Dark Souls 2 is going to change one of the cardinal rules in From's Souls series: undead players will be susceptible to invasion.
For the uninitiated, Demon's & Dark Souls players typically spend 95 per cent of their play time as a dead person. Achieving a "human form" is a sort of special power-up that requires rare items or other infrequent criteria to be met. Being human makes you more powerful and able to summon other players, but it also makes you susceptible to being invaded by other players set on slaying you. Thus it's always been a method of making people feel uneasy after victory, but the PvP angle could largely be ignored if you'd rather not bother.
Despite this crucial shift there are new systems in place so players aren't constantly getting griefed by pros looking for fresh blood to spill. "Before, the matchmaking was based upon player level," Namco Bandai producer Takeshi Miyazoe explained in an interview with OPM. "That will remain, but we also want to focus on how much time you've played the game. Also, there will be penalties for players who invade, but still lose. There are risks. And there will be 'policemen' against invaders and a ransom system where if you constantly invade or kill NPCs there will be motivation for summoned players to go after you."
That's right, there will be a "policeman" class [not the real name] that's really more of a bounty hunter, tasked with eliminating the less scrupulous players who don't play by the rules.
Dark Souls 2 will contain a re-hauled Covenant system that gives players several new roles to play, each with their own unique perks. As revealed last month, Way of the Blue members automatically summon their fellow Blue Sentinels to help protect them, while Heirs To The Sun are summoned based on priority to assist in PvP and PvE situations. Brotherhood of Blood members are more susceptible to invading others in hopes of stealing their blood as a sacrifice, and Bell Keepers, well, guard bells.
Additional changes involve soap stones - the item that lets you invade or offer your services in another's world - getting re-hauled, so they're time-sensitive based on their size.
"Our main intent is not to foster a greater frequency of multiplayer, but more to give players the opportunity to interact even within the 'loose' parameters allowed," Dark Souls 2 co-director Yui Tanimura told OPM.
If players find all these confounding online components too difficult or simply want some respite from the rest of the human world, they can always play offline, which will work much the same as it ever has. You won't get invaded this way, but it's generally harder since you can't receive messages or aid from others.
Dark Souls 2 will launch on 14th March in Europe and 11th March in North America on PS3 and Xbox 360. A PC version will follow at an unspecified date.