Many gamers are focused on the upcoming next-gen consoles right now but Namco Bandai wants us to remember that Dark Souls 2 is on its way to current-gen systems. They've released a slew of screenshots focused on the multiplayer.

Dark Souls 2 features an all-new story without direct connections to the previous game. However, the gameplay mechanics are very similar. Players will travel through an open-world littered with hazards and monsters. Death comes quickly and results in all enemies respawning. Slowly but surely, players will learn from their deaths and finally best the various dangers.

Like its predecessors Dark Souls and Demon's Souls, Dark Souls 2 can be played solo if you want. However, the game adds new layers if you go online. You won't necessarily see other players while you're connected to the game servers but you'll be constantly trading information with each other. The glowing text on the ground in the screenshots are messages left by other player - a mixture of helpful tips and trolling attempts. Bloodstains are a sort of message as well; by touching them, you'll see how a player died there.

Other players can also join your game to a limited extent. If you use White Sign Soapstone, you can summon another player (or two) to help you tackle the most challenging parts of the world. These helpful chaps are the white phantoms seen in a few screenshots. Not all players you'll encounter are friendly, though. Fellow adventurers can also invade your game and try to kill you. These invaders are shrouded in red in the screenshots.

Namco Bandai held four beta tests for Dark Souls 2 exclusively via PSN. The final two tests allowed players to test out all of the multiplayer features, including invasions and co-op. I hope you got to experience at least one of those betas because Namco doesn't seem to have any additional tests planned.

Dark Souls 2 will launch in North America on March 11th on PS3 and Xbox 360 here in North America. The Japanese and PAL launches will follow on the 13th and 14th respectively. The PC version is currently undated but Namco says it will be arriving "shortly after" its console counterparts.

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