In a dimly lit room full of mist, Hidetaka Miyazaki, Director of both Dark Souls and Bloodborne, showed off the first gameplay for Dark Souls III. No recording or photos were allowed during the presentation.
The demo starts with a character in an early section of the game known as the Wall of Lodeleth, an environment filled with scaling castles, shredded flags, and ash blowing in the distance against the wind from the corpse of a dragon. Miyazaki was quick to explain that all of the area that could be seen was explorable, including the areas far out in the horizon. Part of From Software’s evolution of the series was to develop what Miyazaki described as an “apocalyptic world filled with dark withered beauty”, expanding the sense of hopelessness that has been a common theme in the Dark Souls series.
Unlike previous Soul titles, the graphics have been enhanced thanks to the new generation of consoles, allowing for a smoother frame rate without stuttering and dynamic lighting effects in pitch black areas. As the player explored a dungeon area, the torch illuminated the room, embers trailing off, as Miyazaki explained what could now be accomplished with their new engine. In classic Souls style, an undead enemy sprouted from the darkness and attacked the player with a back-stab, leading to a short confrontation against the player’s scimitar, the ghoul quickly disposed of.
Further into Lodeleth problems begin to arise as the player was confronted with skeletal dogs and patrolling knights that were described as some of the most difficult opponents in the game. Here the new sword arts in the game are revealed, as the character uses a greatsword with a lunge that throws the knight into the air, with the combat demonstrating a faster pace. An example was the dodging which was presented as much more fluid and quick than in Dark Souls II. The player continues their trek on an archway, passing ghouls that worship dead trees and the remains of a large dragon that once served as a guardian for the castle.
Miyazaki presented a scenario in the demo where the player is surrounded by undead warriors in droves, sending the player upstairs only to be surprised once again by a stone dragon that lands atop an alternate door, guarding the optional entrance with a spray of fire. Luckily the dragon’s attack decimated the foes below, taking the player further into the castle and closer to the boss.
One of the many shortcuts in the game was then taken by the player, leading to the first boss battle shown for Dark Souls III, against one of the Lords of Cinder – The Dancer of the Frigid Valley. Dreary classical music began to play, and a humanoid elongated monster perched on the ceiling drops down with a large flaming sword, roaring with a disjointed shriek as it begins to attack. For the demo the player decides to dual-wield as one of the many new sword arts, avoiding the sweeping animations of the dancer.
Midway through the intense gut-wrenching battle, the boss shifts into another phase, similar to the bosses in Bloodborne, gaining another flaming sword and changing attack patterns, twisting around like a whirlwind and finally defeating the player due to the time limit of the demo.
Dark Souls III seems to be heading in the right direction after some of the setbacks from the previous title, and the quicker combat and dodge system allows for more versatility when approaching bosses. With the new engine and power of the consoles, the dreary world has come even further to life, while the added arts that players can customize can bring a new experience to every battle.
I came away impressed by the presentation, and am excited to say fans will be pleased with the next chapter in the series. Dark Souls III comes out early 2016 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.