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Preview: Dark Souls 3

Preview: Dark Souls 3


Since two of our writers, Anthony and David, got to play Dark Souls 3 at a recent preview event, the two of them will be giving their impressions on different aspects of the game. Anthony spent more time exploring in the environment, while David spent more time with the boss. As such their respective write-ups are concerning those specific experiences!

The Environment – Anthony


Coming only a year after Bloodborne, there’s been some questions over what the overall quality of Dark Souls 3 will be. Not that From Software have ever truly let people down, a 12 month turnover between the kind of deep, enthralling adventures that From have become known for is just a small window with which to develop something meaningful. Even with the return of Hidetaka Miyazaki to the directorship of the series after the slightly wayward, ‘B-team’ developed Dark Souls 2, one wonders what can be expected from Dark Souls 3. As soon as I spawned to the first bonfire of the demo, all worries were dispelled.

Playing the same build shown off at Tokyo Game Show this year, Dark Souls 3 doesn’t struggle for ways to impress. The architecture, expansive draw distance and multiple ways to venture forward wash over you within seconds as it becomes clear that Miyazaki is back with a vengeance. Moving forward with caution, the first pathway I journeyed down was filled with white-skinned hollow-like enemies who were all too busy worshipping these odd ashen like installations that are dotted through-out the game. The influence of Bloodborne‘s neo-goth, crooked haze is obvious, with slightly disjointed looking light-poles posted along every open walk way. The enemies, too, have been given a slightly Bloodborne-esque tint with the first major encounter being with a shrouded creature who signals for help from some cronies if you don’t dispose of him quickly enough.

Before I got my hands on it, two others had played so I had some foresight into at least the opening few minutes. One experienced and one not, the biggest revelation in watching these first players was that the inexperienced one actual performed better at first go around. This is due in part to the slightly increased speed of the game. The Souls series is many things but fast isn’t one of them. Getting impatient gets you killed. However, perhaps the most glaring inheritance from Bloodborne is an upped ante that feeds right down into the core mechanics of the gameplay.


There were three weapons selectable, one of which was a double scimitar. Putting the shield away allows for the two swords to be wielded as per Dark Souls 2 but the heightened speed allows for a more frenzied approach to more moderate encounters. The player no longer needs to measure every blow as they can come out swinging and the odds of success are greatly increased if battling less daunting foes. Of course this means that the enemies are now faster too and they have a greater sense of counter-intuition. When in a standard Dark Souls stand-off, the enemies increased agility and move-set mean that even at full health, one false step can be your utter end. A scholar of the first Dark Souls, dual-wielding left me feeling naked as I played without my trusty L1-triggered shield to protect me. Trying to conduct a strategic approach without the benefit of stopping the enemy’s attacks head-on left me seeing ‘You Died’, the added speed a touch above my weight-class for the time being.

Weapons now have an extra ability when two-handed. Previous From Software games have all had very satisfying, weighted interface between the player and the avatar. The movement and weapon usage all feel as precise as ever, full committal still a requirement when making a command or stringing moves together. Called ‘Weapon Arts’, which is a working title we were told, these new abilities vary from being able to unleash a combo of hits on the enemy to a power strike that knocks them into the area to, most curiosly, increasing your endurance or health, depending on the weapon being used. Though we only saw the power strikes and an endurance increase from a mace in action, the idea that you and your weapons now have an almost symbiotic relationship is fascinating and will no doubt be mechanically crucial to parts of the game. Similar to a beat ’em up, the power strike takes time to hit so placement is key to success, but if it lands whatever your target is is in serious danger. It’s another in a long list of ways in which Miyazaki enjoys playing with player confidence. Want to land this devastating blow? Better be on the ball with your timing or else you’re done for.


One of the Bandai Namco reps described the atmosphere for Dark Souls 3 as “apocalyptic” and, initially, the game feels and looks similar to the previous instalment so a difference in overall feel isn’t altogether apparent. But the proof is in the minor details. From Software are lauded heavily for their lore-based story-telling, refusing to make a narrative a mandatory part of the gameplay experience. It’s always there to explore, if you feel up to the challenge. In Dark Souls 3, you’re surrounded by this world that seems to be meeting its end. The sky is a yellow ember, ash has filled the air and dragons lay around the land, scattered in ruin.

The hollows that I first encountered who were worshiping something were, in fact, in mournful prayer for the dragons that are slain, their skeletons populating the world. Sure enough, there is a living dragon in the demo, a thoughtful way of blockading the player within the confines of the demo area, but there’s an impression that it is among the last of its kind. White and grey specks float through anywhere that allows light in, hinting at a place coming towards its end. Returning foes from the first Dark Souls now have new armor and abilities; a heavily-armored butcher was almost the end of me as he spiraled towards me before using a spell to rain white fire down in a small ring surrounding him. The humanoid demons I sliced my way through have upgraded in the time elapsed.


Two towers can be seen in the distance of the main bonfire, conjoined by bridges. It’s obvious one will eventually make their way through those darkened halls, probably to ring some form of bell and defeat some form of gargoyle standing at the top. They stand as a new challenge for us, but as an old memory for this scarred plane. In a new manifestation of the lore, there are now epitaphs the player can read, allowing one into the many deaths that paved the way for the world as it is now, in mourning, waiting for the last dragons to get their fill. I can’t wait to get my fill either when the full game comes out.

The Boss – David


So the boss of the Dark Souls 3 demo we got to play is one you might heard about if you’ve been following the news surrounding the game – Dancer of the Frigid Valley. The open of the fight is a lovely Dark Souls moment. You push open the heavy double doors to see a large room, lined with pillars that have wooden pews lined up behind them. You’d call it as a boss room right away only sights like this are very common in Souls games.

The room is more or less empty bar an item sitting at the other end, so I crept up the room slowly, just waiting for whatever must be hiding somewhere to pounce. That moment came when I picked up the item and a cut-scene started showing the doors closing behind me, and dripping coming from the ceiling.

Here comes the boss, falling from the roof and brandishing a large flaming blade. The boss’ appearance is a bit unnerving, resembling a very tall thin human but bent over at an angle that looks like it shouldn’t be possible. I’ll get on to the actual fight in a minute but just before I do I need to talk about how this fight looked visually. Dark Souls 3 in general is looking incredible, the lighting especially is wonderful. So, here I am facing down this oddly bent creature and I’m amazed how good things look. The boss has a ghostly veil/scarf that flows around it, while flames crackle on the blade. The ground smoulders and has small flames burning where the sword has hit it, with some lovely fire effects.

Right, now that that’s done, onto the fight. I had a number of attempts at the boss, I’d say five or six. The best I managed to do was to get it down to around 1/4 of its bar left. The boss is hard, Souls hard. Large sweeping attacks ensure that staying at mid range is not an option unless you have an insane amount of stamina. The build we played did have a few miracles in it including series staple the lightning spear. I could have tried keeping distance between the two of us and used those, as thanks to reverting to a more Demon’s Souls style MP bar the lightning spear wasn’t stuck with only X uses.

However this is a Dark Souls 3 demo with which I have limited time, this is not a time for taking the cautious route to defeat the boss. So I got stuck in close range combat, with a trusty shield and mace. The first stage of the fight isn’t too bad as long as you keep your stamina up, don’t get too greedy with your attacks and try not to turtle every blow. Especially as the shield only blocked physical damage not the fire damage, blocking constantly wasn’t a great option.


The main threat in the first stage is a grab, a grab that is quite easy to avoid if you see the wind up, but one I got caught by a few times none the less. The grab took almost all of my health away, so it always triggered a retreat to heal, but I didn’t even mind. The animation for the boss’ grab was so good I just didn’t mind I had got wrecked by it. I was tossed up into the air and then slammed back into the ground impaled on the flaming blade, it looked incredible. Every attempt I had the boss, I lowered it to around half its health. That’s where my first attempt ended as this triggers the boss’ second stage. She pulls another sword out of the ground, it’s not flaming but it does seem to have some sort of effect on it though I couldn’t find out what it was. Once the boss was dual wielding, it unleashed a flurry of spinning attacks that put an end to my stamina and, shortly after, my health.

The next times though, I was ready for it. So spin attacks avoid the fight continued, but the boss was a lot more aggressive now, the chance for letting stamina recover or take a cheeky swig of Estus became few and far between. The fight usually ended pretty quickly after that point, this isn’t a boss that will go down easy without a decent few levels in Endurance.

Overall, I loved it. I spent nearly an hour battling this boss, getting some good hits in and taking some in return and it was fantastic. The rolling has been sped up substantially from Dark Souls 2, and the ground you can cover with it seems to have been increased as well. It’s now a viable tactic not just for trying to get away from an attack but also for putting some distance between you and the enemy quickly.

Dark Souls 3 seems like it is definitely shaping up to be a fantastic game, and possibly a return to form for the series after the middle entry Dark Souls 2 let many fans disappointed, for some it was the lack of connection between areas in the world while for others they felt the combat could have been better. I can say that from my brief time with Dark Souls 3, there’s nothing about it I would change.

Dark Souls 3‘s current release date is March 26, 2016.