Feature Article

Dark Souls III is Faster, Smoother, and More Fluid Than its Predecessors

Still as cruel and foreboding as ever.

My footsteps echo down down the hallway of these castle ruins, and all is quiet while I step into the shadows. But then it's there, snarling and vicious, leaping at me with fangs bared. I roll aside just in time, spinning around for a counterattack. And then they come from behind--four gruesome, twisted figures with long limbs and drooping skin. My stamina recharges quickly, but my frantic dodges are limited in this cramped space, and the creatures finish me in seconds.

This is Dark Souls III. It's faster and more streamlined than its predecessors, but still brutal enough to kill me without warning. It requires more patience and defense than Bloodborne does, but borrows from it as well; From Software is taking cues from its newest franchise in more ways than one.

"Dark Souls and Bloodborne are two separate franchises, but both have [Hidetaka] Miyazaki-san’s personal touch," producer Brandon Williams says. "One thing that people are already noticing is the faster speed at which combat and action in Dark Souls III moves. It’s a bit faster than previous Dark Souls games but not as fast as Bloodborne. I’d say it’s just right."

This speed is apparent right away. In true Dark Souls fashion, the demo begins at a bonfire, and this is the only respite form the dangers below. I descend a nearby staircase and confront two hellhounds, both of which pounce on me with alarming agility. In earlier Dark Souls titles, I might have raised my shield in defense. But because of my time spent with Bloodborne this year, I opt to dodge between the beasts, splitting the difference as they pass right over me.

The roll in Dark Souls III isn't as quick and shifty as the sidestepping in Bloodborne, but it is more responsive than the dodge in Dark Souls II. Stamina is also less of a problem here than it used to be, but if I'm not careful, I can still exhaust my character, leaving him defenseless against the monsters all around me.

If I do conserve my stamina, there are new options for me this time around. As a Dark Souls veteran, I appreciate any new tools I can use against my powerful foes, however rare they might be. And with Dark Souls III, From Software is implementing a feature called Arts.

Much like Trick Weapon transformations in Bloodborne, Arts abilities let me explore alternate attacks without switching items. For instance, with my starting weapon--a longsword--I can add two more attacks to my move set. One is a wide swipe, while the second, more powerful strike propels me forward with a heaving thrust. There's a windup period, and timing it so I avoid damage in the process is tricky. But then again--Dark Souls always is.

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"One of the things Miyazaki-san and the team at From Software is trying to do is make Dark Souls III a smooth/seamless experience, without lowering the difficultly; and the new weapons, Battle Arts, character builds will play into that," Williams says. "The heart of Dark Souls will not change, but the team believes that expanding the way weapons can be used will be an important and welcome evolution of the Souls formula."

These Arts are limited to 20 uses between bonfires, so conserving them for tougher enemies is paramount to survival. Toward the end of the demo, in a grassy courtyard surrounding a chapel, I find two knights. They're patrolling the entrance to the looming structure, and as soon as I engage them, their long javelins pin me into a corner, where I can only raise my shield, hoping for a chance to escape. I fight back, but my basic attacks aren't enough to repel the warriors.

I die again, and return to my bonfire, with all 20 Arts at my disposal. The next time, I eliminate the two guards, with both Arts abilities and Estus (health) flasks to spare.

A cutscene triggers, and then, from the dim spires of the chapel ceiling, the boss drops. It's a contorted, towering beast, with long hair and massive blades in each hand. It lunges at me, and dodging its attacks means deciphering its odd spinning technique. This isn't easy, and I die several times before doing real damage to it.

But after resurrecting, the level design facilitates quick access back to the boss, if you know where to go. There are shortcuts behind hidden doors, branching paths that loop back on themselves, and a verticality that's been largely missing since the first Dark Souls. The condensed level design is reminiscent of Bloodborne, but the medieval structures and foreboding dungeons remind me of Dark Souls more than ever.

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The next time I return to the boss, I stay close to its body, where its swipes can't hit me. By dodging its attacks, and using a massive uppercut Arts ability with my great sword, I finish it off, and absorb the souls from its dead husk.

"With Dark Souls III, we are trying to bring the best aspects of Dark Souls I and II together to create an amazing, truly new Dark Souls experience," Williams says. "The team is exploring ways to bring more players into the franchise, such as increasing the game speed and expanding weapon capabilities, but the characteristic difficulty of the franchise will remain intact."

From what I played, Dark Souls III does feel more accessible than earlier franchise installments. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's intuitive and smooth, with tight controls and more abilities than ever before. And based on the difficulty of the demo, I'll need every option I can get.

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Mike Mahardy

Writer and Host. New Yorker. Enthusiast of gin, cilantro, and rock and roll.
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Avatar image for shreddyz

The biggest mistake the developer made was to release this game on PC. It's the worst port i've ever played. Truly horrible. It's a shame as well because it could have been great. And no doubt DS3 will be more of the same console-centric gaming experience.

Avatar image for psi_kick

Good article but what I want to know is if the game is continuing the trend of getting shorter and shorter between more and more boss fights. I think the series is not getting better since Demon's Souls or even as good. I don't like this trend which is killing the replay value for me.

Avatar image for Sprock26

Dark souls 2 was freaking awesome - but haters will always hate! I think and hope DS3 will be awesome.

Avatar image for zantetsuken89

@Sprock26: It's called having an opinion and preferences, not being a hater. Why do people always have to equate people that dislike something they like to being a hater, and act like their opinion is somehow more valid than a person whose opinion is negative? It's so childish and absurd.

Avatar image for flyleaf5

@julianboxeAllow me to tell why people hate DS2 so much, soul memory, horrible boss fights, horrible environments, hitboxes where terrible, dark souls 2 was basically rushed it was a beta , they had us test they game for like a year. They said it wasn't coming to ps4. They released new content like after 4 or 6 months the game had been out . Demon souls , dark souls , both lasted me 3 years and i still play sometimes. only good thing that came from dark souls 2 was weapons you couldn't parry. Now do you see.

Avatar image for julianboxe

Hating DS2 is such a hipster thing. Most people can't even point out the things they don't like about it, just a bunch of parrots repeating "team B" blablabla.

IMO, only thing that DS2 lacked compared to 1 was lvl design (by far) and lore (a little).

That said, DS2 is great, not as much as DS1 for sure, but its a great game on its own, and with the expansions it becomes even better. I think i've died more times to Fume Knight than to any boss in DS1.

Avatar image for gothsalvation

@julianboxe: Dying a lot = A good Souls game? What kind of logic is that?

DS2 is a good game but it falls flat in so many areas (level desing, boss battles, GOD DAMN AWFUL HIT BOXES, retarded weapon durability in the PC version) but I have to say the DLC were pretty fun and improve quite a lot from the base game.

Love it all you want but DS2 was disappointing.

Avatar image for slipperypete848

@julianboxe: totally agree with you on this. I dont get the hate on DS2- def a good game. People forget to mention its huge weapon variety and amazing menu system- small things like that that improve the series. Granted, DS1 is better....the level design and boss fights cant be topped.

Avatar image for slipperypete848

@slipperypete848: to further add to the above comment- its not like the level design is 'bad" in DS2- far from it. People get tunnel vision only compare it to its predecessor. If people compared it more to other rpgs- its still leap years above any competition.

Avatar image for tyson_way

Yeah...This is great and all...But where is my new King's Field for PS4/Xbox One, Fromsoft? And I think it would be cool if they did HD remaster or even remake's of all the King's Field games.

i would be in heaven...

Avatar image for javalino

Why not Launch Rageborne ?

Dark souls, demons souls is slow , and i like it !!!

bloodborne/rageborn remains fast!!

Avatar image for skiggy34

If this plays like Bloodborne then Im getting it. I've never really got into the Dark Souls series because I didn't care for the slow, crappy combat. Bloodborne's combat is smooth so if its anything like that I'll pick this up. Did they announce a release date for this?

Avatar image for BravoOneActual

If this series didn't invent the Kite n' Grind genre, it certainly perfected it. Speeding up the process can only be a good thing.

Avatar image for deactivated-5d762a7e1423c

Aren't there already too few RPG's out there that we need this RPG/ FPS hybrid....good grief, there are still people who troll DS1 looking for single players to invade....how is this trype any better than a CoD?? DS1 was actually a decent RPG, but the PvP nonsense is over the top...then again, if they got rid of that, it would just be a decent RPG...sigh.

Avatar image for cherub1000

@Daelusca: huge fan of the series but I do understand your point. Even though pvp is a huge element of the Souls games it tends to covert towards the elitists and while there are a huge amount of very skilled players out there, attitudes tend to be very rude and condescending. I will not pretend to be a Hardcore pvp pro, I've lost more than I've won but I am capable of taking care of myself in most situations. What I loved with bloodborne was the option of playing online or off. I finished my first run completely offline, gave me time to sit back and really enjoy the world itself without invasions and messages sent to me full of abuse! I really hope From Soft includes the offline option choice in Souls 3. Personally I prefer to get stuck into the game itself and after a few playthroughs then try out some pvp and coop play. Forst and foremost though, just really hope the early 2016 release date doesn't slip. Cheers

Avatar image for gregyeah3

@cherub1000: you can always just turn off your internet connection.

Avatar image for monowasp

@cherub1000: You Sir are a wise man and thinking human being; Cheers! :)

Avatar image for baszzer

Thumbs up if you imagine Kevin VanOrd writing this article.

Avatar image for gregyeah3

So much hate for dark souls 2 :( Am I the only one who really liked it? I like all the dark souls games.. just from my preference though:

dark souls 2> dark souls> demon souls> Bloodborne............ which everyone's free to disagree.

Im by no means saying any of them are bad though... they are all leagues above current gen games.

DS 2 I just felt so alone while playing it. It had this strange atmosphere about it. which I guess they all do...don't know why I like it more, just do really.

I think its really just whatever game you played first. Which for alot of people was demons souls, or darksouls. In my case I got a hold of it later... so my first taste of punishment came from DS2.

Avatar image for slipperypete848

@gregyeah3: I hear ya. Its all personal preference really...I dont get how anyone who likes DS1, demon, or bloodborne can not like DS2- that makes no sense to me. Id rank it at DS1, then demon, and bloodborne and DS2 are neck and neck. All dam good games though in their own right.

Avatar image for kianhatef

@gregyeah3: I played DS1 first and till Bloodborne liked that one the most, but now it's a tie between the two for pve. With pvp Bloodborne is not as good. With Dark Souls 2 they (the other director and the B-team) made too many bad decisions. It was a good game, but not considering a Souls game. So for me:

pve: Dark 1 and Bloodborne > Demon's > Dark 2

pvp: Dark 1 > Bloodborne > Dark 2 > Demon's

Avatar image for dmdavenport

@gregyeah3: I've played all the games in the series and liked them all. Don't really see the need to pick the best - they were all good for different reasons. Especially loved the dueling in d/s2.

Avatar image for gregyeah3

@dmdavenport: oh of course, like said they are leagues above current gen games. Definitely not picking the BEST , just talking about which I enjoyed most :)

Avatar image for strrckshn

@gregyeah3: Demon, Dark 1, BB, Dark 2.

Avatar image for jj2112

But it seems that it's more of the same... Loved the first one, the second one is ok, but I'm not sure I need another one.

Avatar image for necromancicat

To be honest, I'm kinda scared that another Souls game is being released. I played at least 200 hours in Demon's Souls, over 300 in Dark Souls and 20 in the second Dark Souls -- that game was just, not as good. Hopefully with Hidetaka back at the helm, the third doesn't end up being a train wreck.

Avatar image for kianhatef

@necromancicat: Dark Soul 2 wasn't created by Miyazaki, as you clearly know. Even his supervisor roll was moot since he did't even know about the bad decisions they made like Soul Memory. With Bloodborne he has shown again that he knows how to make a great (souls) game, so I wouldn't worry about Dark Souls 3! He even said it would build upon mechanics from Dark Souls 1, not 2.

Avatar image for cherub1000

@necromancicat: fear not my friend, I have no doubt that Souls 3 will be a strong return to form. Fingers crossed for February next year!

Avatar image for Bond_Villain

Can't wait!!! *** frothing at the mouth ***

Avatar image for tanerb

I think people who hate from DS series were patient enough to keep trying for couple hours, they'd all love the game like rest of us at the end.

Avatar image for deactivated-5d762a7e1423c

@tanerb: Not so sure...I picked the game up when I first started gaming 3 1/2 years ago as I love RPG's...put it down after 5 hours as the devs have no idea how to scale a game and less how to tell a story so a player can become vested enough to care about the ridiculous scaling. Picked it up again once I realize what Achievements were and it bugged me I only had 1 in this game......completed all the Achievements (2.5 playthroughs) and while scaling became less of an issue because the bosses got no tougher yet you did (for instance Seathe was an absolute joke, as was the final guy), the story still went nowhere and great combat aside there is nothing else to do but wander from boss to boss trying to complete, well, nothing really.

Avatar image for kjarlgrimblood

Bloodborne was ok. I still prefer DS to be honest :/

Avatar image for meharu

I would've preferred a Demon's Souls II or Bloodborne II over DSIII. Still excited though.

Avatar image for slipperypete848

@meharu: a new Demon would be sick. Even make it somewhat like the original with clear distinct regions.

Avatar image for deactivated-5bda06edf37ee

quite honestly, so far it sounds like it could be the best Souls yet. i'm beyond excited. can't wait!

Avatar image for Drkr_Zen

And, with Miyazaki at the helm, it'll be more like Demon's, Dark and Bloodborne - the masterpieces.

Not like Dark Souls II, please.

Praise the Miyazaki. \[T]/

Avatar image for Arsyad00

hype HYPE!!!!!

Avatar image for jack00

I palyed all the souls games except DSII, and my main complaint about the games is the controls. They are sloppy and not very sharp/responsive. By that I mean your character would take a few seconds after pressing the button to execute the move in question, like rolling, jumping. In game a as punishing as the souls game, the first thing that you want is presice and responsive controls. I hope they did improve on that.

Currently running Bloodborne for my plat, not sure if I will come back for more after that.

Avatar image for bloodhound7281

@jack00: " would take a few seconds " that's a bit of an exaggeration! I've been gaming since the mid 80's and I have never played a game that was that unresponsive! " a few seconds " lmao!

Avatar image for MODNAR11

@jack00: I think you missed the point, my friend.

Avatar image for TheLeftHandDoom

@jack00: that delay you're noticing is the physics of swinging a heavy object. that's what makes the game realistic and interesting. If you want mindless button mashing combat, play Kingdom of Amalur or God of War.

Avatar image for xeidog69

@TheLeftHandDoom: Exactly, People usually have complaints with other game franchises that use similar approaches to combat such as Monster Hunter. You often read clunky controls etc. However thats part of the gameplay, learning the timing and execution, once you become really good in those respects the combat feels less clunky and something clicks, you realise its a brilliant approach and wouldnt have it any other way.

Avatar image for deactivated-58a613a89f5e9

I just cannot get into any of the Dark Souls games. I understand their appeal, but one single thing that has bothered me since I starting gaming 20 years ago was the mechanic where enemies respawn and you are forced back through areas to fight the same thing over and over again.. I just CANNOT get past this concept in the DS games, otherwise I'd be all in.


Avatar image for slipperypete848

@t1000_v2: I see where your coming from and at first this pissed me off. Once you get past a region though, you learn the ins and outs and where to run if you need to get past the enemies to get to the bosses. Plus there's tons of shortcuts you have to unlock- and fast travel between bonfires- so its not all that bad.

Avatar image for gregyeah3

@t1000_v2: correct me if im wrong, but enemies stopped spawning after you kill them a certain number of times. I know this was the case in ds2, cant remember in ds1, and I didnt have a problem with recurring enemies in BB.

Avatar image for Bond_Villain

@t1000_v2: I know what you mean. It's vastly different from western RPGs like Dragon Age or Witcher, or even as you say, games from decades ago like Baldur's Gate or the Ultima series, all of which I loved btw.

I think Dark Souls is more like the older Diablo I & II (don't care for the disneyfied Diablo III with gaudy colorful themes) i.e when you die, you lose your progress and enemies respawn -- you get punished for button mashing and /or playing carelessly!!

Yeah, different but in a good way, at least for me anyway.

Avatar image for Argle

@t1000_v2: if you know where your going you can just run past most enemies.

Avatar image for deactivated-58a613a89f5e9

@Argle: Yes, and if running past the same enemies 18 times in one hour is fun to you, all the best.


Avatar image for Argle

@t1000_v2: 18 times? Yikes. Games aren't for you I guess. Did you get stuck at the gargoyles or the capra demon?

Avatar image for gregyeah3

@t1000_v2: It adds to the challenge so yeah, the best part of this game series is the fact it doesn't hold your hand or pamper your frustrations. So many people complain about how unforgiving it is, and don't realize thats what sets it apart. Its not made for people who love to complain. Making a wrong move has consequences, such as having to beat all the enemies on the way back. As you make it to the end of the game, you encounter those consequences less and less. You have to learn and adapt. I can't even think of a modern game where learning is the key to success. Everything is "follow the quest arrow" or "heres new gear, now your invincible"

Kind of in the spirit of the original shadowgate. Unforgiving is what made it great.