Living And Dying: Hands-On With 'Dark Souls III'

In the past few months, fans saw additional footage of From Software’s Dark Souls III, the opening cinematic, and the release date set for April 12. At Xbox’s Spring Showcase last week, we were finally able to get some hands-on time with the fourth entry in the tough, yet fair Souls series.

Familiar Territory, With Some New Surprises

Each iteration of the Souls games (which currently includes Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II and Bloodborne) seems to build off the foundation created by the preceding game and then adding some new features to make it a completely different experience. If you’re long familiar to the series, you can approach Dark Souls III with the same strategy as past games. However, the game also has some new features to offer.

The most obvious addition is your overall movement speed. At first, it seems identical to your character’s movement from Dark Souls II, but the pace seems faster in combat. While playing as a Knight, the traditional movement combination of sidestepping and rolling to avoid enemy attacks seemed quicker, and the attack animations from your character were faster as well. Even the animation of drinking from the Estus Flasks (which recover a portion of your health) was faster, which certainly helped in desperate situations.

Another new addition is the FP gauge on the top left corner of the screen, which is used for magic attacks. In the past, you had a health and stamina gauge only, but now there's a third bar for you to monitor throughout your journey. In the past, you used stamina for both physical and magic attacks, but the FP gauge separates the two combat styles. If you prefer physical attacks, you shouldn't have to worry about the FP gauge, but it's there.

In terms of size, the overall game map won’t be as big as Drangleic, the main setting for Dark Souls II, according to Global Brand Manager Mike Chang. However, Lothric’s various areas will be more interconnected, so you can find more shortcuts to return to the safety of your Firelink Shrine, or avoid a return trip through a grueling army of enemies. On top of that, you can still warp through the network of bonfires.

You Died Again And Again

Your increased movement speed will obviously give you a slight advantage over certain enemies throughout the game (I somehow managed to stay alive in the game’s first stage), but the foes of Lothric are just as ruthless and dangerous as previous enemies from past titles. Enemy Knights can move quickly to deliver a series of blows, while a group of weak soldiers can quickly kill you with swords, spears, and a bow and arrow. Even those terrifying Mimics (which disguise themselves as treasure chests) make a return.

I faced only one boss in my short play through, but it wasn't too difficult to beat considering that it was the game’s first major enemy. Each encounter will be more difficult than the last, but with enough skill (and patience) you can make your way through the game.

More to Come

The few levels available to us provided a taste of what's to come in April. The Xbox Spring Showcase had games on display other than Dark Souls III, but it was very difficult to put the controller down, even after multiple deaths. Dark Souls III is just as addictive as its predecessors, and even with its familiar features, there are bound to be more new elements waiting to be discovered throughout the land of Lothric.

Follow Rexly Peñaflorida II @Heirdeux. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • dstarr3
    I just started the first Dark Souls last night. We'll see how much hair I have left by the time I get to this game.
  • clonazepam
    I just started the first Dark Souls last night. We'll see how much hair I have left by the time I get to this game.

    Hah! The first time I played it, I didn't get it. It wasn't very long before I uninstalled it. It took youtube for me to realize there was more to it than the beginning areas.

    Thanks for the lack of spoilers. I'm concerned about the movement speed and all of that, so I'm glad you mentioned it.

    I'm going to assume they'll want the big weapons to feel weighty and hit with a lot of power and mass behind them, but the quick movement might be too much of a contradiction? Think it'll be hard to suspend disbelief there?
  • BrutalAttis
    I just started the first Dark Souls last night. We'll see how much hair I have left by the time I get to this game.

    If you just starting out with the Souls series, I would give one tip "read up and understand immunity frames (iframes)"

    I have played all the Soul games and I loved them all.
  • Genvar
    When I first started playing Dark Souls it was at my friend's house. I asked him about it but he just walked away and told me good luck. Ever since I've been in love with the Souls series.
  • lpedraja2002
    My biggest worry is if there will be a framerate lock for the third game. They haven't released an official statement saying it will be 60fps and with Dark Souls 2 it was announced almost 5 months before it launched. A lot of people are wondering about this and I for certain will not buy the game if it's locked to 30fps. Playing Dark Souls 2 in fluent 60fps was enough to ruin me. I can't even play the first game which is overall a better game due to the 30 fps cap and the dsfix halves jump distance and creates certain annomalies too.