Explore Lordran’s Past—Then Die In It
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is like a double-helping of happiness—PC games who have long wanted to try out From Software’s cult classic will finally get the chance, and console gamers wishing for more Dark Souls to play will get that additional content they’ve been dreaming of. While PC gamers will be getting the goods first—From Software wants to make sure that version of Prepare to Die Edition is all buttoned up before working on the console DLC—by the end of this year, all Dark Souls fans will be happy. To get a bit better idea of what it is that’ll be bringing us that joy, Eric and Steve got a behind-the-scenes look at some of the new content for Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.
Eric L. Patterson (News Editor): It’s kind of funny, because going into getting a look at the additional content that’s coming as part of the new “Prepare to Die” edition of Dark Souls, we both had the exact same conflict: We wanted to see it, but we also didn’t. There’s that natural excitement of getting a peek at what From Software has added to the game, but at the same time—both of us being big fans of the game—we didn’t want to spoil it for ourselves!
Steve Haske (Contributing Editor): Pretty much. I usually hate spoilers for things, and obviously with the new content being DLC, I didn’t know how much they would show us compared to the amount added. Still, the opportunity to grill Dark Souls producer Daisuke Uchiyama was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Eric: And one of the things that I think has been most interesting about talking to various members of the team is the conversation about how this new content is indeed that: New content. This stuff wasn’t sitting somewhere waiting to appear later; it is the perfect example of what DLC should be, and that’s content thought up and created after the fact due to fan demand. In my interview before with the game’s director [Hidetaka Miyazaki], and with our conversation at E3 with Uchiyama-san, it’s been great to explore just how the team at From Software came up with what they did. When you have a game that both felt complete like Dark Souls did, and a game where expanding on certain topics could result in ruining the mystery of its world, where do you start when building more upon that game?
Steve: That’s a question I posed to Uchiyama-san. With a game like Dark Souls, you could take the exploration of additional content in a hundred different directions, from examining the painted world to the motivations of the murderous knight Lautrec. Uchiyama-san told us that they chose to focus on Artorias because he was only ever referred to as legend, and it was never explained why he was able to walk the abyss, for example. Frankly, I don’t care about the lore of Lordran in any greater capacity than my own personal interpretation of what might have happened or what something means—coming up with your own explanations for the world (or even just wondering about it) is part of what makes Dark Souls so special. We were reassured that they weren’t changing their narrative tactics, and I seriously doubt that we’ll find out, say, why Artorias looks like he was borne from the abyss itself. I’m fine with that.
Eric: It’s interesting, because I kind of go both ways on that point. On the one hand, I’m with you—I love that “not knowing” aspect, and having the ability to personally come up with my own theories and speculations. It’s like the one shattered Archestone in Demon’s Souls—why was it shattered, and what would the world behind it have been like could you have used it? On the other hand, though, pieces of Artorias are woven all throughout Dark Souls, so you do get that curiosity of what he may have been. And seeing him in person? He’s a badass! He looked like he’ll be a really fun fight, and I saw the player character version of his armor at a recent Namco Bandai event. It was equally badass.
Steve: I had that reaction to that Archstone too—it was the land of giants, if I remember, but the giants were all dead. I love little details like that. Artorias is all over Dark Souls, and interestingly enough in my mind, I created an interpretation or mental image of a storied knight of virtue from that. So seeing the team’s interpretation of what he looks like—which is a really great character character design that looks more like a toxic demon than a virtuous man—was kind of shocking in and of itself. I love his aesthetic. I wanted to ask more about the inspiration of that design, actually, but we ran out of time.
Eric: I can’t lie though—my heart was totally aflutter the moment I realized the location we were seeing in the demo. The new content is set 200 or so years in the past, and seeing those areas with structures that were nothing but rubble in the main portion of the game was so exciting! In full, the Prepare to Die edition will bring us three new areas, and Uchiyama-san said that each would be about the same size-wise as typical areas in Darks Souls. The portion we were shown was the past of Darkroot Garden, when it was called “Royal Wood”. We also saw two other areas connected to that—Oolacile Sanctuary and Oolacile Township—but I won’t spoil what those were or how they connect to the world beyond their names. So, of course, I’m now extremely curious to see what the other areas are going to be, and how they’re going to be integrated. Uchiyama-san told us that not all of the new areas are connected to Darkroot—so I wonder what other locations we could possibly see fleshed out! Maybe perhaps Firelink Shrine, and what used to exist there?
Steve: Firelink would be interesting, as would the asylum. I honestly don’t really care what they are, though, because I have total faith in Miyazaki-san and the Dark Souls team. It’s too bad console players like myself have to wait until close to the end of the year to get their hands on the new content. It will be worth the wait, though. Any new “Souls” is a good a thing, and even though I told Uchiyama-san I would love to play this game in as many iterations, sequels and what-have-you as they want to make, I almost feel like they just need to let it be after Dark Souls so it doesn’t cheapen the experience.
Eric: End it at Dark Souls? That’s so harsh Haske! I totally get the concerns you have, but I don’t think we’re at that point just yet. The concepts, the gameplay, they’re just too good to not come back in another game, and there’s no way Namco Bandai would let From off the hook for a Dark Souls 2. What we’re seeing in Prepare to Die are some ideas that the team was never able to do in the original release, such as the still-a-bit-mysterious additions to the game’s PVP mechanics. I’m willing to bet that, even beyond that, they still have things they’d like to try, or ideas that weren’t able to be used yet. Do I want to see us get to the point of a Dark Souls 5? Maybe not—but I don’t think we’re close to that danger zone just yet. There’s always a fear of cheapening a franchise by making too many of them, but I think a lot of what made Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls as good as they were was the great gameplay—and that’s something that never gets old.
Steve: As long as they don’t call it Dark Souls 2—what a terrible blemish that would be on a virtually untarnished pedigree—I’m fine with another game, but sticking “2” at the end of a game is so tacky. We’re really on the same page, Eric, because I sure as hell want hundreds of hours more gameplay in whatever horrifying realms the team can come up. I almost think that the way Dark Souls does lore would practically demand a new world, lest Lordran get too crowded with backstory and history. Give me more, sure, but not too much—if there’s something this industry doesn’t have any concept of, it’s letting a series end by going out on top.
Eric: Steve Haske, are you honestly telling me that you wouldn’t love to see “Dark Souls 2: Dark Harder”?
Steve: [laughs] Just make it Dark Souls: Dark Harder. I hate numbers. Numbers don’t happen in real life; you don’t hang out with a friend once, and then the next time you’re out with them, a “2” appears over their head.
Eric: I think life would be so much better if that did happen.
Steve: It would. It’d be kind of crazy.