Time to praise the sun one last time. Game director and FromSoftware President Hidetaka Miyazaki has confirmed that Dark Souls 3 will be the last game in this iteration of the Souls series; thus an era is truly ending for ridiculously difficult games that make you want to stare into the middle distance, full of quiet despair after getting killed by that one boss for the fifteenth time. The story of Dark Souls 3 seems to echo that sentiment by pulling exactly zero punches and saying that the whole world’s about to be snuffed out. This is, in basically every way, The End.

But not everything we know about Dark Souls 3 (or the brand new questions those things create) is shadowed by melancholy. Most of it is, of course – this is Dark Souls – but there’s at least a bit of happy news thrown in as well. We know the game’s release date (soon), have seen some of its sweet looking bosses, and have a few hints about what you’ll actually be doing during the world’s final days.

The Souls series is no stranger to death and sadness, but Dark Souls 3 might be taking all of that doom and gloom to its natural conclusion. You rise from the dead in a land called Lothric, a place where “the transitory lands of the Lords of Cinder converge.” The First Flame is weakening again, as it was in the last two games, and the Lords of Cinder have been summoned to link the First Flame and make sure it doesn’t go out. But they apparently aren’t too keen on that idea and flee to their respective lands, leaving you with the unenviable task of finding, beating, and dragging them back to the Firelink Shrine so they’ll be forced to do their duty.

But while Flame’s been at risk in the Souls series before, things seem significantly more dire in Dark Souls 3. You don’t bolster yourself with Humanity this time, but with Embers, giving the impression that you’re digging the last viable sparks out of the world anywhere you can find them. You also have a stat to guard against Darkness (which will come roaring in full force if the Flame goes out), and use an item called Ashen Estus, meaning you’re getting energy from ash that you should be getting from fire. All of this suggests losing the Flame might mean the end of the Fire-to-Darkness cycle, and the complete destruction of the Dark Souls world.

It seems like a given we’d be playing as the Chosen Undead in Dark Souls 3 just like we did in the last two games, but the series has apparently decided to throw us for a loop. While the main character is definitely undead with a lower-case ‘u’ – they start their perilous journey by rising from the grave – this time around they’re Unkindled.

While the game isn’t particularly helpful in explaining what an Unkindled is – describing them only as “Nameless, accursed Undead, unfit even to be cinder” – it does seem to serve a thematic purpose, establishing the protagonist as someone inherently linked (however ineffectively) to the First Flame at the center of the Dark Souls mythos. And, given that nothing in the Souls’ games happens by accident or consequence, the connection to the Flame will likely end up playing a big part in the overall story.

As one would expect, many of the beloved character classes from the last two games will be returning for Dark Souls 3, for a total of ten different options. The balanced Knight and Mercenary, the crafty Thief, the fiery Pyromancer, the magical Sorcerer and Cleric, and the masochistic Deprived will all make an appearance, looking as weathered and stone-faced as ever.

We’ll also get to stress test two completely new classes: the Assassin and the Herald. The Assassin starts the game off with a thrusting sword and one Sorcery, and focuses primarily on offensive and buffing magic. The Herald, meanwhile, has a healer vibe and walks into the world with one defensive Miracle, but also gets a sweet spear to stick in anything that thinks they’re easy prey. Effectively, these two classes will satisfy players who prefer the jack-of-all-trades approach – playing as the Assassin or Herald lets you basically create a Sorcerer or a Cleric who isn’t too shabby with a weapon, or a Mercenary or Warrior with an extra trick up their sleeve.

Unfortunately for Bloodborne fans, as this era in the Souls series comes to a close, a sequel to the fast-paced cousin of Dark Souls doesn’t appear to be forthcoming. That means any itch to relive that gothic glory with have to be satisfied with Dark Souls 3, but fear not – the folks at FromSoftware are way ahead of us, and have folded the best parts of Dark Souls and Bloodborne into the combat (with a hint of Demon Souls too), giving fans of all parts of the series something to look forward to.

For instance, Bloodborne’s speed makes an obvious appearance here, making even the slowest armor-laden knight quicker on their feet than they ever were in Dark Souls past. Rolling and backstepping is now much more viable as well, and you may not need to rely as heavily on the shield as Dark Souls fans remember. Yet the shield is still an incredibly important aspect of defense, and you shouldn’t expect to gain lost health by attacking an enemy – the caution and patience of Dark Souls still clearly prevails here. And that’s just a few examples from Dark Souls 3’s first few hours – who knows what amalgam of a game we’ll face in later stages.

While details on the setting and story are scarce, one area Miyazaki was happy to expound upon was combat – specifically, weapon arts. Each class of weapon in Dark Souls 3 will have its own unique ability to use in combat. For example, the longsword can perform a sweeping strike that bypasses an opponent’s shield, while the scimitars can be duel-wielded to unleash a spinning attack that hits multiple opponents.

Miyazaki explained these extra flourishes were added to give players more variety in combat, as well as to make the less-popular weapons more attractive to players. In addition to swords, bows, and all other forms of martial weapons, Miyazaki also mentioned the game’s magic system will receive a similar treatment. Details on that treatment were, of course, not forthcoming.

Combat isn’t the only place where FromSoftware tries to marry the best parts of their best work. Dark Souls 3’s environments borrow heavily from all corners of the series, creating a mish-mash of locations that feel utterly isolated from each other (to the point that you can’t even get from the opening graveyard to the next area with your own two feet, and have to use a bonfire to teleport there).

The Firelink Shrine represents an obvious return to form, pulling in that well-known Dark Souls locale, and the towering High Wall of Lothric bears many medieval fantasy characteristics consistent with Dark Souls overall look. But at the same time, much of Lothric beyond looks shockingly like Yharnam cast in daylight, and the creepy village past the wall is a near carbon copy of Bloodborne’s Hemwick Charnel Lane (except now everyone has pointy hats). It seems like a strange combination now, but then again, these are “the transitory lands” – perhaps some brilliant surprise is waiting just ahead.

Dark Souls 2 is easily the least creative Souls game in terms of bosses, as most of them can be boiled down to regular ‘ol dragons or dudes in suits of armor. Thankfully, early indications are that Dark Souls 3’s grandest encounters will be a little more imaginative.

So far we’ve seen an elongated bride-of-the-damned called the Dancer of the Frigid Valley, a massive gelatinous snake growing out of some poor guy’s shoulder, and a tree-monsters you whack right in the stones. And, okay, there’s at least one dragon and a guy in a suit of armor, but hey, we’re headed in the right direction!

After taking a break from the Souls series, game director Miyazaki is back in the director’s chair for Dark Souls 3. Miyazaki made his directorial debut with 2006’s Armored Core 4, a franchise he later stepped away from to work on 2009’s Demon’s Souls.

After that game became an unexpected success, Miyazaki went on to direct Dark Souls, but left Dark Souls 2 in the hands of co-directors Tomohiro Shibuya and Yui Tanimura to work on Bloodborne instead (and become the President of FromSoftware, announced within weeks of Dark Souls 2’s release). Now he’s back at the helm, and will hopefully give this game that extra creative spark many felt was missing from the comparatively lackluster Dark Souls 2.

In Dark Souls, everything is cyclical, up to and including release dates. In keeping with the tradition of Souls games typically being released early in the year, Dark Souls 3 will come for us all with a worldwide release on April 12th 2016, following its arrival in Japan in March.

That’ll give us all time to recover from Bloodborne and Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin before we tumble back into the darkness. As for platforms, Dark Souls 3 will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, making it the first Souls game built specifically for current-generation hardware.

GamesRadar – PC Features

Author Vojta Ličko
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