Previews

Dark Souls: It'll 'make you scream'

First look at Demon's Souls' sequel

From Software wants to make you scream.

The Japanese developer's PS3 exclusive Demon's Souls became an instant cult classic thanks to its innovative online system and more importantly, its insane pull-your-hair-out difficulty. Now the sequel's set to make you "scream, yell and feel even more frustrated," it's boldly claimed - and we have to admit; we're a little bit scared.

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Today we were shown the first ever PS3 gameplay demonstration of Dark Souls, the renamed "spiritual sequel" (Sony's ownership of the original name forced a change) and From Software clearly has a perverse for punishment; 50ft monsters, rushing undead knights, relentless unseen archers and traps that'd take out Indiana Jones in a swift, bloody snap are all in abundance.

The upside to Dark Souls' borderline-impossible quest is of course the helping hand of other players - an innovative feature that returns from the first game.

Other adventurers suffering through the trap and undead onslaught can leave advice, warning notes and even ghosts of their tragic deaths to warn off and help you avoid trap doors, discover secret paths and adopt alternative strategies for boss fights.

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That said, even the game's director admits that with no online advice yet at hand, he's had to artificially beef up his character in order to show us Dark Souls' opening area without getting smeared across the walls.

Hidetaka Miyazaki's Knight is clad in thick armour and brandishing a sword almost as big as him. He's strolling through the lush grass outside a truly epic castle - Dark Souls is certainly a looker, with lighting effects just as spectacular as its scale.

Climbing a set of steps ascending from the grassland, the nightmare soon kicks off; undead soldiers emerge from foliage and swing their swords in Miyazaki-san's face, while others amuse themselves by lobbing fire bombs towards the ensuing sword fights, from the safe distance of the top of the stairs.

Fighting his way up further, our knight realises the situation isn't as straightforward as we imagined. Dominating the horizon atop a nearby castle bridge is a sleeping, 50ft red dragon. To progress and avoid ending up inside this beast's gigantic windpipe, our man will have to dispatch the foot soldiers without making too much noise - or if you're feeling brave (read: suicidal) you could take him on for the chance of treasure.

And this challenging scenario is thrown at you little more than five minutes beyond Dark Souls' opening tutorial. From Software; you cruel, cruel gits.

Progressing further through the Castle Grounds the environment opens up to reveal a truly epic-sized play area, with towers and walls the size of skyscrapers.

The developer wants to again emphasise exploration and choice in progression - and we spotted plenty of routes in the gameplay demonstration. Combat too boasts tons of magic abilities (including the power to wizard yourself into a vase disguise, Metal Gear style), with over 100 weapons with unique animations, for right and left hands - or both.

The first level demonstration concludes about a third through the level, when our Knight ascends a gigantic tower to its destroyed summit, only to have the steel scared off him by the booming arrival of an axe-wielding Troll, who shakes the fortress with his thunderous footsteps.

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To put it bluntly, this boss character is a right hard bastard. Miyazaki-san's sword moves seem to bounce off his leather skin, while his own swing assaults seem wide enough to knock a bus clear of a football pitch.

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