FromSoftware is arguably my favorite developer in the industry currently. I love every entry in the Souls series and Bloodborne. When I first played Dark Souls, it took me a while to grasp what I was playing and to become familiar with how the game worked. After falling deeply in love with its difficulty, aesthetic, intricate level design, and brilliant boss battles I knew that the game was something wholly unique. This was an experience like no other. It was hugely rewarding and had the feel of an action RPG with old school difficulty. After playing the game to death, I went back and gave the same treatment to Demon’s Souls. I found its “predecessor” to be almost as good, though it was clear that a lot of changes had been made for the better.
The release of Dark Souls II left me with mixed feelings. It was still a brilliant game, but not the incredible leap I had hoped for. A lot of the new elements like limitations on enemy respawns ruined my understanding of what made the first installment so great. I tore through the game in a matter of days without any real challenging roadblocks. In fact, most of the bosses were defeated on the first or second try. Perhaps my hard work in the first game had prepared me for the future of From Software games, but something told me it was too easy. Bloodborne taught me differently. Everything I thought I knew went out the window when I wanted to smash my controller after being stuck on the first section for three hours.
And now it is nearly time for Dark Souls III, a game that I have the highest hopes for. While Dark Souls II did take slight steps back in terms of the overall progression of the series, there should be enough criticism from players to make improvements with the third installment. The E3 teaser showed no gameplay footage, but it did give an idea of the overall tone of the game. Though all of the Souls games are bleak and devastating, this one looks to be the most cruel. An enormous castle stands atop the ruins of a kingdom while depraved hunchback monsters slowly travel across a wasteland. A gigantic faceless king reaches for his crown and slams down his bladed staff, alluding to his tyrannical reign.
The lore in Dark Souls games can only be found through environmental observation and reading in-game notes. As such, it is possible to progress through the entire game without ever really knowing “what is going on”. This series is practically unique in modern gaming in that it is made up almost entirely of pure gameplay. The teaser seems somewhat narrative, though that will not likely be the focus in this installment.
The reasons for the excitement on a new Souls game are as simple as a video game allows: new bosses, new environments, and new weapons. Even if no details were released about this game other than the title it would still be a day one purchase for me. I have that much faith in FromSoftware and this series. Luckily, quite a few screenshots have been released and they look fantastic. The art is as amazing as ever, which is only aided by the greater capabilities of current generation platforms Xbox One and Playstation 4. These screenshots are on par or perhaps greater than the beautiful art direction of Bloodborne.
I believe Dark Souls II was a slight step back for the series, but I predict Dark Souls III will be a step forward. From what we have seen of gameplay footage and the new trailer, it looks to be more under the influence of the first game. The footage shows a variety of boss fights which all look to be horrifically promising. One boss reveal shows a gigantic demon-tree hybrid that is nothing short of terrifying. It is moments like these in Souls games where the player feels like they will never make it through. Finally understanding the boss and being able to use pure skill to become victorious is what these games are all about. The feeling of accomplishment is the greatest reward in Dark Souls.
I have to admit with the announcement of Dark Souls III so soon after Bloodborne I was a little worried. This series of games (though it may not be fair to include Bloodborne as part of the series) seems close to becoming annualized probably due to its growing popularity. As seen with franchises like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, often times annualization can hurt the quality of games and cause for a lack of artistic direction. Past games tell us that FromSoftware president Hidetaka Miyazaki puts great care into his games, so there are high hopes of consistent quality releases. Miyazaki was the director of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, though he took on a supervising role for Dark Souls II and Bloodborne due to the simultaneous development of the two games. Dark Souls III sees the return of Miyazaki as director, which can of course only mean great things.
Bloodborne elevated FromSoftware higher on the mainstream map than any Souls game, which grants more creative leverage and exposure. The success of the company can mean a bigger catalog of games, but can also mean a lack of focus on a single game, which may result in a step back in quality. Of course this is all speculation. Despite whatever changes FromSoftware may undertake in the coming years, I think that Dark Souls III will be an extremely strong release. Miyazaki has stated that it will not be the last entry, but will mark a turning point for the series. This could mean a transition similar to that of Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls.
Dark Souls III releases worldwide on April 12th on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. A comic is also set to release in April.