Dark Souls is one of the most celebrated games in recent memory. It's notoriously difficult, but that's exactly why we love it. In a climate of excessive hand holding and AAA me-tooism, Dark Souls is unique.
I have high hopes for Dark Souls II, and have the utmost confidence that new game directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura will not tamper with what makes the game sacred. Still, there's a part of me that's alarmed at their desire to make the game more "straightforward and understandable" and "more direct than subtle," as reported by Edge Magazine.
Of course, those inclinations could manifest in various different ways - maybe even for the better. Whatever those "ways" end up being, though, there are certain aspects of the game that I do not want changed under any circumstances. Call me a purist, but here are the four crucial ingredients of Dark Souls that should not be changed in its sequel.
There should be no difficulty levels
Whether or not there's a strong case to be made for an easier Dark Souls game, one thing remains certain: easier or tougher, Dark Souls should only have one difficulty setting. That sounds pedantic, but it's actually very important: Easy/Moderate/Hard options would only serve to split the Dark Souls community. If implemented, the game's online component would likely have to cordon players off according to their chosen difficulty level.
It's often ignored, but Dark Souls already has ways of curbing its difficulty in the form of the summoning mechanic: players can summon a random co-op partner to negotiate areas and bosses they can't defeat alone, provided they have the right items (which are abundant). Similarly, certain starting gifts provide an overall easier experience, such as the "Master Key", which allows players to eschew one of the toughest areas of the game, or at least the toughest part of it. These are subtle concessions, but they mean the world to first time players.
There should be minimal signposting
The core combat in Dark Souls isn't really that complex, you just need patience. Figuring out what you need to do next, on the other hand, can be very tough. Dark Souls' various wikis and dedicated forums spent months after release trying to record the game's various systems. I'm a huge Dark Souls fan, but I've never spent time getting my hands messy with the weapon and armor upgrade schematics because numbers drive me insane. What I did spend a lot of time doing was figuring out where I was meant to go and what I was meant to do in the game world, without consulting a wiki. I was frequently lost, but you know what? I loved it. Once I'd finished the game, I returned in the name of secrets - and boy, did I find them.
Getting lost and having no idea where to go is a core appeal of the Souls games. Not having a glowing red line direct you to your next objective is liberating. Dark Souls doesn't underestimate your intelligence, even while it bludgeons you to death for your dumb mistakes, over and over again. A lot is made of Dark Souls' unforgiving boss battles and the ensuing satisfaction of beating them, but simply unpicking the puzzle of where to go and what to do is what I enjoyed the most. The game's cryptic logic is a thing of beauty - and definitely something that is served by forcing the player to figure it out themselves, which leads me to the point of why...