Dark Souls was one of my most anticipated games of, well, my entire life really. I loved its predecessor Demon’s Souls so much that I had to file for divorce when the announcement of a “sequel” popped up. I could hardly believe it.
It’s very rare for just one game to come along and change your life, but two in a single generation? I was starting to think that I was the luckiest person on Earth. But Dark Souls was not what I had expected. I don’t know why they did it but From Software have made some questionable decisions, removing some features and adding others which frankly aren’t at all welcome… not to mention the game’s annoying little glitches.
Annoyances aside it is still a fantastic game and I can’t wait to see what direction From Software will take the series next. While a sequel has yet to be announced, considering the critical acclaim and sales success Dark Souls has achieved, there seems little doubt that a sequel will be on the cards.
So In order for me to make an accurate prediction of what’s next for the Souls Series we have to look at what Dark Souls has done wrong, starting with the servers.
From Software were determined to make an improvement upon their sleeper hit Demon’s Souls and adding more servers was an excellent step to make… now if only they had provided some way in which players can join their friends! It seems incredibly backwards, especially on Xbox 360, when the vast majority of online games allow us to engage in jolly cooperation with a simple button press. Unfortunately that isn’t possible in Dark Souls.
You see, From Software added such a huge amount of new servers they made it virtually impossible to find your friends. This is especially surprising because in Demon’s Souls each world region had one server, making joining your friends a far simpler experience. Yes it was still hard to join people you knew but at least then all you had to do was both be in the same place at the same time, drop your summon stones and, wham, you’re fighting demons as a team.
Why did they take this ability away from us? Well the answer is immersion. One of the key aspects of the Souls series is the level of anonymity; they want you to play with strangers and never get to know each other. As such there’s no voice chat so you can’t communicate with fellow players in any way. Their aim is to get us to help each other out and really get into the game without the distraction of conversation. It’s a nice idea, one that I like a lot, but that’s where the aforementioned problems arise, as the immersion is broken by an overwhelming feeling of frustration. From Software, JUST LET ME PLAY WITH MY FRIENDS!
Now we move on to what the Souls game are most famous for, their immense difficulty. I consider myself to be a hardcore fan of these games but even so I still have yet to master them both… and part of me can’t believe that other people have managed to do so. They must have invested thousands of hours into the game to get those amazing weapons, that fantastic armour, or the ability to one-shot kill the last boss in the game. It’s just so unrelentingly hard, you can spend an entire day playing it and never make any progress at all.
I’m not trying to say the next game should be easier (they’ve tapped into a whole new dimension of challenge and it should remain that way in the future) but some things do need to change, the Black Phantoms specifically.
When playing Dark Souls nothing is more annoying than when you’re making loads of progress, killing everything evil, taking their souls, then right before you reach your next bonfire some annoying little cretin will brazenly invade your game as a Black Phantom and one-shot you with some magic you’ve never even seen before. It’s back to square one and you’ve got to start your mission all over again. It wouldn’t be half as annoying if the black phantoms were within your experience level range and actually killable, but when it’s level 100 players who are so advanced that there is no way you could actually defeat them, then it’s unbalanced. You can only summon friendly phantoms whose level is relatively the same as yours, so why not impose this limitation on the invaders too?
More NPC’s & Side Quests:
It might sound stupid, being as it is the land of the dead after all, but we need more NPCs, more people to interact with when your not slaying monsters, more shops to buy weapons from and (dare I say it) side quests. Side quests aren’t my favourite type of quest, in most games I prefer to ignore them completely, but it’s something that could add a lot more depth to the next Souls game.
You only have one goal in the Souls games and that’s to basically kill everything, take their souls and then level up your character and/or weapons to make killing the next batch of gruesome weirdos a little bit easier. Think of it as a mini game, something to provide a little respite from the torture of the main game. Having extra NPC’s with their extra needs to fulfill would at least give the illusion that the land of the dead is a sociable and not so lonely place to be.
Advanced Combo System:
Another area of the Souls series which needs fleshing out is the combat. Yes, the combat works just fine as is – tap buttons to attack stuff, light attack, heavy attack, etc. – it’s fun but we’re restricted to two hit combos whenever using those large anime-style swords. Of course lighter weapons do allow a few more hits before you run out of stamina but advanced combos need to be unlockable from the start using the in-game currency of souls.
I’m not saying we need to venture out into Ninja Gaiden territory, where combos consist of 54 different button combinations, just give me one more move to smite my enemies with. Dark Souls added some nice finisher moves that deal critical damage if you get your timing right, and that was a great start, but we still need to see more variety in the combat. All of the enemies have this type of diversity in combat, so why can’t we? Sure it might make online play a little more challenging than it already is, but with some careful balancing I think it could work quite well.
Dark Souls did away with the warp system in Demons Souls and replaced it with a huge and daunting open world for us to explore and discover. The days of teleporting around are gone, and that was a great move in terms of creating a sense of immersion. The level design is incredible, yet there are still more opportunities which, if taken advantage of, could make the world a lot less linear.
There are a few hidden pathway here and there, with some alternates routes to surprise you, but there are not enough of these deviations to consider it a true open world. I think that’s my major issue, and it’s something that I’d like to see resolved. Of course a larger world with more pathways does present the problem of players getting lost but maybe a combination of the Nexus system in Demon’s Souls and the Bonfires from Dark Souls would make exploring a larger world a lot easier.
These are just some of the changes I’d like to see made in the next Souls game. It’s clear that the good people at From Software are aware that Dark Souls isn’t perfect as they’ve recently released a patch that has brought about some significant changes to the way the game plays. Hopefully their next game will be perfect out of the box. Until then I’ll go back to being obliterated by level 100 Black Phantoms every 10 minutes while I desperately try to get in to a friend’s game.
- Adam Radcliffe