"You might laugh because you die so much," Hidetaka Miyazaki, the producer at From Software who worked on Demon’s Souls, joked before showing up the spiritual successor, Dark Souls. The hands-off demo began on castle grounds with a conveniently placed orb containing a great sword. In the distance we saw a sleeping dragon guarding another treasure. Players can wake the dragon up, fight it, and procure the treasure. Since this was still early in the game, Miyazaki said it was best to tiptoe around it. The knight fought an undead soldier who relentlessly bashed the hero while Miyazaki was pointing out details about the dragon. Another undead warrior blocking a pass underneath the dragon threw firebombs.
Combat appears to be reminiscent of Demon’s Souls. "Tactical swordplay," Miyazaki said speaking of the system. Dark Souls has over one hundred different types of weapons each with their own style. The knight was armed with a standard shortsword, which wasn’t too slow or too long. While it was quite effective against the undead droves, it’s range could be an issue when battling a minotaur-like mid-boss.
This monster starts the fight by crashing onto a narrow castle path and charging at the player. At the same time, skeletons shooting arrows attack from behind. Miyazaki recommended to take care of the skeletons first by climbing a ladder to a narrow tower. After slaying the skeletons (and effectively stopping a long range attack), the minotaur approached the tower and jumped to the top of it, crushing the knight reveling in his minor victory. "There’s no safe place in Dark Souls," Miyazaki laughed. "My goal is to kill all players who think there is a safe zone in Dark Souls." Man and monster leapt of the tower and continued the fight on the balcony, but this time the knight switched to the great sword found at the beginning of the demo. The great sword is expectedly an unwieldy weapon. It lacks finesse, but makes up for its slow strikes with heavy damage and long range. It’s possible to defeat the minotaur in a face to face fight. There is a more strategic suggestion, however, you can do a ledge jumping downward slash from the top of the tower to the minotaur’s back. Levels are designed for players to take advantage of the environment during fights. I suppose there is no safe zone for monsters in Dark Souls either.
Leaving the castle grounds, Miyazaki showed a foggy forest and then a level he called "Underground Hell." The character in this level had a samurai-feel and was standing right next to lava. We caught a glimpse of enemies staring in the distance. Miyazaki also pointed out areas in Dark Souls have vertical layers. Players can smash barrels, open ledges, and jump off them to explore new areas. Sometimes falling, Miyazaki explained, can put players in a more difficult spot.
The final area Miyazaki revealed was the development team’s favorite, Trap Road. As soon as the knight stepped into this level he was greeted with an auto-firing arrow trap and a snake-man (with a slithering head) carrying a scimitar. In the next few rooms, I saw a narrow bridge with swinging guillotines passing by. The trap hit the character and threw him into a level below with even more traps. Miyazaki said if players don’t fall for traps they may miss out on some parts of the world.
But, Miyazaki wouldn’t show anymore traps. He wants to keep those a secret so players will feel surprised and frustrated when they play Dark Souls this holiday season.