Hands-On Preview: Dark Souls III – Prepare to Die

on October 11, 2015 12:30 PM

For fans that are eagerly anticipating From Software’s latest exercise in hardcore action-RPGs with Dark Souls III, I can at least assure you one thing, and that’s that the games haven’t gotten any easier in the slightest.

Even within the span of a short 10-15 minute demo, I came close to death’s door multiple times, and even when I successfully managed to fell a slew of enemies standing in my way, fire reigned down from the sky and killed me instantly.

For some that might think this is a pointless exercise in frustration, to others it’s the typical experience of Dark Souls, and in our time with the game Dark Souls III continues that exhilarating balance of challenge and reward once again.

During this weekend’s New York Comic Con 2015, we had the chance to check out a brief floor demo of Dark Souls III and getting a taste of death. Even as I went pretty much first thing in the morning to Bandai Namco’s booth for the title,  there was already a big line of eager players waiting to play.

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Coming off the success of Bloodborne earlier this year on PS4, it’s easy to see that From Software’s Souls will have a higher profile than ever, yet in our demo it’s easy to see how Dark Souls III is moving the series forward while still retaining its core gameplay of challenging action and demanding combat.

During our preview with the game, we had the chance to explore one area of the game leading up to a boss fight. I’ll be frank and admit that I couldn’t even make it to the boss fight, let alone the fact that even as I played the game on Saturday of New York Comic Con, the Capcom PR representatives said they had only seen one person actually complete the boss fight so far.

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That being said, Dark Souls III‘s demo certainly showed an evolution of the series’ notoriously steep learning curve and its precise combat style, while also keeping the elements that have made the Dark Souls games such rich and deeply-admired games, and a closer return to form following some of the more criticized aspects of its predecessor, Dark Souls II.

Like the previous games, Dark Souls III takes the shape of an action-RPG where you progress through areas, find hidden secrets in the environments, and fight a variety of enemies both big and small that are just waiting to pummel you. It’s no secret that the Dark Souls games are difficult, yet even in my short time with Dark Souls III, it was still approachable enough that I could at least a few seconds against some of the more challenging enemies I had to encounter.

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The most notable change comes from the game’s speed, occupying a comfortable space somewhere between the previous two Dark Souls games and this year’s Bloodborne to at least give some indication of the combat speed. The previous Dark Souls games leaned on a heavier, more shield-heavy combat style, compared to Bloodborne essentially removing shields from the equation and crafting a much faster combat experience where dodging and parrying became the key to survival.

Coming from a background of finishing Bloodborne and having only played the previous two Dark Souls games briefly, it was definitely apparent that Dark Souls III is trying to put itself into a style that ranges somewhere in-between, with more responsive, fast controls compared to Dark Souls, but not requiring quite the same amount of precision and speed that Bloodborne provided.

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In starting the demo off with a few preset load-outs of weapons and abilities to choose from, I opted for the combo of a sword and shield to ward off enemies. With a quick switch, I could also flip between either the sword and shield or removing the shield and opting for a two-handed sword grip, giving me a heavier sword swing at the exchange of speed.

Where Dark Souls II saw the absence of series director Hidetaka Miyazaki for the development of Bloodborne, the twisted, dark influence of Miyazaki was apparent once again when fighting evil beasts, demented, shield-bearing skele-soldiers, and some things I probably can’t muster the words to try and describe. While not quite leaning as far on the gothic, Victorian influences of BloodborneDark Souls III still provided a grim world of ash and death that remains as beautiful as it is haunting.

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Dark Souls III‘s boost in combat speed certainly seems like a slight adjustment in response to Bloodborne‘s take on the Souls-style combat, though it still very much plays closer to the Dark Souls rules. Where I tended to be a bit more heavy on dodging and rolling, here that lead to some sticky situations where I came close to death, compared to watching other players take the more methodical approach of waiting for an enemy to strike, or using their shield to deflect and then attack having a bit more success.

For longtime fans of From Software’s games, Dark Souls III so far seems like a more balanced blend of Bloodborne‘s contributions while still retaining the slower, more tactical pace of Dark Souls prior. It may be faster on its feet than ever, but Dark Souls III is also putting up a greater challenge that will surely make fans of the series eager to dive back in and explore what Miyazaki’s world has to offer. Dark Souls III is rooted in death, misery, and all sorts of unpleasantness, yet in the sadistic way that only these games can make it happen, I’m more eager than ever to get my butt handed back to me over, and over again.

Dark Souls III releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on March 24th, 2016.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.
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