Dark Souls III Combines Beauty and Decay

Hidetaka Miyazaki, Game Director of Dark Souls III, gave a detailed demonstration of the game’s new elements at E3 2015. But series fans will perhaps be most pleased to learn that the core Dark Souls experience is unchanged: Challenge is high, sense of accomplishment is paramount, and a deep, subtly told storyline underlies the entire game.

Set in a decaying world “on the brink of doomsday,” everything in Dark Souls III takes place under a jaundiced sun, amongst dustings of ash and smoke. In the demo we saw, the player immediately encounters one of the series’ iconic bonfires (which serve as checkpoints), as well as a marvelous vista of what appeared to be a medieval city, complete with a massive castle in the background. Miyazaki stated that every building in view would be explorable – Dark Souls III is much larger and more detailed than any previous title in the series.

Just down the stairs from the bonfire, Miyazaki showed us some of Dark Souls III’s enhanced combat. Faster-paced than in previous games, and with more emphasis on sticking and moving (as well as counter-attacking and use of specific weapon move sets), Dark Souls III battles are more merciless and stressful than ever before. Mastering particular weapons is critical, as each one will have a specific set of moves, or “arts,” that players can use to counter blows, break enemy blocks, surprise-attack foes, and deploy a whole host of other tactical options. The longsword, for example, has a pair of charging attacks that can be used to stagger opponents or knock those with shields off balance to open them up for hits. While the scimitar, when dual-wielded, has a circular strike that hits everything in a wide radius.

Perhaps most interesting is the difference between the short and long bows, which was shown in the Dark Souls III E3 demo. No longer is this just a question of range and power. Instead, the short bow is much more a weapon for close combat, allowing players to fire off quick rounds with very little draw time, or even use arrows themselves as a backstabbing tool. In contrast, the long bow is more of a standoff, ranged weapon, used to take down enemies at a distance, and requiring more time and careful aim to be successful.

These sorts of tactical options will grow out of player weapon choices throughout the game, and Miyazaki has stated that Dark Souls III will present tactical challenges suited to a variety of possible approaches – it’s up to players to decide how they want to take them down. Miyazaki also confirmed that magic will be back in addition to weapons, and that players will be able to teleport among bonfires, just as in Dark Souls II. And while he did not get into the specifics of multiplayer, he did say that it would be back in a fashion similar to previous Dark Souls games, probably with the use of summoning signs and player invasions for PvP.

Although we did get a quick look at a boss – a lithe, armored giant wielding dual flaming swords – Miyazaki did not give us details, and did not want to spoil too much of the game’s storyline by offering background. Other enemies looked plenty formidable, however, including a vicious undead infected by a mass of dark, tentacular matter, and armored knights who combined speed, weapon mastery, and toughness to be truly dangerous.

In all, the game looks like it’s staying true to the Dark Souls recipe, only with the spice kicked up a notch. For fans of the series like us, that’s just the dish we’ve been waiting to taste. We’ll get to dig in when Dark Souls III hits Xbox One early next year.