I just got done watching the E3 demo of Dark Souls III. Miyazaki narrated but his assistant played through the starting area of the game. Our journey began in a place called “Wall of Lodeleth“, which was a castle-like area that looked similar to the Boletarian Palace from Demon’s Souls. Initial impressions are striking: the art style of the game looks very much like Bloodborne and we are rather sure the game runs on the exact same engine and there are shared assets.
When asked about FPS, Miyazaki confirmed that the game will run on 30FPS
We progressed through the level fighting undead warriors, knights, a Stone Dragon and the first boss named “Dancer of the Frigid Valley“. The setting is familiar and the enemies have that slight deja-vu effect from a distant memory: The undead warriors were very similar to those in Undead Burg in Dark Souls, and the knights were wearing shiny silver armor that and fought somewhat like the Black Knights from Dark Souls. But it wasn’t until we got to a bridge that the true feeling of Dark Souls settled in: Out of nowehere, a Stone Dragon landed atop a wall in front of us and burnt the many undead to ashes, also blocking the player’s way and forcing him into an unexpected detour he was not ready for.
Miyazaki: “I like to place dragons early on the game”
We doubled-back down and into a tower where the torch was lit as visibility was very low, slowly progressing through the castle. A new enemy type with a familiar trick: his torso distorted into a black cobra in an ultimate merge between Sen’s Fortress enemies and Bloodborne’s Vipers. Finally we arrived to a heavy door guarded by two Knights, one spear and the other sword. After defeating them and pushing the door open in a very similar way to Bloodborne’s chalice dungeons, we entered the boss arena for the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. A cutscene showed her dropping into the area where the player was as the doors ominously closed behind her.
The excellent music score and its intensity set the mood for the fight. The boss stood hunched over, almost like an invisible manikin wearing armor. It wielded a flame scimitar and its moveset will remind Game of Thrones fans of a “Water Dancer”. A silhouette trailed behind her marking her swings – I can honestly say she wasn’t like any other Souls boss I have seen. The environment effects were impressive: everything struck by the flame scimitar was set on fire, even the pillars in the area, including the player. The player carried on with a sword and shield combo (yes, shields are back!), and at around 50 percent health the Dancer added an “Ash Scimitar” to her offhand: pulled from right out of the ground and started to spin with them in a flowing whirlwind, absolutely annihilating MIyazaki’s assistant. That concluded the demo.
The following are some of the notable highlights that I think the Souls community would be particularly interested in:
Story & World Design
The story in Dark Souls 3 revolves around the “Lord of Cinder“, his resurrection and the Dark Hero trying to defeat him. (A later interview with Miyazaki clarified Lord of Cinder is a general title and there are Lords of Cinder)
When asked about the Lord of Cinder being directly connected to Dark Souls I or II (we’re all thinking Gwyn right?) we were given a very vague answer which essentially meant “It will be open for the player to decide“. We were also given the impression that the story of Dark Souls III would not be directly linked to the previous titles, but again be open to interpretation.
A new feature, epitaphs, are the lore notes of Dark Souls III. These tiny gravestones of fallen knights can be found through out the game and once lit will allow the players to read the epitaphs inscribed on them. Epitaphs tell you about the lore of the game:
This knight fought for the Lord of Cinder
World interconnectivity is completely back. Everything is once again completely connected, as was the case in Dark Souls I. Everything you can see you will be able to explore and go to.
Miyazaki stated that he personally has taken over the world design for the game, and there will be no world hub.
Combat & Mechanics
The combat is very similar to that of previous Souls titles, but there are some new improvements, Weapon Arts. First off is “Stances“. It seems that several weapons in the game have Stances that allow for powerful attacks when used. In the demo we saw the Straight Sword have what is called the “Ready Stance“. In this Stance the player holds the Straight Sword in a two-handed fashion (putting away his/her shield) and holds the sword up like a Samurai holding a katana. The hilt is held back by the head of the player with the tip of the blade pointing directly forward. The player was able to Guard Break two shield-wielding enemies with the attack from this Stance. This was the only Stance shown in the demo.
The Greatsword had a new move called a “Lunge” where you hold the blade in two hands and quickly lung forward about half a foot with your shoulder and then can attack quickly with a slicing uppercut that can knock enemies into the air. The Lunge allowed the player to gain iframes through the incoming attack and then punish the attacker with a devastating blow. It was difficult to tell if he actually iframed or not as no health bars were shown on the screen and the player was not staggered during the enemy’s swing.
Certain weapons can be dual wielded. The ones we saw in the demo were called “Legion Scimitars“. The player could wield one and a shield or swap to one in each hand. These swords appear to only be 1 item and therefore should only take up 1 slot in your inventory, even though you can use two. It wasn’t 100% clear, but it sounded like duel wielding is not unique to weapons you find this way, and that these were only one example. The player was able to use a skill called “Spin” while duel wielding that sort of looked like a mini blade tornado and effectively killed 4 enemies at once with it. But it appears to have a delay from the time you start it until the time it fires off, thus making anticipating when to use it key to its effectiveness since the player was staggered when hit on his first attempt to use it.
Bows completely got a revamp. You can now effectively use the Short Bow in close range combat. If fires quickly and is nearly instantaneous.
Miyazaki: “Using the short bow is a bit like being like Legolas in Lord of the Rings. Ok, I’m probably exaggerating a little.”
The Long Bow on the other hand, will have a longer draw, will hit harder and be more effective from range. There were no skills or Stances shown with this weapon so I do not know what they are.
One important thing to note here is that enemies can use Weapons and Stances just like the player. This makes the combat more intense and more difficult as they tend to do it unpredictably. And, Parries and Backstabs looked (graphically) nearly identical to Dark Souls II and are also in the game once again. The timings of them may be speculated to be more alike Dark Souls, but we’ll know more during the hands-on demo in Germany
One of the recurrent complains about recent Souls titles have been the lackluster upgrades. When asked about the upgrade system:
Miyazaki: The upgrade system will be an improved version of Dark Souls II
What that means exactly is anyone’s guess.
We also got to see some Gestures return to the game along with the fan favorite “Praise the Sun“, similar to Dark Souls II. I know you will all love that 🙂
Online and Multiplayer
Co-op and PvP are of course back. Players will summon one another the same way they have in previous Souls titles, through the use of Signs.
Miyazaki said that the matchmaking for co op and PvP will be based on Soul Level. I specifically asked Miyazaki during the demo if Soul Memory would be in the game and it was reiterated that Soul Level will be the only criteria for matching players. There will also be no Dueling Arena and when asked whether there will be unique multiplayer PvP mechanics, Miyazaki said there will be “unique” ones for sure.
No info was given about the Hollowing mechanic seen in the previous two titles, except that it would be slightly different this time around. No details about how.
The game looks to be a lot like a hybrid between Dark Souls and Bloodborne, if only artistically. The combat is not Bloodborne, there are no dashes or fastness, this is Dark Souls II movement speed and timings. The improvements to the combat system should make Souls combat more interesting than ever before and help it keep up with the frenetic pace of Bloodborne that we’ve all come to love. The matching of players by Soul Level once again will give many piece of mind and I know we all love the connected world from the first game (as well as Bloodborne). I have no data on Hollowing except that it will be in the game and “improved”. No magic, miracles, hexes or devices were shown.
I hope I covered everything. We have more follow up and another demo, so if you guys have questions post them in the comments and we will answer them as soon as I can.