Dark Souls 3 E3 Preview: Soulborne
Kalvin Martinez / Jun 23rd, 2015 No Comments
The world got its first glimpse at Dark Souls 3 during the Xbox media briefing at E3 2015. The CGI announcement trailer introduced a basic idea of where Dark Souls 3 is going, with the theme of embers and ash, the undead shamblers, an apocalyptic world and the monstrous Lord of Cinder.
During the show, Bandai Namco showed off a hands-off demo of the game, guided by none other than the director himself, Hidetaka Miyazaki. The trailer hinted at some changes, and Miyazaki confirmed some departures, refinements and evolutions for elements of the series. As the first Dark Souls game developed for current-gen consoles, it gives Miyazaki and FromSoftware the opportunity to create a larger sense of scale and immersion. The apocalyptic imagery seen in the announcement is core to Dark Souls 3. The game will incorporate the apocalyptic world heavily with an emphasis on heroic lore.
More than anything, Dark Souls 3 has an intense focus on the evolution of the series’ concepts and deepening those elements. This resulted in some serious changes to how the game plays. The demo highlighted these key points. It had all the familiar trappings of a Dark Souls game, while seeming fresh and exciting.
Gaze Upon the Dying Sunset
Not only will Dark Souls 3 have several major gameplay tweaks, but the scope and look of the game has undergone some major overhauls. It became difficult not to marvel at how pretty the game looks. As the camera rotated around gorgeous character models, it gave a sense of the size of the castles and characaters. The draw distance gave the castle a sense of magnitude and hugeness.
As the camera panned through the castle, you could see structures far into the distance, specifically a large building far away from the castle walls the character was standing upon. Miyazaki assured that with the new focus on world scale, you can explore anything you see.
Brand new to the game will be a complicated 3D map that will change how players engage with the game. Outside of sheer size, Dark Souls 3 will feature dynamic light sources, windblown ash and cloth effects. The latter will help as a means to draw people into the apocalyptic world.
The Ground is Ash and Embers
Dark Souls 3 trades in the medieval aesthetic of previous games for an apocalyptic setting. The dark fantasy traditional to the series will remain intact, but the latest addition to the franchise incorporates a unique visual style. It won’t be simply dark; there is a sense of withered beauty with the faded sun hanging over the ashen world.
The story will center on the Lord of Cinder, as the iconic hero tries to kill the dark lords. Like previous games, there will be hidden lore in the form of graves. As players explore the world of Dark Souls 3, they can discover more about it with a diligent eye.
An important story element will be offering players to death. The offering was prominent during the E3 demo, with numerous undead offering themselves up to the faded sun. This can lead to unexpected events — an undead morphed into a monstrous creature bursting with oozing black liquid.
What FromSoftware showed of Dark Souls 3 at E3 took place in Lodeleth, a giant ruined castle. The hero begins on the Walls of Lodeleth and moves through the castle, encountering new undead enemies. Many of the lowly undead are offering up themselves to the sun, but they stop their supplication to attack the hero. This is where we witness changes to the straight sword. With the new ready stance, the straight sword can break an enemy’s defense, which leaves them open for more attacks.
After dealing with more undead, the character wanders through the castle and happens upon a dragon carcass — the apocalypse wiped out the species. Eventually, the hero comes upon a corridor as shield-bearing undead approach. The hero has the option to take an alternative route upstairs, which seems the more inviting option. However, as he approaches the top, he is in for a terrifying shock.
From high above on a castle wall, a stone dragon arises. Ashes shimmer off its body as it spies the player below. The ancient dragon spews an unholy amount of fire at the ground to block the hero’s path. But as luck would have it, the flames destroy the undead. Using other enemies’ attacks to your advantage will be key.
In the next area that the hero picks up a greatsword, which also has undergone a refinement. With the greatsword, players can launch enemies into the air. However, using the attack leaves the player vulnerable. After picking up the greatsword, the hero encounters a knight.
Knights are formidable enemies. They are fast, carry a shield and are strong. When facing off against the knight, demoer died but came back to take revenge against it using the greatsword’s new ability. The sense of accomplishment was intensified by seeing the knight gloriously launched into the air before being killed.
Learning enemy and room geography is important as is learning how enemy moves affect the world. The hero entered a dark room filled undead, but a large stockpile of gunpowder serves as an easy method of destruction. Thanks to a rotating the camera, the hero was able to drop a fire bomb on the barrels to wipe out the undead.
The building once seen far off in the demo is now where the character stands. Not only can you reach far away structures, you can also enter them. On the roof the hero encounters undead offering up prayers, and one of the undead erupts into a monstrous mass of black goo. This was the only planned death in the demo.
Upon reviving, the hero took a special demo shortcut, which led back to the building. On the way, two other weapons were shown off: the short bow and scimitar. The short bow now acts different. It involves more than simply holding down charge. Now, you can dodge and shoot, and shoot and move. The longbow and short bow will allow for different play styles and the changes mean players will be able to strategize.
The hero can dual wield scimitars, and by doing so, he can unlock a spin move with a long attack radius. It becomes a powerful way to control the crowd by taking out lesser enemies, but it isn’t a good way to deal damage to powerful enemies. Beautifully animated, the spin move with dual scimitars looks like artful dance.
Before heading inside the building to the boss, the hero encountered two knights: one carrying a sword and the other wielding a spear. The key is isolating one and taking them out one by one. The spear knight is slower than the sword knight, which means you should isolate the sword knight first. The hero in Dark Souls 3 has more intuitive movements than previous games, and the more fluid, faster movement for the hero makes isolating enemies easier.
The boss enemy was the Dancer of Frigid Valley, who has the unique Dark Souls boss look. She looked like a harem dancer with a long, lithe body like a panther covered in metal plating. Her face was covered in a metal veil with a bunch of shimmering, gossamer flowing off her head.
She wielded a flaming scimitar and moved with intense speed. She doled out ferocious attacks with grace, like her namesake would suggest. As the hero whittled down her health, she transformed mid-battle. Her second form brought out another scimitar, this time more of a phantom blade with filament flowing off it. Dual wielding weapons allowed her to do more area attacks similar to the hero. This second phase will now be common to bosses in Dark Souls 3.
An Evolution of Death and Sadomasochism
What is clear is the combat has received some significant changes as developers evolve the basic concepts and deepen the mechanics. This won’t change the formidable difficulty the series is known for, but it gives FromSoftware a chance to change how that difficulty manifests. It won’t negate the huge sense of accomplishment players feel when completing a Dark Souls game.
There will be a unique online system added to Dark Souls 3, but not much more was said outside of its existence. The demo highlighted the significant refinements and tweaks to the sword-action elements. These upgrades allow for new forms of action that take advantage of the unique abilities of each weapon. As a result, the game will have an expansion of role-playing elements with a wider spectrum of variable character builds.
Even though the demo build was more lenient than the final product will be, the player died three times. Miyazaki joked about how live demos lend themselves to these little accidents. Any fear that the game will ditch its frustratingly difficult roots should be put to rest.
Dark Souls 3’s aim to refine key aspects of the series makes it an exciting game to look out for in early 2016. The demo looked incredible and ran well for such an early build. The new weapon features and the steep difficulty left a huge impression on me at E3. That is why Dark Souls 3 is a recipient of Gaming Illustrated’s Best of E3 2015 award.
tags: bandai namco , dark souls , Dark Souls 3 , E3 2015 , FromSoftware , Hidetaka Miyazaki , preview