Dark Souls

Hardcore spawn.

Hidetaka Miyazaki has good news for those who loved Demon's Souls. Specifically, for those who loved the game's unashamedly hardcore tone and rock-hard difficulty level.

"Dark Souls will not be any easier at all," he says, speaking via a translator at Namco Bandai's Ignite event. "We will continue to make the game difficult enough for players to enjoy. Hopefully we will live up to the hardcore fans' expectations."

There's bad news, though, for those who found Miyazaki's original offering so rock-hard they're still struggling to complete it.

"This game will actually be more difficult," he says. "We plan to continue to challenge players and make the game even harder.

"The base concepts underlying this game the rewards, the satisfaction you get from being able to conquer the difficulty are big themes. In order to give players a bigger sense of achievement and satisfaction I simply have to make this game more difficult, compared to Demon's Souls."

It makes a change to hear a developer talking about how their new game will give fans more of what they're used to, rather than how it will reboot the series or redefine the genre or raise the bar so high it pushes the envelope to the next level.

But that seems to be Miyazaki's style. Speaking at the press conference held the day before our interview, he looked proud to proclaim that this new game is being developed by the same team as Demon's Souls, and that it's based around similar concepts.

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Miyazaki says he's considering introducing a death counter for Dark Souls. Handy.

Like its predecessor, Dark Souls is a third-person action RPG set in a gloomy, oppressive world. Just as there are no plans to dumb down, there are no plans to lighten up.

"Visually, the concept of a cold, dark atmosphere hasn't changed," Miyazaki explains. "We are trying to expand the variation of environments we present. But we are also trying to keep this sense of coldness amongst all of them."

No secret unlockable Hello Kitty-themed levels, then? "Haha! Actually, I feel that a lot of my monsters are pretty cute... It's a different type of cute, but still..."

Miyazaki showed off several of these new environments during the press conference. They included the moss-covered ruins of a vast castle, complete with a seemingly endless series of stone courtyards, cobbled passageways, looming archways and winding staircases.

This level was a great illustration of how gloomy doesn't have to mean ugly; one particular highlight was a far-off vista of ominous clouds, through which were streaming shafts of golden light.

Next up was a dark forest lit with murky greens and moody blues. Running around it was a mascot character known as the Onionite, wearing a barrel-like suit of curved and sculpted armour - imagine the Michelin man made out of stainless steel.

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Magic will make a return. During the demo Miyazaki showed how you can turn yourself to steel to resist attack.

Inside the armour, Miyazaki said, was a beautiful female character similar to Metroid's Samus. But we didn't get to see her during the demo, and he hasn't decided whether we'll get to do so in the finished game.

The action then shifted to a level described by Miyazaki as "a kind of underground hell". Across a lake of molten lava stood a collection of towering structures reminiscent of South East Asian temples. Behind them, a wall of layered red rock curved upwards into infinity. The character in this scenario was wearing an outfit apparently inspired by samurais, complete with face grill and giant katana.

"This map is extremely dangerous. You get burned if you step on the lava," said Miyazaki. Seeing as the entire ground beyond the spot our man was stood on appeared to be made of said lava, it was hard to see how he was supposed to progress.

We didn't get to find out. "There are a few bugs, so from a developer standpoint it's also very dangerous," said Miyazaki, swiftly moving on to another level.

This one, titled Trap Road, was set in another huge castle, but it had been constructed more recently judging by the glowing stonework and shiny portcullises. Inside it was full of the kind of booby traps and dangerous obstacles Lara Croft lives for.

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