Dark Souls III, the third installment (or fourth if you count Demons’ Souls) in From Software’s infamously difficult third person action-RPG series, drops early next month (or late this month for Japan), and critics are already singing its praises – calling it a “surprising” and “fantastic” addition to the series. But how has From Software stepped up their game and changed the formula for Dark Souls III?
The familiar tropes make a return, of course – intense combat, unforgiving traps, hideous monsters, and richly detailed, if at times obscure, environments. But, according to IGN Africa, the gameplay and the story have some welcome twists and turns, departures, from the previous entries in the Dark Souls series.
Dark Souls III, unlike Dark Souls I and II, starts where the other two games end: in a world covered in ash. Each previous Dark Souls game has an ash-covered region, with ash drifting from the sky like snow, toward the end of the game. But Dark Souls III begins with the player digging his or her way out of a shallow grave in a gloomy, ash-filled cemetery, aptly named “the Cemetery of Ash.”
Another return to form for Dark Souls III is the Firelink Shrine – first visited in Dark Souls I – which serves as the introductory zone, bridging the world at large to the nightmarish horror-scape inhabited by the cursed “Unkindled” (Dark Souls III‘s version of the previous games’ Hollowed). The Firelink Shrine once again serves as the hub for Dark Souls III, sharing more in common with Bloodborne and Demons’ Souls hub areas than with the less-central hub city of Majula found in Dark Souls II.
Dark Souls III also sees the triumphant return of everyone’s favorite – if curmudgeonly – blacksmith, Andre, who was first introduced in Dark Souls I. Other than an updated character model – with soft downy hair and impressive physics – he looks more or less the same, and appears to be the same character from the first game in the Dark Souls series.
Dark Souls III‘s Firelink Shrine is also home to another crestfallen warrior, a sad sack present in every Dark Souls game to date, the sad warrior sits with his knees drawn up and his weapon casually resting against one shoulder. He doesn’t give his name in Dark Souls III, so it’s unclear if he’s the same guy from the previous two games, but he certainly has the same demeanor. Another returning favorite is the friendly Onion Knight from Dark Souls, renamed Siegward, he can be found early on in the Undead Settlement area.
Among the changes to the core gameplay is an overhaul of the venerable upgrade system featured in the previous Dark Souls titles. Sure, you’ll still have to mine titanite and chase down sparkly lizards, but you’ll also need gems and coal in order to infuse weapons with better stats and effects.
Dark Souls III features a number of returning game mechanics, though players can expect to navigate a similar character creation screen — with a similar array of classes to choose from — including a few returning favorites like “Deprived” and “Pyromancer,” the latter being a very welcome addition for players frustrated by how long took to acquire the necessary items to build a Pyromancer in Dark Souls II.
During character creation, the player still chooses a “gift” — in this case, renamed “burial gifts,” as befits the player’s status as a member of the risen undead.
Polygon has uploaded a video following the first 30 minutes of the game, as well as a detailed exploration of the new Firelink Shrine featured in Dark Souls III. Additionally, Gamespot has a brief look at each of the available player classes as well as the returning favorites.
[Image by Bandai/Namco]