At yesterday’s The Game Awards there were several surprises and announcements, but only one that made me jump in my chair. From Software put the “tease” in teaser trailer with an agonisingly short clip with more happening off camera than on.
It’s not much to work with. You can watch the trailer below. There are 13 seconds of exposed bone combined with a some kind of metal winch, and the phrase “Shadows Die Twice.”
The words could be a title, a working title like Project Beast, or a slogan like Prepare To Die. It’s about as vague as a teaser gets.
On top of that, From Software is a notorious pack of trolls who are absolutely not above hinting at one thing and revealing something else entirely. Likely while eating popcorn and giggling.
So of course we’re going to ignore all that and massively overthink this anyway.
In the words of Geoff Keighley, “that’s all you get.”
There are strong themes of horror in the trailer, in addition to what appears to be mechanical augmentation, torture, or both. Also of note is the east Asian calligraphy in the background, perhaps a very ancient or stylised Kanji which would place the game somewhere in China or Japan.
Those attempting to read the writing have been able to make out the word “tiger,” but not much else.
What We Know Right Now
From Software is reportedly working on three games right now. According to this interview with studio head Hidetaka Miyazaki, one of them is a new IP that’s “different” and “a bit weird.” One of them is a mecha game and one of them is in line with the dark fantasy ARPGs fans have come to expect from the studio.
It’s been hinted at that the mecha game is a new Armored Core.
Literal translation from 新作を作らないという手はありませんよ。 : We don't have an option to not make a new [Armored Core] game.
— 黒凧 BlackKite (@bk2128) June 12, 2016
I’m wary of putting too much stock into this quote, but it’s the most relevant and solid thing we have.
We also know From Software has a deal for three games with Sony. It’s been assumed the next two games will be Bloodborne sequels, but we don’t know for sure.
As Fextralife notes, there haven’t been any cryptic trademark filings by From, Sony, or Bandai Namco recently.
Could it be ‘Bloodborne 2?’
Let’s start with the most obvious speculation.
There was no Sony logo on the trailer, but then that wouldn’t be much of a teaser, would it? The font used for “Shadows Die Twice” however, is very similar to the one used in Bloodborne.
The Shadow Set in Souls games does come from an Eastern land. Both Vendrick and Velstadt have references to being a “shadow of their former selves.” Mirrah (located in the East) is home to an Order of Shadow Knights.
There’s Shiva of the East, a Dark Souls NPC who can sell you items (or fight you if you prefer), and there’s Sir Alonne, a boss in Dark Souls II‘s Crown of the Old Iron King DLC. Neither of these connections seem strong enough to base a sequel on, but you never know with From. A lot of it comes from Dark Souls II lore, but being the one game not directed by Miyazaki, that batch of lore was largely snubbed in Dark Souls III.
Bloodborne has some stronger connections. The Shadow of Yharnam is a boss in the forest area. The Old Hunters DLC also had Yanamura the Wanderer, also from an Eastern land and wielding a Chikage. Death in Bloodborne is also different in the real world as opposed to the nightmare realm. You can die twice.
A former Sony employee who played a large role in promoting Bloodborne and has since moved to From Software tweeted this after the trailer was shown:
More details to follow in the next 12 months. We hope you look forward to it! https://t.co/YvshapWDYl
— FROMSOFTWARE／Kitao (@YasuhiroKitao) December 8, 2017
If he’s involved, that could be a big arrow pointing towards Bloodborne 2.
And while my head instantly goes to enemies being mechanically augmented and/or tortured when I see the above trailer, it’s possible we could instead be looking at the next generation of Bloodborne‘s trick weapons.
What Else Could It Be?
There are a few pre-Souls games that From Software could be bringing back.
Because of the “Shadows Die Twice” phrase, the obvious one here is Shadow Tower. This had a first-person view more in line with the Kings Field games, and a stamina-based combat system most would be familiar with.
Another possibility is Tenchu game. The last in the series, Tenchu: Shadow Assassins, has both the literal “shadow” connection, as well as a final boss that you have to kill twice (or if you count the whole series, many times).
This final boss’ name, Onikage, translates to Demon Shadow, providing a further literal connection.
From Software has also shown it would like to make a title suitable for VR. This would suit not only the Shadow Tower perspective, but Tenchu: Shadow Assassins on the Wii had first-person duels in which you had to parry attacks with your katana before striking.
While the above two don’t have the strong horror theme the “Shadows Die Twice” trailer is going for, one game that does is survival horror game Kuon. It even features bloody corpses hanging from ceilings, which could be what we see in the above trailer.
Both Tenchu and Kuon fulfill the Eastern requirement implied by the Kanji, but the latter is decidedly more horrific.
That could point to this being a remaster — announced just after Demon’s Souls servers were shut down, no less.
What Do We Think?
There are strong arguments against all of these possibilities, and the biggest one is none of these games have characters or enemies that fit what’s in the trailer. Shadow Tower has skeletons. Kuon has corpses hanging from the ceiling. Tenchu: Shadow Assassins has the strongest references to “shadows” and a boss that dies twice.
But there’s nothing with exposed bone, mechanical augmentation and blood. And there’s still the possibility of it being a new IP or remaster.
It’s also important to remember that not only is From Software a massive troll, it doesn’t plan everything out from the beginning. It’s tempting to think any game coming out of the Church of Miyazaki is preconceived brilliance, perfected in his head before anyone begins typing code. But game development just doesn’t work like that.
Certainly From would know what franchise its game is in. But even From games have big changes made to them just months before release. We should remember that when analysing dated, throwaway comments from Miyazaki about how one of his games is “weird” and one is “in line with what fans expect.”
Prepare to Dine = Code Vein, console, 2018, by the God Eater team (not From), making the BN social crew a bunch of tricksy little hobbitses.
— Jeremy Ray (@TheJunglist) April 21, 2017
Let’s also not forget that From Software allowed its “Prepare To Die” slogan to be co-opted to promote Code Vein. A teaser with the slogan “Prepare To Dine” was clearly intended to use borrowed interest from Dark Souls to announce a game that wasn’t even made by From.
The speculation is all a bit of fun — but I wouldn’t put my money on anything yet.