Dark Souls III Preview
Let’s be clear: Bloodborne is not Dark Souls. While the former title is a great game in its own right and features a very similar aesthetic presentation, the gameplay is distinctly different. One leans more toward action while the other relies a bit more on hardcore role-playing and adventure elements, which is why I know a lot of Dark Souls fanatics who really didn’t like Bloodborne (and vice versa). Either way, we expect nothing but greatness from Dark Souls III, which is slated to arrive in 2016. Right off the bat, perhaps the biggest difference everyone will notice is the significant increase in scale. If you participated in the beta test last month, you can likely attest to the larger, more intricate scope.
There’s no doubt the art direction and style won’t deviate from the accepted franchise formula, which is to say: dark, forbidding, and decidedly fantastical in every sense of the word. But the developers are striving to get the most out of the new consoles, as each set piece seems to be incredibly authentic. Just about every aspect of your surroundings will be larger, more detailed, and ultimately more involving; from the crumbling gothic castles to the baddies that roam the desolate landscape, this will undoubtedly be the most impressive-looking Dark Souls yet. Forgive me for harping on the visual improvements but in this day and age, when the open-world structure dominates, designers must continue to push the graphical envelope for the sake of greater immersion.
And of course, the bosses will be just as imposing and memorable as ever. Dark Souls arguably features some of the best bosses ever and at E3 this year, From Software gave us a peek at the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. Now that’s one helluva boss: Not only was it wonderfully detailed but it was also distinct and highly imaginative; rather than your standard hulking beast, it was tall, very thin, and sporting a trailing bridal veil and some very big swords. It actually reminded me of the Wraiths in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but strictly from a technical and artistic perspective, the Dancer was much more impressive. Beyond the bosses, players like this series for its subtle yet haunting storyline and in the case of DSIII, the plot will revolve around the Lords of Cinder. It’ll be your task to eliminate them but we don’t know exactly why just yet.
In terms of gameplay, fans know what to expect. It’s an action/RPG that plays out in real-time with a big emphasis on strategy and tactics. Players will once again be able to dual-wield weapons and they’ll also have access to Estus flasks and jump attacks. New weapon arts will deliver extra abilities to certain weapons; for example, you can adopt a “ready” position with the longsword, and the shield disappears. In this position, you have access to two special attacks that will break through enemy blocks. Furthermore, long-time fans will probably appreciate the return of Knights, which are powerful and aggressive. Above all else, we’re looking at what I like to call “enhanced familiarity,” which means fans get the gameplay they love, only with appreciated improvements.
From Software says general movement has been tweaked to be “more intuitive” as well, and you can tell the main character moves quicker. It’s not as fast as Bloodborne but it’s certainly faster than any other Dark Souls title. And the “worldview” from past entries will return, which may or may not go over well with certain fans. The interesting part is that despite everything that’s returning, there is some talk about the game actually being a prequel, due in part to the prevalence of dragons. Series director Hidetaka Miyazaki hasn’t confirmed that as of yet but he hasn’t denied it, either; guess we’ll have to learn more about the story in the future. Personally, I have no problem with prequels, especially when the focus remains squarely on the gameplay.
Dark Souls III is the game die-hard followers have been waiting for. Even if they enjoyed Bloodborne, chances are, they’re still anxiously awaiting the next Dark Souls because yes, it’s different. And the best part is that From Software appears to be crafting exactly what their loyal fans desire— a larger, more diverse, more advanced version of Dark Souls II. While innovation is always essential to stave off staleness and repetition, it’s also important not to alienate the fans you worked so hard to obtain. With the possible exception of that “more intuitive” and faster movement (which might be interpreted as a negative in the eyes of some followers), DSIII is poised to deliver the anticipated goods come April.
11/3/2015 Ben Dutka