Here’s how you write a preview of a Dark Souls game. Games writing 101.
[Gets into character]
Hi gang! Roving reporter Mark Serrels here on the scene with that ripsnorter of a video game Dark Souls III. Guess what game chums, it’s really difficult! LOL.
I died so much and it felt so great to die over and over again. Dark Souls III wasn’t easy at all. Good times were had when I was frustrated and wanted to cave in my skull with the controller!
Hahaha! Gang, you are going to love this.
So to recap.
— Create rapport. — Establish that Dark Souls as a series is difficult. — Talk about dying a lot. — Reassure people that Dark Souls is still difficult
But let’s be honest here, difficulty is probably the least interesting thing about Dark Souls. It’s almost certainly the least interesting thing about Dark Souls III. The problem: the stuff that’s actually interesting about Dark Souls III is difficult to write about. At least, it’s difficult to digest and write about after playing the game for just a couple of hours.
So, here are some observations I had about Dark Souls III during my short playthrough. Take them with the grain of salt they deserve.
1. Dark Souls III Does A Great Job Of Transitioning Players From Bloodborne
If you are excited about Dark Souls III and you are reading this site, there’s a good chance you played (and probably loved) Bloodborne. I most certainly did.
In fact, I loved Bloodborne so much I worried about going back to Dark Souls. I worried about playing at a slower pace, about having to use a shield.
Dark Souls III strikes a unique balance. It plays faster than Dark Souls II, for example, but not at quite the same pace as Bloodborne. This gives you the sensation that you, the player, have the additional weight of a Dark Souls game, but isn’t slow to the point of frustration. It’s a perfect balance.
2. Dark Souls III’s Opening Sections Are A Little Too Familiar
Bloodborne spoiled me a bit. Bloodborne spoiled me because it proved that Miyazaki and his team could create the same magic twice: that they could create a whole new universe, a whole new set of systems, and have it be just as valuable and rewarding as Dark Souls – probably the best game released in the last decade.
From that perspective, it felt a little mundane to re-enter the Dark Souls universe. Like we were retreading old ground. After Bloodborne’s dramatic shift in tone and palette we were back to the familiar, and it was a little too familiar.
Dark Souls opening section and, in particular, its opening boss was a little mundane for my tastes. As someone who is by no means a great Souls player, but has admittedly spent hundreds of hours playing, I breezed through the opening sections without the slightest hint of a learning curve. I beat the first boss and only took one single hit. That is not a boast – I must have died about seven or eight time fighting Bloodborne’s opening boss. It’s an observation: the very first boss design is very much Dark Souls by rote.
I’ve been told that later bosses, however, are very, very impressive indeed.
3. Dark Souls III Trades In Scale
The Souls game have traditionally been small experiences. By that I mean it’s not like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry where you chew through fodder and only certain enemies present challenge. In Dark Souls even the lowliest bad guy has a chance of killing you and it’s economical in the way it presents those enemy types.
Dark Souls III is a little different. The scale has been dramatically increased. Dark Souls is genuinely – apologies in advance – ‘epic’.
In the opening section there are multiple moments when you can look down, you can see the multiple paths that are open to you, you can see the multitudes of enemies you’ll soon be facing and it all seems massive. Truly on a different level compared to previous Souls games and even Bloodborne. Dark Souls III, in every sense of the word, is a bigger game. I get the sense that this is a generational leap for the Dark Souls series. This game is trading in scale. I love it.
4. Dark Souls III Isn’t As Visually Dense As Bloodborne
It’s a little unfair to compare Bloodborne and Dark Souls III from a visual standpoint, but it’s almost impossible to avoid: Bloodborne is the prettier game. As I mentioned before, Dark Souls III trades in scale and, as such, doesn’t seem to have quite the same attention to detail. This isn’t a problem for me. They are different games with different goals. Bloodborne’s goal was this gothic claustrophobia, Dark Souls III feels more open and massive. I really like this change.
5. Dark Souls III Still Has The Capacity For Surprise
For the first hour of my time with Dark Souls III I almost felt like I was playing on auto-pilot. That worried me. Then I ran into an enemy who I thought was a regular old buster that I could slay with a single swing of my axe.
As I approached he exploded into a massive Resident Evil-style warped monstrosity and started beating on my shell-shocked ass. It was – I swear to God – terrifying. I was not expecting it and everything, from the sound design, to the visuals, to the animation just coagulated into this moment of pure terror. It woke me from my Souls-induced slumber and reminded me that I had to be wary of everything in this game world.
It was a good reminder.
What excited me most about Dark Souls III is the scale. All signs point to that being the real evolution of the Souls series here. Bloodborne was dense, claustrophobic. Dark Souls III is open, massive, almost intimidating in terms of the choices it allows you: branching paths, different routes. I found myself getting lost in Dark Souls III, in the best possible sense. That was a new feeling. A good feeling.
You should feel good about Dark Souls III. That is my takeaway. Dark Souls III is going to be a very good video game, for a whole new set of reasons.