A short time has passed since the announcement of Dark Souls 2 at the VGAs, and the community has been busy digesting all of the information we’ve gotten so far. There have been some strong reactions, particularly regarding the potential changes. In fact, EpicNameBro has already posted several videos digging into what we know so far. Most of these reactions center around the reality that Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator and director the entirety of the Souls series thus far, will not be directing Dark Souls 2.
Instead, Dark Souls 2 will be directed by Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura. Although Miyazaki is devoting the majority of his attention to another project, he is still supervising Dark Souls 2’s development. As supervisor, Miyazaki has said that he is making it a point to protect the core aspects of the series. In contrast, however, Shibuya said that he is much more direct and open than Miyazaki, and that this is sure to be apparent in the finished product.
So, am I worried? Hell yeah, I’m worried, but I’m not scared. Dark Souls is precious to me. I have no problem saying that it is my favorite game of all time. In fact, Dark Souls has been an important point of reference and enjoyable experience for me as I have struggled with PTSD for the past year. My experience with Dark Souls is more meaningful to me than any other gaming experience I’ve had. Naturally, I am extremely excited for Dark Souls 2. I want my experience with it to be nostalgic and cathartic, but I still want it to be new and surprising. Of course I’ll worry about Dark Souls 2 as I anxiously await its arrival with my seemingly paradoxical desires, but I feel secure despite all of the reasons there are to worry so far. Dark Souls 2’s new direction will be more a result of its new directors, who are new to the Souls series, than anything else. Second to that is the extra staff they have working on the game, who are also new to the series. Given these factors, what have I got to feel secure in?
Well, this is From Soft. The core of the group working on this game are the same people who worked on the rest of the Souls series. That means more than just “these people are familiar with the mythology,” or “they understand the themes, tone, and style” that make a Souls game a Souls game. These people know all around what it takes to make a Souls game. In fact, they know how to make one better than any other group on the planet. Since they know “The Souls Way,” if you will, they represent the biggest obstacle to any forces wishing to change what a Souls game is. Yes, Dark Souls 2 is going in a new direction; this tends to happen when one changes directors. All that means for certain is that The Souls Way is being projected through a new lens. In keeping with this metaphor, it is still the same badass scenery behind the lens being projected onto the same screen. It is most likely that nearly all of the game is going to the same ol’ Souls stuff. The artistic form will remain more or less constant: the character, equipment, and level design; the presentation, exposition, and writing techniques; and the carefully, deeply, and meticulously constructed detail. We are still assured to be looking at exactly what it is that we have come to love, but we will be seeing it from a new perspective. The new directors are coming from the outside, as are the new staff members. They are eager to contribute their own talents and ideas in any way they can. That’s great.
I’ve learned that this is generally how things such as this go down. Even if every one of them are bullish and hardheaded, they will still learn from both Miyazaki and the core group of coders and designers, all of whom are skilled in The Souls Way. And while those skilled in The Souls Way are bound to learn from the new blood, they will be applying those lessons in the context of The Souls Way. When looking at the situation from this perspective, what will it take for Dark Souls 2 to feel wrong, to feel like it’s not a Souls game? It would take new directors to act as bullish dictators, while their supervisor lets them rule his baby unabated, with seasoned staff forgetting all that they have learned for at least the past five years as they blindly follow overzealous leaders, and new staff trying to learn how to code and design from their directors instead of from the coders and designers around them.
The bottom line is that the studio responsible for bringing us not only our much anticipated Dark Souls 2, but also Demons’ Souls and Dark Souls, is nothing more than a functioning group of people. There is not a better group of people for this task anywhere in the world. We know that this group, managed by From Soft, knows how to function well. They know how to get work done and how to get it done well, and they understand how that work appeals to us. No matter how worried we get, all of them will be in Japan laboring toward their goal, ready to proudly and lovingly offer it to us.
I, for one, don’t feel obligated to like the game because they will work so hard on it, nor do I feel I need to buy and love the game because it bares the Souls name. In fact, I admit that I’m worried, even anxious, regarding how it is being handled. Hell, I have an anxiety disorder. As worried as everybody is and has been, I’m right there with you. Still, when I contextualize all of the indicators that I’ve seen so far regarding where Dark Souls 2 is going with all that I mentioned above, and when I balance the positives with the negatives, I find myself with net positives, feeling more secure than worried about the new game. I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s continue being the best gaming community around as we continue to anticipate and await the release of Dark Souls 2.