Ever since Atlus Demon’s Souls, which released in 2009, From Software’s Souls has not only evolved, but continued to gain momentum, elevating its developer to one of the most respected teams in the industry. With Dark Souls III being released in early 2016, the series has it’s largest following yet, with a tremendous amount of hype already accruing for it. I’ve personally been a fan of the series since it’s creation, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to get a hands-on impression at this year’s New York Comic-Con. In terms of lines and wait times, there was no other game on the show floor with as long of a line–fans were eagerly awaiting the chance to take their own shot at the High Wall of Lothric.
There were four builds available in this version of the game; Wandering Knight, Northern Warrior, Herald of White and Academy Assassin. I decided to challenge myself, and choose the Academy Assassin, as I’ve always gravitated toward Mage builds. One of the first immediate changes that will be a huge departure for Souls veterans who have not played Demon’s Souls; Spells no longer have a a numerical value that determines the amount of uses. They are now tethered to an MP meter below your Stamina, ala Demon’s Souls. I’ve always thought this personally made more sense, as the numerical value applications to magic made it feel more limited. In addition to the series’ famous Estus Flasks that restore your health, they also added Magical Blue Estus flasks to restore your MP meter.
Dark Souls III seems to combine the strongest aspects of all of it’s predecessors while running on the crisp, refined combat engine we all fell in love with during Bloodborne. The visual elements seem less saturated than that of Dark Souls II, which was quite colorful, yet it still seems somewhat more vibrant than the very muted palette of Bloodborne. I noticed that the Stamina penalties on attacks and evasion were not nearly as costly as they were in Dark Souls II, but yet less forgiving than they were in Bloodborne as well.
The available spells in the DLC were; Soul Arrow, the series staple, Soul Dart and Dark Souls II’s Soul Greatsword. Soul Dart felt like a throw back to Demon’s Souls Fire Spray spell, which was a low cost, low damage quick shot spell. The starting spell arsenal seemed much more balanced this time, more so than any previous games, as the three spells had a solid mix of range and damage per costs. The Herald of White’s spell arsenal included Heal, Lightning Spear and Sacred Oath. The evasion system the Souls series is known for will also be returning, which means the quicksteps from Bloodborne will being staying in Yharnam, and the spot-dodge tumbling we’ve all grown accustomed to will be the backbone of powering through the dangers posed by Lothric.
Miyazaki’s bread-and-butter of the series has genuinely been the breathtaking castles and Dark Fantasy/Medieval/Gothic architecture we’ve all fallen in love with exploring. Dark Souls III is already living up to this reputation, with the High Wall of Lothric being a massive sprawl of stone structures, with hidden corridors and beautiful courtyards. The world feels extremely alive–and rich with lore we’ve already been speculating on. As I traveled the level, I found numerous headstones on the ground with inscriptions such as, “Grave of a Nameless Retainer. Raised his sword for the Lord of Cinder.”
Which brings me to another change for the series; The Undead Curse and Hollowing seems to now finally be a thing of the past. Possibly aludding to the conclusion of Dark Souls I, the concept of death and reawakening is now tied to being a Lord of Cinder. Instead of using a Humanity, or Human Effigy to regain your Humanity and full health potential, you consume an Ember to become a Lord of Cinder. This adds a really neat flame effect to your character model, with embers burning off of you. This is great news for those of us who never stayed as a Hollow; I personally like to see the character models I put so much time in effort into creating.
On the day I had arrived at Comic Con, only one person had managed to beat the boss of the High Wall, the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. Unfortunately, I was unable to join the ranks of this dedicated Wandering Knight. The boss fight is incredible, however. Miyazaki’s boss designs and fight structures are some of the most memorable and creative in gaming, and if the Dancer is any indication, I think Dark Souls III will more than live up to its predecessors in this regard. Between the music, and the configuration of the fight with the Dancer of the Frigid Valley, fans at Comic Con were left wanting more.
Dark Souls III will release in the US in April 2016. As this series and From’s creations have been my favorite gaming experiences since they’re implementation in 2009, I am eagerly awaiting its release, for what will be the series’ first dedicated Playstation 4 installment. (Dark Souls II, was originally released on the Playstation 3.) Miyazaki’s upcoming masterpiece will be available on PS4, X-Box One and PC simultaneously at launch. Be sure to check out the official site for more information!