TGS: Dying Sucks More Than Ever in Dark Souls II

But you can get by with a little help from your friends.

Preview by Jeremy Parish, .

The fundamental Demon's/Dark Souls beginner's experience goes something like this: You start out, kill a few mundane monsters, die horribly at the hands of something far more powerful than yourself, and suddenly find yourself running about as a ghost. Heck, Demons Souls didn't even waste any time with this; the first thing you do in that game is die to an obscenely high-level monster.

The developers at From Soft intended to make the Souls games a mission to regain your life, with the undead state not being a penalty, exactly, but certainly not as ideal as playing in a corporeal state. But a fair number of gamers decided they actually like exploring the world of Souls in their undead form, as it allows them certain perks not available to the living. The most significant of these is that an undead player's world can't be invaded by other players -- which means they're safe from game-hacking jerks, among other things.

Far be it for From Soft to offer an experience anyone might characterize as "friendly" or "easy." They've seen your habits, and they scorn your decision to take advantage of this means of making their creation slightly less hostile. That's why for Dark Souls II they've decided to make the undead state hugely disadvantageous. Because if you're a big baby, they have no sympathy for you.

This guy must've been undead for awhile.

Un-life as the undead sucks in Dark Souls II. For starters, it makes you ugly. The longer you play in an undead state, the more your character's appearance degenerates. Bad enough that your skin turns green and your face becomes ugly; over time, though, your hair falls out -- and according to director Yui Taimura, even worse things than that can happen as well. One of those things is that, if you re-die repeatedly in an undead state, your character's maximum health will steadily degrade. "You thought that griffin was slaughtering you quickly while you were at full health," From is sneering. "Try it with half as many hit points, sucker."

Also -- and this news freaked out some of the Dark Souls fanatics in attendance at our Tokyo Game Show demo session yesterday -- undead games can now be invaded by other players. So it's just as disadvantageous as playing the normal style adventure, except now you'll potentially have less health. Have fun!

Really, though, Taimura says these design choices are simply an attempt to balance the playing field and ensure both styles of gameplay are equally challenging. "Generally speaking, we people prefer being living, not undead," he told us in a roundtable interview. "We want to make the goal -- to become the living -- clear. But we have no intention of simply making game more difficult while being undead."

Among the changes to the undead state comes a new benefit: Undead players can summon friends to help pass difficult areas using an item called White Sign Soapstone. Summons now are limited by time, with smaller pieces of soapstone resulting in briefer duration for aid.

You don't have to fight alone.

Another major chance helps makes things easier for living characters whose world is being invaded by hostile players: By forming a pact through a covenant, players can summon help immediately upon being invaded. Alternately, high-level characters can use their pact to make themselves available to protect other members of their covenant who come under attack. This should help mitigate the danger caused by abusive players with an eye for griefing.

Even more helpfully, Dark Souls II now uses server-based matching rather than running its connections from the player's end. This should offer a few benefits, including creating a much larger pool of potential players to summon or collaborate with through a covenant. Taimura says it also should help diminish the disruptive exploits caused by hackers. "Yes," he stated, "we are aware that cheating is going on -- not only on PC but also on consoles -- and that is why we have decided to move to server-side multiplayer."

In other words, Dark Souls II may be a hostile, hateful game designed to crush the joy from your life, but never let it be said that it will do so unfairly. From Soft wants to create the most level playing field possible as they aspire to destroy you. They're thoughtful like that.

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Comments 11

  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #1 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Interesting changes. It kind of sounds like they might be reversing the way summoning works, with the ability to be invaded and summon in undead form but not in living form. This would make turning human a lot more attractive than it was in Dark Souls.

    Or, are they making it so you can always be invaded, undead or not? If so, hopefully there is some other mechanic to prevent yourself from being invaded, even if it comes with some other downside.
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  • Avatar for zorksox #2 zorksox 4 years ago
    Most people chose to play Dark Souls in undead form because they preferred to. Turning human required the consumption of a limited resource and increased the stress level due to potential invasions. People played in undead form because they preferred it. I don't think nerfing the the undead form is the right thing to do.

    "That's why for Dark Souls II they've decided to make the undead state hugely disadvantageous. Because if you're a big baby, they have no sympathy for you."

    So they saw how people liked playing, and removed that option. I now have to wait for the reviews instead of buying it on day 1.Edited September 2013 by zorksox
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #3 Bla1ne 4 years ago
    Interesting decisions...

    On the one hand, I used to like the way being alive or undead could be a balance decision you made yourself. If you were alive, you could summon help. But then to balance that, you left yourself open to invaders; if you didn't want to be invaded, you could play hollow, but then you couldn't summon help either.

    Making it so you can always summon and be invaded takes out that player choice... (But then again you can always play offline.) But I see his point that you should want to play alive all the time; he certainly gave all the advantages to being alive, none to being undead.

    An interesting side-effect, too, is that this can legitimize invading. I was a huge invader in Dark Souls! Spent hundreds of hours just invading. And you get a lot of hate. A lot of people just don't understand that invaders play a crucial role in Dark Souls. The game's not supposed to be easy. You're not supposed to just summon 2 friends and have them roflstomp the game for you. That's what the invader is for, to balance out your summons. And hell, most of the time I'd just kill both phantoms and crystal out without killing the host anyway! But now, since hosts can't even avoid getting invaded by playing hollow, it gives more credence to invading being a core element of the game.

    Despite them sharing the title, I'm dissociating both games in my mind as much as possible. I feel like it's in the best interest of my enjoyment of Dark Souls 2 that I keep them both as distinct as possible. And decisions like the ones in this article, despite changing the core formula, make it easier for me to keep the two games separate, which I believe will end up being a good thing.
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  • Avatar for Bla1ne #4 Bla1ne 4 years ago
    @zorksox You have to realize you said exactly what they were setting out to do, though! People liked playing hollow because there was an advantage. They said they want the goal to be to play in human form as much as possible, so they eliminated the advantages of being undead. Already they accomplished what they set out to do... But you still have the option of playing offline.
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  • Avatar for christopherhughes97 #5 christopherhughes97 4 years ago
    This might actually be a good idea because, and I don't know if this happened to anybody else, I played a significant portion of my first play-through without even knowing that being human did anything. The description for the humanity item is incredibly vague and I only talked to Solaire once at the beginning so I didn't get the white sign stone. I tried turning human when I was first starting, and it didn't appear to do anything other than change my characters appearance, and I immediately died to the skeletons in the graveyard. Yeah, I was trying to go through the graveyard first, because I didn't see the path to go up the side of the cliff for a while...
    I played at least as far as acquiring the Lordvessel before I ever even looked at the game's wiki and found out there was this huge aspect of the game I was missing out on. It was a playstyle choice I didn't even know I was making.

    I think it's probably best if most of the major mechanics are immediately apparent to the player, so I would like it if this choice was a step in that direction.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #6 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    If players take a hit to their total HP over time in hollow form, I wonder if there are other intangible advantages to being undead in DS2. In Demon's Souls, soul form gave a slight boost to attack and made walking nearly silent as opposed to the higher amount of punishment you could receive in body form.@jeremy.parish Did they allude to anything along those lines?Edited 2 times. Last edited September 2013 by kidgorilla
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  • Avatar for Feanor #7 Feanor 4 years ago
    I never got around to Dark Souls, but I played most of Demon's Souls in Soul Form using the Cling Ring.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #8 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    @Feanor I went through Demon's Souls maybe four or five times, and all of them were exclusively in soul form with the cling ring
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  • Avatar for Kadrom #9 Kadrom 4 years ago
    Thank god they're moving back to server based online. The covenants were woefully underused in Dark Souls because of matchmaking issues.
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  • Avatar for SuffolkGooner #10 SuffolkGooner 4 years ago
    I don't mind if it's a little harder, as long as the 'cheap deaths' are kept to a minimum.
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  • Avatar for yzzlthtz #11 yzzlthtz 3 years ago
    At the outset, this is the easiest and most accessible souls game ever. Notably, there are hardly any invaders. C'mon people....get with the invading. This game is not supposed to be this easy.
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