Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III

As with so many things, it’s all about context. Tell someone that one of the most interesting elements you saw in the gameplay demo for a triple-A sequel was that a very familiar looking man wielded a very familiar looking weapon, but that at one point he held it slightly differently, and they’ll probably look at you like you’ve just asked for their bank details to help release funds currently being held captive by a deposed Caribbean government.

But this is Dark Souls, a series in which details are key – something well-known to anyone who’s pored over item descriptions in the hope of shining a tiny bit more light on the ever-obtuse (but utterly brilliant) narratives. That different way of standing is what From Software is calling the "ready stance", and it adds a whole new layer to weapon movesets. With a straight sword equipped, the player character holds the blade in both hands up above their shoulder, poised to strike. And when they do, the steel is swung in an arc from low to high – think of an uppercut, only with a massive piece of razor sharp metal.

The poor goon on the end of this reflects this philosophy of ‘same but different’. He’s your classic Souls knight – tall, armored and angry – only this time more agile. The blow sends him flying skywards, but it’s only with a satisfying parry (we’ll need to go hands-on before we know if this has been fixed from its slightly borked DSII state) that he’s eventually turned to vapor.

In addition to more knights, we see some fairly typical undead-style fodder dispatched, as well as a massive dragon sat atop a rampart. There’s always a ruddy massive dragon. The beast is skirted around, although his fiery breath is used to take out a wave of enemies lying in wait down a different path.

Walls of Fire

All of this is playing out on the Wall Of Lodeleth, and what needs no context to understand is just how pretty the whole thing is. From Software showed its graphical chops with Bloodborne, but that game’s perma-night setting meant it never wowed in the way that the best Souls locations could. This is a return to the vast expanses of Anor Londo and the like: the wall is part of a gargantuan castle that stretches far into the distance.

It’s a structure that we’re told can be explored completely – in fact, every single building exists as an actual location in the game. It’s a claim that we’ll remain slightly skeptical about for the time being, but it’s an exciting prospect nevertheless.

Deadly Dancing

The demo culminates in a boss battle which further showcases Dark Souls III’s sinfully sexy visuals – the developer is particularly keen to promote its new lighting system and dynamic particle effects – as well as the scale and inventiveness of the enemy design. Named the Dancer Of The Frigid Valley, the foe here would best be described as a 30-foot-tall armored belly-dancer wearing a metal grille on her face. Have we got your attention yet? Oh, she also wields a flaming sword. Obviously.

As she moves lithely around the environment, a chapel within the castle’s walls, she takes great ranging swipes; her weapon steadily setting the scenery alight. The spread of the flames is glorious – visually that is, not for our hero’s odds of survival – and it’s not long before the entire room is ablaze.


Although only our first showing of the game in action, it’s hard to know what more we could ask for from Dark Souls III. We’re promised a, “deepening of the series’ core concept,” as well as a return to its unique approach to multiplayer. But more than anything, it’s a Souls game on current-gen helmed by franchise creator and bona fide game design genius Hidetaka Miyazaki. Death has never been quite so appealing.


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