Dark Souls III is set to release early next year and, following an hour of eyes-on time with Director Hidetaka Miyazaki during E3 2015, it’s looking just as big and brutal as anything else the team at FromSoftware has thus far thrown at its masochistic fans.
After FromSoftware’s latest game, Bloodborne, launched exclusively for the PlayStation 4 earlier this year, quite a few folks were surprised to see the Dark Souls III reveal trailer pop up during the Xbox press conference during E3 last week. Count me doubly surprised when I visited the Bandai Namco room just a couple of days later. My appointment was to see Godzilla and a bunch of anime-infused action titles like Sword Art Online, Saint Seiya Soldiers’ Soul and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3. Also on my agenda was one “unannounced title,” which ended up devouring my entire appointment.
When I was herded into a line to check out Dark Souls III, I assumed I would be re-watching the trailer from the Xbox presser, not spending an hour watching the game be played as Director Hidetaka Miyazaki and translator Atsuo Yoshimura dished loads of fresh details.
Let’s just go ahead and get the base level stuff out of the way. Dark Souls III is really easy on the eyes, sporting that same gothic European look the series has become known for, complete with more details and variety than in previous entries. Miyazaki explained that this is due to the fact that Dark Souls III is the first in the series to be developed exclusively for current gen consoles and PC, meaning they could push the visuals further than ever before. This includes dynamic light sources, as well as wind-blown ash and cloth. The protagonist’s scarf, for instance, boasts a corner that looks like it was freshly pulled from a fire. It’s a small detail, but with a bunch of similar details stacked up, it makes for an awful pretty game.
While in development, Miyazaki said he made three factors a top priority for the upcoming game, which any fan of the Souls series will know has been the case from the very beginning . He said he wanted a sense of world scale and immersion, an apocalyptic world with heroic lore, and an evolution and deepening of series concepts.
While Dark Souls III is about a world that is facing its doomsday, Myazaki said that he wanted it to be obvious that this was once—and still is, really—a beautiful place.
“It’s not just dark,” Miyazaki said. “We wanted the game to feature a withered beauty.”
One example of this “withered beauty,” Miyazaki pointed out, was the faded sun hanging low in the charred sky.
In case series fans were worried that Dark Souls III might loosen its grip on the player’s throat, Miyazaki also said that a formidable difficulty will remain the focus, giving the player a sense of accomplishment as they move from one tough encounter to the next.
This was shown off in the presentation, as the lord-killing protagonist moved about a massive castle, dispatching hordes of foes and constantly falling victim to sneak attacks. Going back to those small details we were discussing earlier, it was neat to see the torch’s flame flicker this way and that as the player moved closer to a draft source, and even the most basic enemy soldiers seemed to be wearing a wider array of decrepit armor.
Looking over a huge portion of the castle, Miyazaki said that, to some degree, players will be able to explore in and around everything seen on the screen. To demonstrate this, the player lit a bonfire and went on a little adventure. After moving past a couple of dead dragon bodies, brutalizing a few smaller enemies and even a massive knight, he finally fell in battle on a bridge and was returned to the bonfire. The player then walked over to a nearby terrace where we could see that, way off in the distance, his dropped souls were waiting to be picked up.
Speaking of knights, Miyazaki said that they will be far more varied and formidable in Dark Souls III. A fight with one of these bruisers should never be taken lightly, which is why the player will be given several new combat abilities to assist them on their quest.
The long sword, for instance, now has a stance ability that opens up two new attacks. One of these attacks handily breaks an enemy’s shield guard. The bastard sword now has a brutalizing launch attack, and if you carry a pair of scimitars, you can now do a spin attack that’s perfect for handling small groups of enemies. Even the ranged weapons have been given more strategic abilities, like a short bow that can now be fired instantly out of a roll.
As our guides made their way through the castle, a live dragon eventually joined the fray, roasting anything that got near it. Miyazaki pointed out that, until you feel strong enough to take on this particular foe, its hazards can be used to your advantage, too. Lure in a group of enemies and dodge out of the way in time, for instance, and you’ve got yourself a baddie barbecue.
As is often the case in FromSoftware games, Miyazaki said that, in Dark Souls III, “something terrible is going on.” This was hinted at by one enemy that morphed into an oily, terrifying monster. It was just a regular grunt one moment and then, boom, it was suddenly an aggressive nightmare creature with unexpected attack patterns and tricky movements. What, exactly, caused this to happen? Miyazaki said we’ll have to wait until the final game launches in early 2016 to find out.
Our whirlwind tour of the castle ended with a boss fight against the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. Just like in previous Souls games, bosses are screen-filling behemoths that look to have the player totally outmatched. I’m not sure where they keep coming up with ideas for these monstrosities, but the Dancer looked nothing like anything I’ve seen from the series thus far. Boasting an elongated, feminine build in skin-tight armor, the Dancer hunkered low to the ground and moved like smoke through the room, swaying in ways that made it tricky to know which direction her attacks would come from.
Rather than topple the beast, Miyazaki instructed the person running the demo to fall victim to the Dancer’s blades, as he’d rather the victory be saved for playing rather than watching. After about two years in development so far, we can all expect to do exactly that sometime early in 2016.