In a slightly baffling move, the ESRB has rated Dark Souls II T for Teen. This is in stark contrast to the M ratings Dark Souls and Demons’ Souls received previously.
The trailers thus far have strongly suggested that Dark Souls II will be just as dark and grim as the series has always known for, and the ESRB descriptions bear this out. The content descriptors for both include “Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence,” and Dark Souls II adds on a “Mild Language” descriptor.
Even the ratings summaries are strikingly similar, though watch out for potential spoilers if you’re wary of that kind of thing. Both summaries mention cries of pain and splashes of blood. Both mention dismemberment and decapitation. Dark Souls features “flaming bodies impaled on spikes,” while Dark Souls II has “a torture device with streaks of blood.” Both games feature the same level of almost-nudity, with “hair barely covering breasts” on a female enemy.
Really, the only notable difference that keeps them from sounding like the same game is the addition of the language blip; “the words ‘bastard’ and ‘pr*ck’ can be heard in the dialogue,” the description notes.
This seems more like the people doing the rating easing off than it does a sign of the game being less grim and gritty. While the game is unquestionably dark, most of it isn’t any darker than the darkest stuff in Lord of the Rings and other serious-business fantasy movies.
Publishers definitely push for T ratings the same way movie studios push for PG-13 ratings. The size of the audience for a T game or a PG-13 movie is much larger than an M game or an R movie that it makes good business sense. I really hope FromSoftware and Bandai Namco were able to do that without compromising the nature of the game.