that tenet in place with Dark Souls 2, the latest trailer for the game warns players of the many, many deaths that await them, while soothing them with the promise that the game isn’t about death, merely determination. If you ask us, the title ‘Hollow Lullaby’ is particularly fitting.
It’s difficult to say exactly why it was Dark Souls, the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls (itself a sequel to the King’s Field series) that managed to work its way into gamer’s hearts with its grueling difficulty curve and punishment, gaining mainstream success by sticking to the values of the games that came before it. But whatever the reason, gamers grasped that death in Dark Souls is not a sign of failure, merely one of growth. And when the announcement trailer for Dark Souls 2 was welcomed with online exuberance – or masochism, we’re not sure – fans hoped to see a sequel every bit as deadly.
Concerns were raised when the developers promised that the sequel would be “more approachable,” leading many to believe that the developers had followed the lead of so many other cult successes, dumbing down the difficulty for the sake of wide appeal, at the cost of the niche audience which embraced it in the first place. The team soon countered those fears by promising death would be as frequent as ever, but more efforts would be made to teach newcomers that, like this trailer emphasizes, even death itself is just a speedbump for the truly determined knight.
The ‘Hollow Lullaby’ may put the mechanics of death into a cinematic and grand context, but the narration is accurate. The one fact that every player must accept before understanding how anyone could spend hours upon hours in the world of Dark Souls is that deathis simply a learning experience. With every defeat, the player learns another strategy not to attempt, meaning the only thing standing between a beginner and an experienced veteran capable of bringing down a fire-breathing dragon is time, and commitment.
It will be interesting to see if that message can be communicated clearly enough prior to release to not only outsell its predecessor (something all but ensured by the online conversation surrounding the series), but keep beginners engaged, and not feeling left out in the cold. Players have spent years being told that to die meant failure, plain and simple, so how much a single game can hcnage that way of thinking has yet to be seen.
Are you encouraged by the trailer’s message? If you never got into the first Dark Souls, does the intellectual challenge of re-thinking video game defeat capture your interest? Sound off in the comments.
Dark Souls 2 releases March 11, 2014 for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
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