'Killing with substance': dying in Dark Souls 2

The armored hero walks hesitantly across a rickety bridge. Wyverns are circling around, ready to strike. The hero takes one more step forward, as the bridge collapses, sending him to an all too familiar screen: "You Died."

Yui Tanimura, director on Dark Souls 2, is reveling in death. "One thing that really came into mind was the various kinds of deaths that players can experience," he said while presenting the game. "We try to kill with substance."

In one part of the demo, the player gets killed as he tries to sneak up behind a large ogre-like enemy. He does a backdrop, crushing the unsuspecting hero. In another scene, an enemy throws an axe. Failing to deflect it causes the player to die. I also saw our hapless hero get run over by a silver chariot... set on fire. He died, of course.

"We're trying to add a lot of variations to dying," Tanimura explained, knowing that there is a masochistic appeal in Dark Souls' gruesome difficulty. However, the violence isn't there for violence's sake. "Our goal isn't to simply kill players, but to give players a sense of achievement when they overcome death," he explained.

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You constantly have to be mindful when traversing the world of Dark Souls. In one scene, the player did a celebratory gesture after slaying a beast--only to have a pack of wild animals immediately devour him afterwards.

"I always keep two major concepts when working on this game," Tanimura said. "First: the sense of satisfaction when overcoming the difficulties in the game. Second: the loose connection with players around the world to share the difficulties." Dark Souls' difficulty is so cherished by fans because it is incredibly empowering when death is successfully avoided.

In a later part of the demo, the player stumbles upon a giant rhino, trapped behind iron prison bars. Agitated by an arrow shot at its face, it breaks through the wall and starts attacking the player. The player was able to successfully defeat the angered beast, as it exploded into delicious souls. Too bad--that could've been another visit to the game over screen during the short demo.