"Accessible" probably wasn't the right word to describe the new design direction for Dark Souls 2. Yui Tanimura, producer of the sequel, doesn't say it in as many words during our interview, but the sentiment is evident when he clarifies earlier statements.
"We understand that a lot of fans took the word 'accessible' and translated it to 'it will be easier'," he said. "We apologise for casually using the word".
From Software's true intent was muddled in translation. This time, Tanimura and Namco Bandai producer Tak Miyazoe are clear and precise with their words: "There's no intent for us to make the game any easier."
A short gameplay video and trailer (watch them here) are positive proof of this. They show a fur and iron clad Knight meeting his demise in various heinous ways. So, what did they mean then? According to Tanimura, Dark Souls 2 it will be a much "leaner" experience, without compromising the challenge - obviously.
"At the same time, the goal isn't to make Dark Souls 2 more difficult, just more rewarding," he continued. "What we meant by accessibility was streamlining a lot of the so-called tediousness that was in Dark Souls to make sure we can trim the fat and directly deliver the pure challenges and emotional aspects we want to communicate."
Streamlining, trim; more flammable words, but this time better explained: "For example; having to backtrack in Dark Souls and having to do all that travelling. Warping was only available in the latter half of the game, which seemed a little bit useless."
"Discussions of next-gen did actually come up briefly"
All this is in service of boiling Dark Souls 2 down to its pure, undiluted essence. Tanimura goes to pains to point out difficulty, facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, and then overcoming them is key to that essence.
Given the somewhat disjointed sections structure of our gameplay demo we can't speak to how this leaner, no-less-meaner experience comes together, but all the right pieces seem to still be there.
Our demo kicked off with a slow pan around the aforementioned Knight, who stands in an outdoor environment, at the entrance of a dungeon. Tanimura highlights the improved visual quality. While the distant mountains still use the same low-resolution, painted backgrounds seen in the previous games, the jump in visual fidelity is noticeable in the character model and his immediate environment.
Immersion is key to the Dark Souls experience, and to remove any barriers to it From Software has created a new engine for the sequel. The benefits are obvious, especially in the next room, where the flickering of a bonfire casts a warm glow on a nearby statue, and the Knight's shadow is cast across the wall, bending and shifting believably as he walks towards a ladder.
With the next generation of consoles imminent and a brand new engine in hand, we questioned why From Software targeted current consoles, instead of PS4 and the next-Xbox.
"Discussions of next-gen did actually come up briefly," admitted Tanimura. "But if we were to develop for next-gen we wouldn't be able to deliver the game for a lot longer. We wanted to deliver something to fans as soon as possible.
"We still feel there's potential and ability for us to express a little bit more than what we did with Dark Souls, even on current-gen consoles. We hope to elaborate on what we were able to communicate with Dark Souls."
"We understand that next-gen is coming, it'd be a lie to say we didn't consider it at all, but right now there's no intent to have Dark Souls on next-gen."