I Played Dark Souls III And It Still Surprised Me

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.


    Crap! I've still got a bit to go on my Platinum Trophy for SotFS and this is around the corner!

      Same and this platnium sucks!!

        Did you get it? I got mine on Sunday. Missed a certain pyro multiple times. Was wondering why it didn't pop on NG++ at Chancellor Wellegar :S

    Hey Mark, did you get to make it to more than one bonfire? I'm curious if they give you the teleport straight away like in dark souls 2 or if you'd need to trudge back through areas like Dark Souls 1

      I did! And I can't remember!

        eh fair enough.

        Now to decide whether to go devour all the information as it comes or go into a media blackout until I can pick up my preorder

          You get the teleport at the third bonfire (directly post first boss). So DS2 style

    [Gets into character]

    Tell 'em to praise it! (Praise it!) Praise it! (Praise it!)
    Praise that healthy sun!

    Do yourself and favour and read the very first posts Mark did about Dark Souls, oh he was so sweet and innocent then.

    You can tell he hadn't been bitten by the bug yet as he frets over the pygmy :D

    I'm in like Gwyn! So excited.

    I just hope the multiplayer experience on Xbox One is a bit smoother than Dark Souls 2, which took 5 minutes to fail connecting to the servers ("retrieving calibrations") every time the game started, and seemed to constantly limit me to a tiny pool of potential players, to the point I almost never got invaded or saw any white summon signs.

      Xbone player here - it seems to depend where you go and soul memory of course - had good co-op runs on the pursuer and the ruin sentinels and lately Iron Keep and the bell towers have been a co-op/invasion Mecca for me! Everything in between though has been quiet - I think I got invaded once in huntsman copse by a real person and managed to co-op briefly in harvest valley but that's it

        So, I was specifically trying to co-op with a buddy, we were both in the same soul memory range and level. When he started the game, 9 times out of 10, he got instant (0 - 5 second) calibrations. Whereas 9 times out of 10 I got 5 minute calibrations (exactly 5 minutes btw, so I'm assuming it timed out or something). When I got long calibrations and he got short ones we could not play together. It must have dumped us into different pools of players. The only way we could do co-op is if he kept restarting the game until he got long calibrations and then we could play together, with the negative being that we almost never encountered another player. No bell tower invasions, nobody on the bridge at Iron Keep, no white signs, nothing.

        I play the game on PC as well, and there are always players, so it's something wacky with the Xbox One multiplayer servers.

        (And yes, I have open NAT and have no other issues connecting with other Xbox One games. Spent hours trying to troubleshoot it, very frustrating. There are other players with the same issue, and nobody has a solution.)

          Yeah I've never tried to co-op with anyone specific (none of my friends are game to try Dark Souls) but isn't there a ring you can buy from the cat to ensure that you link up with particular players? Um the Name Engraved ring I think...

            Yeah we tried that too, you choose a god out of a dozen or so, and it basically just limits you to players who are also wearing the ring and have chosen the same god. So it reduces the pool of potential players down to hopefully the person you want to co-op with, which is great if you are in a pool with so many players you're accidentally getting summoned by randoms, but not so good if for all intensive purposes you're basically cut off from all other players anyway. :(

            Really worried I'll plonk down the cash for Dark Souls 3 on Xbox One (not my preferred platform, but where my mates are) and then find I can't even play it co-op.

              Oh on this - there is a setting in SoTFS where you can chose Regional or Worldwide for online matchmaking - set it to worldwide - Australia is too small to hope for a lot of players

                Yep, tried that too. Thanks for the suggestions though, unfortunately nothing I tried seemed to work. I remember complaining to a friend that I was never getting invaded, and he was playing on Xbox One at the same time and said he was invaded a dozen times the night before. I'm sure it's some weird combination of my router/internet and xbox one servers that is preventing a proper connection in that game only and contrary to my open NAT.

    I feel like Milhouse when I say I praise the sun.
    Milhouse: "I'll kick your ass! ... at Nintendo".
    Me: "PRAISE THE SUN!! ... through my tv screen only".

    Re: Point 4 - I don't get the assertion that Bloodborne was the prettier game.

    Just think of the colour palletes of the verdant Forest of Giants, a manmade/apocalypse version of Great Ocean Road's 12 Apostles manifesting in Heide's Tower of Flame, the eternal seaside sunset of Majula, the nearly pitch-black with eerie glows in the Black Gulch, and the burning lava of the Iron Keep... All pretty damn gorgeous.

    Think of the thematic differences between The Undead Burg, Blighttown, Ash Lake, Sen's Fortress, Anor Londo, the Painted World of Ariamis, the Crystal Cave, The Duke's Archives, Darkroot Garden/Basin...

    And when I think of pretty much every zone in Bloodborne, it was almost uniformly, from my memories, a grey, brown and red collection of wet-looking cobblestones or mud, with slightly different ambient light filters.

      I loved everything about Bloodborne visually, but I agree, Dark souls does look better because it had variation. It made everything deeper and gave areas background emotion. Dark Souls 3 doesn't seem to as varied however I still felt that Bloodborne was perfect visually and if Ds3 is darker, that's fine

      Heide's Tower of Flame is one the prettiest levels in any game in recent years

    Does this look like a game that someone who has never played a souls game could get into Mark? Do I need to play 1 & 2 to play this?

      I fully expect you'll probably have more fun with it than anyone who's mastered 1 and 2.

      One of the things that was really special about Dark Souls was the feeling of mastering a skillset and seeing tangible results. When you first start playing and aren't familiar with it, you very heavily rely on gaining experience and boosting stats to try and brute force your way into overpowered victory. It doesn't bear up for long - eventually you actually have to start learning attack patterns and successful/unsuccessful reactions to those patterns. The whole game was one big learning puzzle.

      When you finally 'get' Dark Souls' approach to combat and navigation, you can re-roll a level 0 character and completely wreck shop in a way you weren't able to even hours in, with better gear. And the game gives you that feedback in a variety of ways, which makes players feel good about their mastery.

      One of the complaints from DS1 fans who were hungry for more, was that DS2 used much of the same mechanics as its predecessor. There wasn't as much feeling of hard-earned and dramatic improvement through mastery, because the skills being mastered were basically the same. So it really kind of fell flat for veterans.

      I expect 3 will be pretty similar. Die-hard fans of the franchise will come in with a very high base level competence before they've even got started - already a conversational speaker in the 'language' of Dark Souls.

      New players, however... new players will likely be able to discover that incremental fail->learn->succeed feedback loop that made current fans fall in love with the original.

        That's encouraging. Always wanted to get into one of these games, considering the almost fanatical devotion surrounding the series. I thought blood borne was nearly going to be that, until I realized things that are overly bloody and grotesque are totally not my thing haha. Think I'll look forward to trying this one out :)

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