Just What the Heck is Project Beast, Anyway?

Just What the Heck is Project Beast, Anyway?

We've seen some tantalizing footage of what could be From Software's next installment in the Souls series. Should we be freaking out right now?

Eighteen seconds. That's all it took for the Internet to collectively explode over the possibility of seeing a new, next-gen From Software RPG just a handful of months after release of the phenomenal Dark Souls 2.

And yet, this footage is so brief that it's hard to come to any real conclusions. It's even difficult to see how much of a leap in quality the visuals have taken since Dark Souls 2 -- a quick glance at this video, and you could easily assume it's depicting some upcoming DLC. But there's one addition that sticks out as being unlike anything seen in the Souls games to date: the player character's shotgun, which stands out as a much more modern weapon than what the series usually offers. Of course, Dark Souls 2's Avelyn feels just as advanced as any sawed-off, possibly because those citizens of Drangleic can't think of much to do with gunpowder outside of storing it in barrels at the worst possible locations.

Even Souls lore-master VaatiVidya can't make much of this disappointingly brief leak.

If you've been keeping up with the Souls series, you probably know that rumors have been circulating about Demon's Souls 2 since the incredible success of Dark Souls. And it makes a lot of sense, especially in terms of poetic justice: Sony basically peed Demon's Souls down their leg when they didn't understand its hardcore appeal, leaving this orphaned RPG to be rescued by Altus for an American release. So of course the perfect storybook ending would involve Sony smoothing over these past transgressions by assisting From with the development a second Demon's -- Sony still owns the rights to that name, mind you -- for their new platform, which is currently kicking butt in terms of next-gen success.

One thing I've been taking issue with though, are those who see this game as a direct sequel to Demon's Souls, rather than just a new Souls game altogether. Even if From kept the rights to the Demon's Souls name, I doubt 2011's Dark Souls would be much different if it held the first game's brand. Demon's Souls obviously has some stark differences from Dark Souls, but most of them are different, not better, and each game has successfully integrated the lessons learned from past releases. I love the heck out of Demon's Souls, but if From brought back systems like item burden (where each item you picked up compromised your agility) and dialed back upgrading equipment to its previous, unfriendly state, I'm not sure who would benefit.

Is this a screenshot of Project Beast, or a vision of the angry mob storming From Software's HQ when the developer announces their plans for console exclusivity?

Dark Souls 2 still has me in a grip so tight it's kind of surreal to already be so excited over a potential sequel, but I think most fans would agree that the series still has plenty of places to go. I am worried, though, about Project Beast's status as a possible exclusive -- that is, if the Demon's Souls 2 rumors have a grain of truth to them. The Souls community really exploded when the original Dark Souls went multi-platform, and the series' shaky entrance into the world of PC gaming gave us a nearly endless amount of fan-generated content that the PS3-only Demon's Souls barely saw. I really can't imagine a universe where the next Souls game isn't next-gen, but the vital community aspect could be lacking if Project Beast is forever rooted to Sony's new console.

That said, I think at this point there shouldn't be any doubts that From has risen from oddball developer to RPG powerhouse in the last half-decade, and if you told me in 2009 that Souls would rise to such a lofty position, I would've doubted your sanity. But the Souls series has persisted, and in direct opposition to the conventional wisdom of accessibility that began to transform game design throughout the mid-aughts generation of consoles. Whatever happens, I'm sure we'll see more than just a paltry 18 seconds of footage at this year's E3, and maybe some real answers as to what we should expect from Project Beast. I can't think of a better reason to finally get excited over what this new generation of hardware will bring.

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