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Bandai Namco and From Software have been showing demos of Dark Souls III behind close doors. It doesn't sound like there was an embargo on these impressions either, because articles have started pouring out fast.
Eurogamer reports that the title won't be the last in the series, though it'll apparently mark a "turning point". Interestingly, Miyazaki is apparently offloading some of his duties to a co-director, Isamu Okano, who previously worked on Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor:
"First of all, this is not the final product for the Dark Souls series," Miyazaki said in a roundtable interview at E3 attended by Eurogamer's Aoife Wilson. "However, I believe it's the turning point for the Dark Souls series. First of all, Dark Souls has a really unique worldview. It's not a good idea, continuously releasing titles for this series because of that factor. And this will probably be the turning point of From Software as a whole - it's the last project we started working on before I became president. It's basically From Software, they started working on this project when it was an older generation. So it's a turning point. It'll be a turning point, but it's not final."
Miyazaki took over From Software last year, and already in 2015 he's overseen the release of Bloodborne. In order to lighten his workload, for Dark Souls 3 he's co-directing with Isamu Okano, who was director on Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor, the Kinect outing for the mech series. Okano is overseeing the day to day duties, while Miyazaki is responsible for the world building.
Videogamer elaborates on the team structure. Apparently, save for a few artists and Miyazaki himself, most of the developers on the title didn't work on Bloodborne. Yui Tanimura, co-director of Dark Souls 2 and director on the Scholar of the First Sin re-release and the DLCs for the game, is also working on the new title in some capacity:
"However, none of the Bloodborne team members joined the Dark Souls 3 development team. Miyazaki-san is actually the only guy who handled both."
Yoshimura immediately clarified that "some visual designers have also worked on both titles. That's the exception."
GameSpot has a preview:
This being a dark and confined space, it was only right that a mauled ghoul leap from the shadows and sink its blades into the player, an attack that carried a lot of aural power. Luckily, the player was ready to show off one of Dark Souls III's newest attack skills: the longsword's (ready) stance. The stance allows you to use two different attacks, one of which breaks an enemy's shield defenses, a handy skill when so many of the game's enemies take defensive postures.
As the player exchanged sword swipes with his current foe, a line of creeps slowly encroached on his position from the other end of the corridor. To escape peril, he ran up a nearby set of stairs, and came face to face with a looming dragon, apparently the last of his kind to grace this world. The dragon might have been a rare sight, but his flames covered a huge amount of area, offing the baddies threatening the player...and sadly, bringing about the first of two deaths the player suffered. Even the game's developers, it seems, are not immune to Dark Souls' brand of torturous death.
Once the player returned to the area, the dragon fried the nearby foes but left out hero alive, at least for the time being. The dragon wasn't going anywhere--he clearly wasn't ready to be slaughtered--so the player moved along and encountered a glowing orb that represented a greatsword, which allowed him to show off another combat move: the lunge. Just in time, too, for a tall knight was swinging in his direction, and the slow-moving lunge was just the right punishment, sending the knight flying into the air. The armored victim landed with a thud, and the two continued their dance until the knight had fallen. The player had clearly taken some damage--though how much, I wasn't sure, as From had turned the interface off. However, the player did quaff an estus flask, so expect that Dark Souls standby to return in this third game.
God is a Geek follows suit:
But this wouldn't be a Dark Souls game without some formidable enemies. The first one, which (we) didn't end up fighting, was the last remaining dragon, which landed on part of the castle and burnt everything in its path (including the enemies we were trying to avoid) but the actual boss fight we did see was The Dancer of the Frigid Valley. This boss was a huge, yet very thin creature with armor and a very menacing, featuring a flaming sword that would burn any part of the environment it hit. Interestingly, Miyazaki explained that this was a female boss that was designed to look like it was almost dancing, allowing for a gliding movement that becomes very hard to read.
Suddenly, the dev playing was dead again before we even got a chance to see the second set of moves the boss had, as they change based on the amount of remaining HP and the demo was over. A quick Q&A session revealed that this has been in development for over two years; with Miyazaki being involved almost from the get go despite his work on Bloodborne.
Fextralife offers another report:
The combat is very similar to that of previous Souls titles, but there are some new improvements. 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.
The game's protagonist also looks a lot faster on his feet, almost as if Dark Souls III had drawn inspiration from the incredibly fast-paced nature of this year's Bloodborne. Rolls feel faster, attacks feel swifter, and Miyazaki promises a viable range of character builds to accommodate different play styles. I haven't seen enough of the game yet, but this gives me hope that the game will allow you to freely choose between being a slower, armored soldier with a shield and a more nimble character like the hunter in Bloodborne.
Collectibles have also been introduced in the game. There will be multiple graves hidden throughout the game, and lighting them up will allow you to unlock bits and pieces of the game's lore and backstory perfect for anyone looking to delve into its incredibly rich and detailed story. Miyazaki has also mentioned that this game shares the same world as the first two games, so it's probably a safe bet to say that the game's lore will be deep as hell.
The demo ends off with a fight against the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. The boss takes on the form of a very large, skeletal ghost that wields a flaming sword in one hand. Boss fights will consist of multiple phases where the bosses change up their attack patterns, depending on how much health they've got left. With the Dancer, she whips out an ethereal-looking sword and starts coming at you with two swords. Boss fights have always been the highlight of the Souls games, and the fight with the Dancer was as epic as you'd expect.
Much of what I saw at the preview event was the same old Dark Souls that fans of the first know and love. The level demonstrated was called Wall of Lodoleth, a crumbling stone fortress similar to the first game's Undead Parish. Cobbled bridges, basements, and walkways both vast and dangerously narrow made up the interwoven environment. From the bonfire at the start to the boss room at the end, you got the sense that paths branched and overlapped; that there was more to the level than might immediately be apparent.
(Areas are interconnected just like in the first Dark Souls,) said Miyazaki. (Having an interconnected map is my favorite.)
Enemies encountered during the demo ranged from hostile undeads to unrelenting knights with greatshields and spears. Some of these emaciated undeads came in the form of hostiles, while others kneeled and prayed at the faded sun above. A dragon even made an appearance, swooping in to blow fire at a horde of undead below. The most mysterious enemy was a seemingly normal hollow among a praying group up on a roof, who without warning transformed into some kind of horrible tar-like creature that devastated all surrounding enemies and eventually the player.
Of the key pillars highlighted during the demo, the world scale and swordplay left the most lasting impressions. Without question this is the best looking Dark Souls 3 to-date, capturing the same dark fantasy tone, but with a greater sense of scope. This particular demo focused on a castle area that featured massive ramparts, dragon corpses, and was all fully rendered in real-time.
By Miyazaki's own admission, the dark fantasy milieu has a greater draw for him, and it certainly shows. Few would call Dark Souls 2'˜s world gorgeous in the traditional sense, but it sill looks very impressive. The amount of detail in the environments, the draw distance, and the way flecks of ash, pieces of cloth, or embers move is leaps and bounds ahead of anything in prior games.
Those embers and ash are particularly significant to Dark Souls 3, whose big bad is called the Lord of Cinder. The Lord of Cinder is referenced in prior games, but apparently this giant sword-wielding knight is due for an awakening, and is ultimately at odds with the player character. Miyazaki didn't say too much about the story, but Dark Souls fans know that's M.O anyway. From Software likes players to uncover the lore through item descriptions and careful analysis, which Dark Souls 3 supports in spades.
Giant Bomb has some audio impressions, while YouTube Dave "DaveControlLive" Klein has published a surreal video containing a narrated transcription of an interview he conducted with Hidetaka Miyazaki, director on the game and president of From Software. Apparently, he wasn't allowed to published the original audio (which was actually recorded) so he had to resort to this method: