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Dark Souls II Director Discusses How Improved AI And Dual-Wielding Help The Game


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At E3, in Los Angeles, Namco Bandai showed off a number of their upcoming titles to members of the press, behind doors. Arguably the most anticipated of the bunch was Dark Souls II, and one of its directors, Yui Tanimura, was on hand to field questions, one-on-one.


Can you please explain what has changed since you last showed Dark Souls II back in April?


Yui Tanimura, Director: I guess it’s only been two months since New York, so there hasn’t been that drastic of a change. But what we’ve concentrated on is the battle system and the actual battle mechanics, plus the tuning for them. Also, the last time we weren’t about to have hands on, but now, you guys can play it, feel the actual game.


[Catch up with our impressions of Dark Souls II here.]


One aspect that the E3 demo emphasizes is the dual wielding system. Can you please explain a bit more about that?


In Dark Souls, you were able to hold a weapon in each hand, but you were simply holding a weapon in each hand. For Dark Souls II, we’ve actually implemented dual-welding specific motions, animations. So if you switched to dual welding mode, you’d be able to do certain combos and moves that involve fluid motions with both hands.


Obviously, dual-welding involves doing away with your shield and not being able to guard yourself. At the same time, it will increase your attack abilities. So it’s more of an advanced fighting style used, instead of just having double the offense. Once you get used to it, it might be a preferred method of play.


I also understand that enemy AI has been enhanced.


We strived hard to make sure that enemies are fully aware of the player’s actions. For the most part, and this is for the majority of action games, while engaging a boss, it is often common to simply replenish energy on the spot, even in the midst of a confrontation. The player would simply identify the right moment in which the boss is not an immediate threat, sometimes due to following a predetermined animation or AI behavior.


In Dark Souls II, bosses are always aware of the player, always keeping an eye. So if he or she thinks the boss has eased up a bit for whatever reason and tries to heal himself, the boss will use that opportunity to charge forward. Enemies will also be able to identify and anticipate a player’s behavior. If the player prepares to unleash to a devastating attack, the boss will recognize this and step back and prepare himself, just like human players do when the roles are reversed.


At the beginning of the presentation for members of the press, we were reminded that there has been misunderstanding, that Dark Souls II will not be easier. Are you seeing, despite all the constant reassurances to the contrary, that people still believe it will not be as grueling and unforgiving as Dark Souls?


Coming from Japan, it’s hard to fully comprehend why and how much the North American and European audience keeps thinking it’s going to be easier. With that being said, if you take a look at the demo, and also played the demo, it’s going to be pretty clear that the difficulty will be just as high as necessary as before.


We have been constantly repeating this, because we did start off with a misleading comment earlier on. But at the same time, I’m not too worried about expressing the difficulty of the game. I’m sure players will see the footage, see the B-roll, and start to understand that it’s going to be just as challenging or even more so.


Again, it’s only been a little while since I last saw Dark Souls II. But during this short time, similar games have arrived on the market, or are on the horizon, which all share the same tone. And interest in darker, more mature form of fantasy is at all time high. You also have the popularity of Game of Thrones. Do you think Dark Souls has been a contributing factor in the rise in popularity of this bleaker variant of fantasy? Also, it had any impact on Dark SoulsĀ II development?


In terms of game creation, From Software doesn’t like to be very affected by what happens in other games or other types of media. Even before Dark Souls, the company had been really concentrating on creating the genuine game that From Software strives towards. So, from our perspective, we will continue to craft games that we think best fits the core audience, who crave a rich and engrossing gameplay experience.


Now, in terms of the current level of popularity of dark fantasy you mentioned, we believe it’s a good thing. And hopefully it will work in our favor as well. As much as the market for this genre gets saturated, we From Software have put a lot of effort into delivering a game that provides the satisfaction of overcoming incredible difficulties, one that will stand on its own.


We are currently at the end of the very start of the next generation of gaming. Yet Dark Souls II is the reason why many have stated that they will be sticking with the current generation of hardware. At the same time, I would imagine players have asked about the possibility of Dark Souls II appearing on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, or the possibility of a Dark Souls III. I know it’s too soon to state definite plans, but is there any inkling in the back of your mind, regarding the future?


Realistically speaking, eventually there will be some kind of development on next gen. So there will probably be Dark Souls III. But at this point, for Dark Souls II, there is not intent for any ports. It’s specifically for the current generation.


And like you said, as much as the next gen has been announced, the fan base is probably the biggest on PS3 and Xbox 360, obviously since they have been around for such a long time. And we obviously want as many people to try out Dark Souls as possible. For Dark Souls II, we are fully confident that we will deliver something that will last for the long-term, and to the best of its potential.


Matt Hawkins