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Feature Article

Dark Souls 3: Fighting, Dying, and Persevering Through the First Three Hours

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Between worlds.

The corridors twist and the monsters are many, and try as I might to establish a routine, Dark Souls III adapts just as quickly as I do. During a recent demo, I played through the first few hours of the next--and purportedly last--series installment. And from the enemies I fought to the locales I crept through, Dark Souls III's early moments exhibited wide range and varying scale.

The demo's setting was diverse in both its aesthetics and level design. What began in a series of chasms and steep cliffsides soon gave way to a labyrinthine fortress, followed by a village of cramped alleyways and spacious courtyards. The latter housed groups of undead enemies--some of them swung saw blades, while others hurled cauldrons in my direction, forcing me to dodge melee attacks while I closed the gap with ranged attackers.

This morphing combination of environments and enemies isn't new to the Dark Souls franchise. But during the three hours I played of the third installment, I changed my combat strategy multiple times, parrying with my shield against lesser fighters, swinging my battle axe with two hands against more brutish opponents, and using firebombs or throwing knives to thin out the horde.

Bosses required quick thinking and constant reassessment of combat tactics. The first--an ironclad knight named Ludex Gundyr--used leaping attacks, forcing me to wait for the opportune moment to dodge as he came crashing into the ground. The second boss, the four-legged Vordt of the Boreal Valley, switched from dashing attacks, to thrusting stabs, to sweeping swings of its mace while I tried to stay as close to his back as possible.

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Then there was the third boss, and in terms of scale, it dwarfed its two predecessors. The Curse-rotted Greatwood towered above me, rotting limbs, bulbous weak spots and all. And for most of the fight, the quadrupedal tree wasn't even standing--it rotated on its rear, appearing too encumbered by its rotting bark to do anything but heave itself on me.

By amplifying the scale of the combat with the giant tree, Dark Souls III made me change my approach yet again. I took a more calculated path toward victory as I circled the behemoth, waiting for it to attack before I responded with several devastating hacks to its few weak spots. As the monster's health dipped below 50 percent, the floor gave way and I plummeted, alongside my enemy, into a vast cavern with knee-high water. Much like the combat of its inhabitants, the world transformed as well.

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The new Arts system once again played a part in my decision-making process. Having alternative attacks and buffs for each weapon added another layer to consider as I trekked through Lothric's Wall and the Undead Settlement. Numerous attack possibilities raised questions at every turn: should I consumed FP points for a damage buff against this group of enemies? Should I save it for the boss? When will my long sword's attack be the most useful?

As we've said before: Bloodborne seems to be seeping into the Dark Souls formula. Dark Souls III's weapon Arts are clearly inspired by the trick weapons of its gothic cousin; dodging is a much more viable combat option this time around; even the enemy types are faster in general, leaping from corners and attacking aggressively while I ready my shield.

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It's unclear if this dynamism, and the more fast-paced components of Bloodborne, will last throughout the entirety of Dark Souls III. But based on what I played, From Software increased its diversity of enemies, environments, and dangerous situations to an even higher degree with the first few hours of its next outing. I felt more free to change my approach this time around. Come April 12, we'll see if the same rings true over the following hours.

For more on Dark Souls III from our most recent demo, be sure to watch our boss fight videos, and playthroughs of the new areas:

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mmahardy

Mike Mahardy

Editor. Ex-New Yorker. Enthusiast of gin, cilantro, and rock and roll.
Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III

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