King's Field II

The story behind Black Isle's cancelled PlayStation Planescape game

The story behind Black Isle's cancelled PlayStation Planescape game

The From Software effect, generations before Bloodborne.

The Souls effect will reach fever pitch this week with the release of Bloodborne, and very important gaming people at lunch around the world will wonder how they can copy it. Feels like a recent thing, given that Dark Souls appeared in 2011 to really kick it all off. But as I discovered, in something of a crypt in London recently, the Souls effect was felt a long, long time ago.

It's 1996 and Super Mario 64 has come out, Quake has come out, Tomb Raider has come out. The Spice Girls are only just coming out (I could have worded that differently). Meanwhile, over in America, Colin McComb writes Planescape campaigns for Dungeons & Dragons. But he wants to go to California because there's this girl there. Then he sees his chance.

"Come on out and be the lead designer of this PlayStation game that we're doing with the Planescape licence," a company offers him.

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Retrospective: King's Field

Where Souls were born.

Dark Souls is considered From Software's spiritual successor to Demon's Souls. And Demon's Souls was deemed the spiritual successor to the King's Field series, which made its debut in the mid-1990s on the PlayStation. We toss around this term "spiritual successor" a lot, mostly when we want to say "sequel" but it doesn't quite fit. A spiritual successor is more interesting, anyway. A sequel is a marketing strategy; a spirit can be profound.