The lights are on
At this point, a mere couple months before launch, Namco doesn't have much left to reveal about Dark Souls in terms of actual gameplay. Today at Gamescom I was able to check out a brand new level of the game, though, and it was a pitch-perfect match of the things I loved in Demon's Souls.
The level on display today was the archive tower, a vertical area with winding staircases and shelves of books lining the walls. The player began the level locked in a frozen jail cell -- clearly this isn't your average library. Upon exiting the jail cell, a cutscene showed a group of long-necked lizard men who seemed to be guards pulling a switch. An odd gramophone-looking device rose from the ground and began emitting a screeching noise that called forth a foe even scarier than the lizard men.
On the bottom level of the archive tower, a large group of octopus-headed monsters emerged from a cell. These Lovecraftian creatures are guardians of the archives and immediately began climbing the stairs to reach the hero. The Namco representative playing the game attempted to take them on one-on-one, but despite playing as a slightly beefed-up character, one of the octopus monsters quickly killed him in the most horrifying way possible: by attaching itself to the hero's head.
Taking a lesson from his failure, in his next try the representative left the cell and immediately bolted up the stairs, climbing a ladder to avoid the octopus creatures, who apparently did not have the capability to climb. Up top, he encountered a large locked door. Clearly he needed a key to proceed, but the only way to find one was venturing back down where the powerful monsters waited.
Rather than risking going back down the ladder, the Namco rep tried jumping off the ledge the door was on to a scaffolding below. He lost a little health in the process but was able to proceed. He pointed at this as an important lesson in how to properly play Dark Souls: take risks and don't worry too much about dying.
Making his way back down to the bottom of the archive floor through some hidden passageways, the rep ran past the swarming monsters and up a ladder to the noisy device that had summoned them. He took out the lizard guards and used the combat to show off Dark Souls fast weapon swapping, a feature that has improved greatly from Demon's Souls. Afterward, he pulled the lever, the noise stopped, and the creepy Cthulhu monsters returned to their lair on the bottom. As the character passed by said lair, he glimpsed all of them huddling together in the room, and they turned to look at him and even lashed out when he got too close.
Both the vertical nature and the Lovecraft-inspired monstrosities in this level reminded me a lot of the Tower of Latria, my favorite level from Demon's Souls. Clearly From Software still has a special touch for creating wildly atmospheric and unsettling locations.
Namco also briefly showed off an outdoors section beyond the tower. Immediately after exiting the tower, the character entered a wide open forest. This level looked bigger and less guided than any of the levels in Demon's Souls. After exploring for a bit, he found the entrance to a huge underground cave filled with giant ice monsters.
This portion of the demo really highlighted the way in which the separate areas in Dark Souls connect into one large, seamless world. Going from the isolation of the archive tower to the wonder of the forest and crystal cave in such a short span of time was amazing to behold. I can only hope the full game includes more similarly exciting transitions.
For even more Dark Souls, check out Namco's latest trailer for the game released for Gamescom.
I like the difficulty of the game. I think too few games require players to actually think beyond pushing a button.