The ESRB has given a Teen rating to the upcoming action RPG Dark Souls 2. It's hard to believe considering their description of the game.
"This is a role-playing game in which players assume the role of an undead fighter in the realm of Drangleic," the listing begins. "Players traverse dungeon-like settings and battle a variety of fantastical enemies (e.g., ghouls, zombies, skeletons, giant rats) to gain souls. Players use knives, swords, and arrows to defeat enemies. Combat is highlighted by cries of pain and small splashes of blood."
The beginning of the description makes Dark Souls 2 sound just like Dark Souls and spiritual predecessor Demon's Souls, both of which received Mature ratings. The bosses are as grotesque as ever, too:
"Some locations depict instances of blood and gore: a giant snake boss holding its severed head; a giant boss creature composed of hundreds of corpses; dead ogres near a pool of blood; a torture device with streaks of blood."
The game doesn't have any enemies with exposed butt cheeks like Dark Souls. However, there's another boss fight with a female boss using her hair to cover her breasts.
The only big difference I can see between the ESRB listing of Dark Souls 2 and the listings of the older games is how the blood and gore are described. While there are "small splashes of blood" in DS2's combat, there are "large pools" of the red stuff in the first DS. Some boss fights involve "dismemberment and decapitation." The ESRB summary of Demon's Souls mentions that attacks cause "large clouds of dark red blood."
Teen-rated games are intended for gamers aged 13 and up, while Mature titles are for 17+ players. It's funny that blood splash size or a few exposed butts could be the difference between teenagers being barred from purchasing the game. I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere, though.
At any rate, Dark Souls 2 sounds like it's going to be the dark and creepy experience that we've come to expect from the series. The bosses are still hideous and and we're still going to die a whole lot. I'm not worried if they had to scale back blood splatter by 5% or whatever. If some small cosmetic change was all From Software needed in order to get the game into more players' hands, it's a worthwhile trade-off.