It's never been a secret how much I like Dark Souls. I've beaten it somewhere around 10-15 times and logged in over 500 hours playtime across both the PS3 and PC versions, yet still wanted more. The gameplay is simply unique and doesn't compare to any other games around right now.
So, naturally, with the announcement of the next instalment in the franchise, you could imagine that I was quite over the moon- but not surprised in the slightest. After all, Dark souls last month was clocked in as having sold over 1.31 million copies worldwide across all three platforms (stats provided by VGchartz.com) which is quite an impressive feat for a game that is not Call of Duty, Battlefield, Madden, Fifa or Assassin's Creed. People who work at FromSoftware are constantly talking in interviews about how surprised they were at the success of Dark Souls (and it's predecessor, Demon's Souls).
On paper, the game sounds terrible, let's be honest. It bears the tagline: "Prepare To Die" So straight away, it is putting people off from playing the game. People generally don't really like dying in a video game. The idea that you may never finish the game could deter some would-be players from it already. The game also requires the player to learn the game: the combat, the enemy attack patterns, the items, the lore, the stats. This way of not spoon-feeding the player is very old-fashioned and is more prevalent in old arcade-style games designed to steal your money. Older gamers will pick up this game and feel right at home with dying a lot, whereas the younger generation would probably toss the controller the second time they died, perhaps calling the enemy a camper. Not to mention the fact that it is set in a medieval fantasy world, which is a setting that doesn't particularly sell well with the non-hardcore crowd. So one could say that the target audience of this game is persistent, grown-up nerds.
What FromSoftware have to do now with the sequel is to grow the series. What I mean by that is now they are sure of what the fanbase want, they can continue to build on that, creatively.
So here's a list of my ideas for the series' next instalment: (please note that these are all very little changes due to the fact that I believe the core gameplay is excellent as it is)
1) Separate online mode
What I mean by this is that they should give PvPers the ability to just search for a game using a lobby screen where they will find a willing opponent around the same level range(who created the session) for PvP. That doesn't mean they should do away with the invasion thing. I just think it would be good if they expanded the multiplayer into something that was a little easier to organise. Often when I look to do PvP I find that there are simply no players in the areas I search. It would also be nice if there was an easier way to play with your friends. For instance, you could just let them drop in and out if they're on your friends list or via invites etc. And it would be nice if you could keep them in your game even after killing a boss and do a full run through of the game with a friend or two. Of course, they'd have to make the enemies stronger if you did that (maybe somewhere along the lines of 10-20%) but I definitely think it would be doable and would make the game so much more fun to play with friends.
2) Allow Custom Messages
So, usually when you write a message using the orange soapstone, you find that there are quite a lot of options for informing players from other worlds about potential dangers, but often they don't quite match up to what you need to tell the other player. So it would be beneficial (and really fun), I believe if you could write custom messages on the ground for other players to see. Often "Try Key" or "Amazing Chest Ahead" is not quite enough information. Of course, they'd have to put a word limit on that or people would just be writing massive paragraphs on the floor.
3) More involving story
Put simply, it feels like the player is simply a spectator in the dark souls story. I would prefer if there was a way to interact with the npcs better. It would be good if you could have conversation options like in dragon age origins to ask for additional information to help reinforce the story in the game. The story in Dark Souls is very confusing and it would be ideal if there was an option to hear more about what is going on from the perspective of a few characters in the game. The protagonist should still be silent, however. Again, asking for that extra background information would be entirely optional, so if you did simply want to go through the game, you wouldn't have to sit through long conversations with NPCs to do so.
4)Optional "hardcore mode"
I remember them talking in an interview about demon's souls that they were considering making it so that if you died, you would have to start the game again. I think this would be awesome as an optional mode. Similar to Diablo's hardcore mode where your character would simply be deleted when you die. That would certainly make invasions a bit more interesting. There would be a heck of a lot more at stake, then. It would also inspire players to want to be the first one to do it, which would be very interesting to see.
5) More traps
Sen's fortress was awesome. Enough said
6) More character creation options
I'd like it if they added a lot more hairstyles and made it easier to make a character who looks human (no one wants to see some of the monsters I've created). Also, they should make the character's build have some bearing on their physical attributes. I have seen way too many fat people doing ninja flips online. Oh, it would also be cool if there was a function to dye your armour.
7) Keep up the good work!
Other than that, dark souls was flawless in my humble opinion. I just want more of the same. If any of you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading this, and I look forward to hearing your feedback!