Spring is traditionally a slow time of year for big game releases, but that doesn't mean we aren't getting any big games this month. First, Xbox and Windows 10-exclusive Quantum Break unleashed time-bending shenanigans on the masses. Now Dark Souls III from Bandai Namco has arrived on Xbox One, Steam, and PlayStation 4. Read on for first impressions and gameplay video of this amazing action role-playing game!
Turning back the rot and ruin
Dark Souls III marks the return of Dark Souls and Bloodborne director Hidetaka Miyazaki, who produced but did not directly oversee Dark Souls II. This third game is also the culmination of the series, with the dark fantasy kingdom of Lothric finally on the brink of apocalypse. Only an undead warrior known as the Ashen One can stand against the final ruin of Lothric.
After creating a character and customizing his or her class and starting equipment, players awaken in the Cemetery of Ash. This starting location showcases the game's gorgeous water effects, with pools of standing water splashing realistically as the Ashen One moves through. Simple undead enemies walk the Cemetery, allowing players to come to grips with the basics of Dark Souls III's deep combat system.
Although the Dark Souls games are classified as action-RPGs, the brutal combat always stands apart from other games in the genre. Armed with two basic types of attack and three defensive moves (roll, block, and parry), players must strategically evade enemy attacks and strike back at just the right moment.
A couple of mistakes and you'll drop dead, leaving the Souls you collected on the ground. Fail to retrieve them on your next life and they'll be gone for good. Since Souls are used both to level up and purchase equipment and services, you'll want to weigh the risks whenever entering dangerous areas. On the plus side, players no longer become a "Hollow" (spirit) after dying, making it easier to recover after suffering a setback.
Huge bosses loom ahead
As the Ashen Hero emerges from the Cemetery, he discovers a statue of a knight with a sword thrust through it. Pull the sword out and you'll face Dark Souls III first boss, Iudex Gundyr. The towering knight swings a deadly polearm. By carefully blocking or rolling from his attacks, players should be able to pound away at his life. But once Iudex Gundyr takes too much damage, he spouts a massive, disgusting growth that greatly increases his range and threat level. It took me something like ten tries to survive the battle, but that's the Dark Souls way.
Shortly after defeating Iudex Gundur, players will reach the Firelink Shrine, a small haven from the darkness that consumes Lothric. Here you can build a camp fire that will allow you to travel to other campfires, as well as the next area – The High Wall of Lothric. You'll also meet friendly NPCs who will level you up or improve your equipment for souls.
The High Wall of Lothric is home to a number of creepy emaciated cultists who pray to disgusting shrines. Few of the wretched creatures even stand up to the Ashen One when facing death. But fearsome enemies occupy the Wall as well, such as rotting dog-like creatures and skull-faced pikemen. Somewhere along the High Wall, there lives a gigantic dragon as well…
A perilous and trying adventure awaits
I've only played Dark Souls III for a couple of hours, which is long enough for me to become totally engrossed with it. The game's desolate world is filled with a ruined beauty and sense of physical and spiritual decay that you won't find in many other games.
The frame rate is not as smooth as most of us would like, but that has been true of every Souls game as well as Bloodborne. The loading times are a bit long when traveling to new areas, but still faster than previous entries. And the challenge so far has been stiff but manageable for a relative newcomer like me.
Dark Souls III is now available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Steam. We'll spend a lot more time with the Xbox One version as we prepare for a full review. I'll also look at the Dark Souls III Collector's Edition Strategy Guide from Prima Games, publisher of last year's very solid Halo 5 Collector's Edition Guide.
Will Dark Souls III break my gaming soul, dear readers? We'll soon find out!
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