Dark Souls 3 Hands-On: Iteration over Revolution

Dark Souls III importantly marks the return of series overseer Hidetaka Miyazaki to the helm of the series as a hands-on director. After a slight detour to direct PS4 exclusive Bloodborne and merely oversee the second title in the series, Miyazaki returns with an attitude towards development that makes Dark Souls III feel like a little of a 'greatest hits'.

As explained in the detailed video preview embedded above, Dark Souls 3 essentially takes the best ideas from the first two Dark Souls titles and runs with them, mostly borrowing from the first, which Miyazaki directed. It then tosses these ideas and mechanics into a pot with lessons learned from the development of Bloodborne and even some ideas from way back on the original Demon's Souls. It's an interesting mixture.

After several solid hours hands-on with the early parts of the game, it's become quite clear that Miyazaki's vision works for those who simply want more Souls in their life. Mechanically this might actually stand up to be the best title in the series upon its final release - but at the same time it has to be noted that everything does feel a bit safe and samey.

What I mean by this is that Dark Souls 3 isn't really doing anything entirely new - it's iterating on concepts from previous games, but by saying it's a greatest hits, I mean precisely that - it's taking the greatest, most beloved mechanics from Miyazaki's previous works and trying to unite them under his most famous creation.

For some this might actually be perfect, while others might find it frustrating. I'm personally okay with it; Dark Souls 3 leaves me excited to see what Miyazaki does next, presuming it'll be quite different - but I also left this preview no less excited to challenge another Souls title, especially one that now controls better than ever.

All-new mechanics like Weapon Arts do go some way to augment the combat, but ultimately don't make a huge difference. Talk of Bloodborne-like movement are, I feel, overstated, with the game not a dodge-and-weave style title like Bloodborne in the slightest. Characters can move faster, yes, but that doesn't turn Dark Souls 3 into an offensive game as Bloodborne was. It's still driven by defense, by careful guards and counter-attacks, and careless attacking will only lead to frustrating death. What has been inherited from that title is better, tighter and more responsive controls, which are most welcome.

Dark Souls 3 may have some surprises up its sleeve for its later hours - but frankly, even if it doesn't, what's there is damn good stuff and hard to quibble. More of the same maybe - but I'm not burned out on Souls just yet.

Dark Souls 3 is out for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on April 12th.