Siliconera recently had the chance to go hands-on with the opening hours of Dark Souls III and explore the early stages of the game. I’ve always felt the Souls series is a tricky one to discuss or explain in previews, so much of what makes the series is that everyone has their own unique experiences. I’m generally quite a cautious player when it comes to Souls, I like to take my time investigating every nook and cranny and I still manage to miss a monster that jumps out of nowhere to take down my precious health bar. When I last played Dark Souls III, I felt it could be could be one of the most accessible titles in the series so far along with taking a few battle cues from Bloodborne in terms of battle speed. Now I’ve actually played that same level within the context of the main game, I feel even more strongly about its accessibility though the battles remind me more of Demon’s Souls than Bloodborne.
Starting off, Dark Souls III probably has the most gentle opening of the series so far. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s immediately easy however. Difficulty wise, it’s more as if you’re climbing a steep hill rather than going up a vertical incline. After going through a brief tutorial of the basic moves and the opportunity to try each move out, you’re put up against your first boss, Ludex Gundyr. Now, it’s time to put what you’ve just learnt into practice. At first it doesn’t seem like a particularly threatening Souls boss. It’s not overly big or grotesque though it has quite a reach with its weapon. Without giving too much away, once you’ve whittled down enough of its HP bar, it decides to change its tactics and puts up a more aggressive front. Defeating the boss gives you access to the Firelink Shrine, the hub area of Dark Souls III.
Your next destination is the Highwall of Lothric, the area I’ve played previously and an area used in the earlier stress tests. I won’t go into too much detail the only differences was the boss location, the boss itself and an additional story scene. Going through the area a second time, it reminded me so much of playing Demon’s Souls for the first time. Walking through this labyrinth of a castle while dodging fire breathing dragons really brought back memories of that first main area of Demon’s Souls, despite that those two elements are nothing new to the Souls series. I also noticed the MP gauge has made a return to the series. The boss of this area brought things back to the status quo. It’s big, gruesome and I’m not really sure what it is but defeating it took up most of my playtime.
The last area I reached was the Undead Settlement. This is where things began to feel a little Bloodborne-esque. Not from the gameplay, but from from the aesthetics. The area is some sort of ruined farming community and enemies use sickles and scythes, weapons I’ve come to associate with Bloodborne. The enemies wearing brimmed hats that looked similar to ones seen on the Bloodborne Hunter. Whilst I managed to reach the boss of this area, I was quickly running out of time before my session finished and knew I didn’t have enough time to figure out it out properly. Dark Souls was never a series you could try and rush in with. When I first played Dark Souls III, I left impressed but now after a few frustrating and exhilarating hours spent in its dark world, it has certainly left its mark on me.
Dark Souls III will be available in Europe and the US April 12, 2016.