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Dark Souls III was playable for the first time at this year's Gamescom, which means we finally got some hands-on impressions and some gameplay footage. Unfortunately, Bandai Namco didn't allow direct feed gameplay to be recorded, so the only footage available is off-screen, but it's still worth a look, given it really showcases the moment to moment gameplay in the title and the sort of enemy placement and level design the developers are shooting for.
First of all, the gameplay footage, starting with two videos from IGN that make for a total of almost 19 minutes of gameplay:
Then some more gameplay footage, ths time courtesy of YouTube channels "GosuNoob" and "Gamer365on":
Then we move on to some written previews from the specialized press.
PC Gamer discussed the game's PC port with community manager J. Kartje before moving on to their impressions of the Gamescom demo:
(The plan is for it to be day and date,) Bandai Namco community manager J. Kartje told me at last week's preview event. (I don't think we're calling out and saying '˜this is lead' or anything like that ... we have PC builds, so that's what we're working with right now. That's what's easiest for the dev team to use at this moment.)
The hour I spent with Dark Souls 3 wasn't quite the stellar experience of Dark Souls 2's port. It was running at 30 frames per second (mostly consistently, though one rooftop area sent the framerate dipping into the teens) and a locked 1080p. The 27-inch monitor that was two feet from my face didn't do the game any favors, either that's too big a screen, too up-close, for 1080p to offer a sharp picture. Dark Souls 2 ran smoothly at a locked 60 fps and could handle just about any resolution you threw at it.
But Dark Souls 3 is still months away from its early 2016 release. I asked Kartje if we can expect it to match Dark Souls 2's performance when it's released.
(That's what we're all hoping for,) he said. (From Software's gotten better since Dark Souls 1. That's the plan, that it's always better.)
The Escapist feels that what has been shown so far lacks its own identity when compared to the rest of the series:
Let's get the disappointing news out of the way first: The demo was almost entirely what I had already seen at E3, so any sense of surprise or fear of the unexpected was gone. There was also no magic, no bow and arrow (that I could find, at least), no equipment management, and outside of the new weapon arts, there were no new game mechanics that Souls veterans haven't seen before.
So the truth is, the Dark Souls 3 that I played didn't really feel like it had its own unique identity yet. This is in stark contrast to the first public Dark Souls 2 demo which introduced life gems, showcased several new magic spells, was full of new enemies types that we hadn't seen in prior Souls games, included pitch black areas that required you to use a torch in your off-hand, in addition to featuring a revamped dual wielding system designed to make dual wielding a viable combat option.
Weapon arts were really the only thing that felt truly new in the Dark Souls 3 demo. Fortunately, the idea behind them is very cool.
Every weapon type has a unique ability tied to the left trigger called a "Weapon Art." With a longsword, the weapon art puts the player into a ready stance, and from there you could use one of two powerful moves that not only deal heavy damage, but also blow away an enemy's guard.
Kotaku Australia liked the Dark Souls III demo more than Dark Souls II:
It was set in an enormous castle that stretched well off into the distance and up into the sky, taking advantage of the PS4 and Xbox One's ability to render scale as well as detail. Withered undead prostrate themselves in obeisance to corpses skewered on trees, turned to face the sun, and to the ashen remains of ancient dragons whose fossilised forms splay across entire buildings. One surviving dragon sears the pathways with its fire-breath (yes, just like that dragon in Demon's Souls), daring you to try to get near it. Outside, pale light half-heartedly illuminates the ancient structures; inside, undead wait for you behind piles of crates and barrels, in total darkness, as you forge your way forward with torch held aloft.
And the boss! The boss which you can get a look at in the Gamescom trailer above is called the Dancer of the Frigid Valley. It is an unsettling, graceful, dangerous creature with two swords (one of which is aflame), birthed from the blackness of a dark portal that opens up in mid-air an enclosed chapel (like Bloodborne's One Reborn). It turns its covered face towards you and circles, swirling its weapons around you in discomfiting, sinuous movements. As you fight it, its sword sets the structures in the chapel alight, so that you're fighting bathed in the light smouldering wreckage. I wanted majestic. This is majestic.
There's definitely a lot of Bloodborne in the couple of Dark Souls 3 bosses I've seen so far. They move in beastlike, unsettling ways; another boss I was shown fights bent over, almost on all fours, and lethally fast.
The boss fight in the demo was against the Dancer of the Frigid Valley, the same as in the E3 presentation. Watching her up close and personal was almost mesmerizing. After entering her cathedral, the dancer looked elegant in her shiny black armor, moving to and fro on the screen in a rhythmic pattern, her flame sword at the ready. Attacks were strong, and ultimately, the death message was common. As a few players at the event started to best the dancer, whoops and cheers reverberated through the room. Those who managed to beat the dancer were genuinely excited about what they had done.
It is that excitement that makes Dark Souls games as engaging as they are. Everyone talks about the difficulty of the titles being the draw, but the difficulty is just the symptom. The difficulty isn't what keeps people coming back. No, it's that endorphin rush that occurs when you finally beat a boss for the first time; that sense of accomplishment just isn't present if there is no real challenge.
Hold the Weapon Art button with the default longsword and shield equipped, and your warrior will take the sword in both hands with the hilt held high and the blade pointing straight out in a ready position. From this stance, you can perform a powerful uppercut slash using the weak attack button, or do a devastating running thrust by hitting the strong attack. The greatsword isn't as complex. Using your Weapon Art causes your character to slam the ground with his or her foot, sending a shockwave out that pushes back enemies that have gotten too close. Then there's the dual scimitars, which unleash a whirling spin attack with both blades.
Facing online opponents in the previous games has always been a game of trickery. If you can catch your opponent off-guard and deliver a devastating attack, you have one foot in the winner's circle. Weapon Art abilities will give players many more tools in their bag of tricks. With the Weapon Arts it would be easy to do things like telegraph weapon stances, making them think you'll attack with one move set, but then switch stances at the last second. Or, you could launch a greater number of surprise power attacks and special weapon abilities (like the super stomp) with the tap of a single button. Those things - on top of the already intricate move-sets - could make player invasions and duels even more unpredictable.
Polygon talked with localization producer Brandon Williams:
There's been some confusion over what Dark Souls 3 means for the series as a whole. In its initial announcement, Bandai Namco's press release stated that it was the "final episode" in the series. In a later interview with Eurogamer, From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki clarified that it was not the last game but a "turning point" for the series.
So what does that mean?
According to Williams, whatever the future of Dark Souls, this entry "will bring certain story elements of the series to a close." Of course, with a story as vague as the Souls games' plots often are, that could mean anything, and we're not the only ones being left in the dark.
"The story for all the Souls games has been a mystery to us," Williams said, speaking of Bandai Namco, the publisher of the Dark Souls series. "It's just the way Miyazaki works. He likes to keep things in his head. He doesn't write down a lot of things. He communicates a lot of it verbally to his team. It's just kind of how he is, and I think it's cool, in a way, to keep a lot of that stuff hidden."
Destructoid saw the influence of Bloodborne in the gameplay demo, though they worry about the lack of originality in the area they were shown:
Combat as a whole is quicker, which is likely a direct response to Bloodborne changing the game. Rolls and dodges are faster, and enemies as a whole feel faster, too. It's not quite "fighting game" fast, but it's a comfortable medium between Souls and Bloodborne, which I'm more than okay with. One big addition is "Battle Arts," which are basically super moves triggered by different equipment combinations. "Not all shields parry now," I was told by Bandai Namco producer Brandon Williams, and you can see that distinction by way of an icon on the item itself in the lower-left equipment corner. A shield icon denotes a defensive action, and a sword icon is more aggressive.
In this instance, it allowed my axe to power up for a short period, granting me a damage boon, which was depicted by a glowing aura on my weapon. In essence, it's a more "on-demand" spell system for folks who prefer direct combat -- I say bring it on. My personal style for Souls games involves using the shield as blocking insurance, but not necessarily for parrying, so I'm all for this change. As a note, these are limited-use abilities, and will recharge at a bonfire much like flasks.
Then we move on to a few video previews, starting with one from the folks at GameSpot:
Then we round up a couple of interviews, starting from a chat GameSpot had with series' father and Dark Souls III director Hidetaka Miyazaki, who alludes to the game being a "turning point" to the series, and explains that he intends to start the development on several new games as president of From Software:
"Dark Souls is my life's work," he replied. "Everything I came up with for Dark Souls 3 is based on my personal preferences. However, Dark Souls 3 is also actually the turning point for the franchise."
Pressed on whether he would explore the sci-fi or mech genres, perhaps by applying the Souls framework to them, Miyazaki said he "definitely wants to bring the Miyazaki Touch" to them.
While Turtle Beach Videos has an interview with Bandai Namco publishing producer Atsuo Yoshimura:
Finally, we have rounded up several videos of impressions from members of the Dark Souls community. As such, these videos focus on the minutiae of gameplay and aren't recommended for anyone who isn't already a big fan of the series: