Change the character classes
The character seen in all the Project Beast footage so far seems to have a shotgun in their hand, which is interesting as the Souls series hasn’t dabbled in gunplay before. I know, the thought of Demon’s Souls 2 having shooter mechanics might make you throw up in your own mouth a little, but I think it’d be a real game-changer in terms of character classes as long as it doesn’t screw with the existing melee mechanics too bad.
I’m guessing a tonne of Dark Souls 2 players went with either the Knight, the Pyromancer, the new Swordsman class or stuck with either magic or miracles. These class archetypes are fine and dandy, but I’d like to see some properly new and inventive skill sets in Project Beast. Give us that guy with the shotgun and make him a hunter, or better yet, how about a Necromancer who can summon Hollows? There’s lots of potential out there.
Turn combat on its head
As I said earlier, too many Dark Souls 2 bosses could be killed by simply goading them into attacking, walking around their slow swipes and hitting them a few times before repeating the process. That sequence became so hard-wired into my brain by the end that I started to become uninspired by each new fight. Project Beast should do more to shake up that approach.
The trouble is figuring out how to do that without breaking the core mechanics that make the Souls games feel so unique. Change it too much and it won’t feel like part of the series, keep it static and it risks being dull. Maybe the trick is in addition, such as new types of heavy attacks and parries, ranged gun combat and different evades depending on your class? It’s a tricky one.
Keep it ambiguous to a point
Ambiguity is great because it forces us to use our imagination to fill in the gaps. This is why Demon’s and Dark Souls have always felt so personal to the player. We’re given the space to make up tailored back-stories and theories about the world state, characters and overarching lore. There are no wrong theories, just your own personal yarn about a dark world gone terribly wrong. That’s really powerful.
But by the end of Dark Souls 2 – I feel it was around the giant’s memories – I had no idea what the point was any more. What started as a quest to lift my curse had turned into something greater, about succeeding the throne and understanding why Vendrick’s arrogance led to retaliation from the giants. Then there’s all the theories about his brother, Nashandra’s intent and the Emerald Herald’s true purpose.
I like not being told everything, but that can be achieved while still giving the player just enough purpose and understanding to make the goal clear to a point. Don’t tell us everything in Project Beast, but do give us some crumbs that steer progression and give us some measure of satisfaction by the end credits. I felt deflated upon completion, compared to the feeling of relief and joy at finishing the first game.
More inventive bosses
I covered this a little earlier, but there’s has to be more to Project Beast’s bosses than rolling to the left, hitting the enemy then repeating that sequence until it topples. Remember False King Allant from Demon’s Souls, and his wide range of utterly punishing attacks – including one that takes a Soul Level off you with each hit – and you’ll likely be met with memories of irritation and grinding to finally take him down.
That’s not an annoyance. That’s a challenge, and I’ll say it again; there’s ultimately much more satisfaction to be had in working hard to achieve something than having it doled out instantly with zero effort. This is a worrying trend in gaming today, where triple-a titles dispense big explosions and pay-outs simply because you reached a map marker. Big deal.
Games that make you work for the big pay-off may feel gruelling or clunky at times, but I think many of us are forgetting the sense of sweet delight that comes with finally overcoming those gauntlets. It’s a sensation those who have legitimately completed games like Contra and Mega Man will know full well. Chucking lots of reward at us for doing nothing doesn’t have the same effect. Trust me on this one.
Lot of series links please
Project Beast should at least belong to the same broader universe as its predecessor. There are tenuous but notable links between the first and second Dark Souls games, and that’s the kind of awesome fan-service nods that get us all theorising and discussing them on forums and around the watercooler. If Demon’s Souls 2 is an actual thing, then I’d love to see references to King Allant, the colourless fog, the Nexus and the Maiden in Black in there.
Oh and praising, there still needs to be praising of some kind.