Dark Souls 3 Hands-On Preview

YOU DIED. It’s the two words that sum up the Dark Souls franchise in all its brutally difficult glory. With the release of the latest iteration only a month and a bit away, Bandai Namco invited me down for a quick hands-on with the latest build. As with any game of this difficulty, the aim is to dive in and try not to sink, so is it shaping up to be a worthy successor?

Dark Souls 3 takes place in the new area of Lothran a more man-made area than the setting of previous titles but one that never felt like it was re-treading too far into similar areas from the other Souls games. As always the lore is spread out far and wide rewarding those who want to explore and put the pieces of the puzzle together. For this preview I didn’t have enough time to really take everything in so the majority of the story was lost on me, that’s not to say it isn’t there however.

My playthrough started in a mysterious graveyard, a tutorial area that was rather quick compared to others in the series but went through all the basics. Introducing me to the new ashen estus flask, a consumable for mana that replenishes at each bonfire, but since I was rolling with your base warrior class it didn’t really find much use however I can imagine the implications for those who are adept at spell casting. A bit further down the track the game’s first boss battle takes place, a giant metal warrior that guards the path ahead with strong and fast attacks makes for a great intro to the long and difficult road ahead. Halfway through the fight he morphs into a huge worm like creature that throws up his attack patterns and becomes even more dangerous.

Half of the fun of Dark Souls is the thrill and excitement of exploring and it seems to be all here. Each nook and cranny in Lothran contains precious loot, strong enemies and sneaky traps but for each valuable item there is always a jaw dropping threat that forces you to retreat as fast as the game will let you. One of these moments took place after I reached the city, in which many undead are seen praying to various monuments. After climbing a flight of stairs an archer spotted me, forcing me to rush during its reload animation, as I rained blows upon him I noticed one of the husks stand up and start to shake. He explodes in a violent blast and transforms into a mini boss, before I know what just happened I was diced up and waiting to spawn at the nearest bonfire.

The last few minutes of my journey were Dark Souls at its chaotic best. Lots of enemies, big and dangerous surprises and the odd mini boss. It got to the point where I went down one path and found it difficult, so when I decided to go the other way and a bigger threat spawned and made the first path I took harder, I knew I had screwed myself rather than the game screwing me making the experience all the more rewarding. finally getting past the new threat I came across a new and difficult mini boss that pummelled me for the effort and my time had come to an end. It’s rare to find games that treat you like an adult, yet the Souls series always hits the mark by making things tough but not impossible.

While my time in Lothran was short, and towards the end rather repetitive (YOU DIED), Dark Souls 3 really impressed. The combat, while not carrying over some of the gameplay mechanics that Bloodborne introduced, felt fresh but familiar in the sense that I knew I was playing a Souls game. Dark Souls has always had a distinct feeling that few games can rival, the reward of beating that boss that pummelled you for the 20th time or relief of getting through the hordes of enemies and regathering your souls is so unique that once you get into it you never look back. Players looking for Bloodborne 2 may be disappointed but those waiting for another great entry in the Dark Souls series will know they are in for a world of hurt when the game releases, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 Dark Souls 3 is available on PS4, Xbox one and PC April 12th.

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