Posted January 22, 2016 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Dark Souls III Preview

Hidetaka Miyazaki wants you to die. But, he also wants you to learn from it. That’s the message that’s come across clear as crystal throughout his tough-as-nails catalogue, from Bloodborne to Demon’s Souls, but he’s still most renowned for the Dark ‘Actually Trying To Make You Bleed’ Souls series. A series that revels in stymieing your progress with cheap traps and overpowered enemies. Where learning to parry in any given situation has its own university course. And which is in essence a massive meat grinder which players gleefully and continually fling themselves into, for the satisfaction of the one time they’re able to not be completely decimated into giblets. We went hands-on with the latest entry, Dark Souls III, which looks to continue this fine tradition onto the current-gen of consoles, with the tale of a dying world full of undead, where all hope is lost. One of the more uplifting entries, then.

The theme of a world at the end of its life, decaying into ash, actually provides for a pretty stunning atmosphere. The world of Dark Souls III is sun-bleached and abandoned. Dust and ash fill the air, flying off corpses strewn around various structures. The remains of mighty dragons lie on top of castles, pale and flakey, like dead moths. There’s a very bittersweet beauty in the visuals, which is helped by the power of its new engine, which to my untrained eye seems to be very similar to Bloodborne.

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With this engine comes a faster framerate, which isn’t always silky, but is still leagues ahead of previous entries on PS3 and 360. But along with this comes lessons Miyazaki has obviously learned from Bloodborne, namely a faster flow to gameplay. Your character is noticeably quicker, from simple movements and running, to actual attacks and parrying. Combat feels a lot more fluid than it ever did before, and as a result occasionally a lot more unpredictable. Heavy weapons can inflict a lot more damage in a short amount of time, including the oversized Greatsword, which was featured in the hands-on build.

One addition I couldn’t quite wrap my head around was a new ‘Battle Arts’ system. This is activated by holding down the old ‘parry’ should trigger, and modifies your light and heavy attacks to special moves which consume magic power. Magic is a new meter, similar to your health and stamina, which returns after a long absence from its appearance in Demon’s Souls. While I was able to pull off a few of these new moves, they didn’t seem to help much against regular enemies, although that’s most likely entirely my fault for not getting used to the system (as is often my experience with Dark Souls games).

While you’ll be cutting your way through swathes of undead corpses and giant knights, occasionally some may mutate into something even more horrible. Reminiscent of the demon slime/stuff from Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, an otherwise unassuming villain can turn on a dime into a mass of wriggling black ooze, and become a lot more dangerous. Little tricks like this will surely catch new players off guard, but Bloodborne veterans who remember the snake-people should have some idea of how to handle these.

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While there were two bosses featured in the build I played, I have to admit only reaching one. The Dancer of the Frigid Valley initially seems to be quite an easy foe to take on, given other similar bosses in Dark Souls canon, but she has a few nasty surprises for melee classes, with a short-range grab that can more or less instantly end you. With a lot more patience, I could probably have worked out her pattern enough to get some hits in, retreat, and try again, but unfortunately this is where my hands-on ended. I would like to try replaying the section with a ranged character or magic-user to see what tricks she has up her sleeve for those types.

Dark Souls III is faster, tougher and more beautiful than ever before. There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a fan of Miyazaki’s tough love approach to gaming, and there’s clearly been a lot learned from his experiments in Bloodborne. Could this be an early contender for most ball-bustingly hard game of the year? We’ll find out on 12 April.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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