From Software's beloved Souls series comes to a presumed conclusion with the release of Dark Souls 3 today on PS4, Xbox One and PC. The release sees the return of director Hidetaka Miyazaki after the previous game was developed by From Software's b-team.
Initially launched in Japan on 24 March, today marks the game's release worldwide, so we've put together an article explaining everything you need to know about the return of gaming's most punishing adventure.
What is Dark Souls 3?
It's the third Dark Souls game, obviously, but also the fifth game in From Software's Souls series – which began with Demon's Souls in 2009 before the two previous Dark Souls games and then Bloodborne, a PS4 exclusive spin-off that launched last year.
The game itself is a third-person action adventure with deep RPG elements. Players build their character up to suit their play-style, and edge slowly through an oppressive, hellacious world that gives as good as it gets. The key to any Souls is to master its combat, which is entirely about timing and learning patterns. Mistakes are often punished severely.
Multiplayer also returns in its uniquely Soulsy form. Players are able to summon other players to fight or fight with in their single-player play-through, but also invade other players' games and royally mess things up for them.
Dark Souls 3 takes a few cues from Bloodborne, which, while definitely a Souls game, was notable for being a touch more accessible, with a quicker pace. Enemies are more likely to ambush you, and attack in groups. In previous Souls titles it was possible to fight some enemies one after the other.
Other features are new to Dark Souls 3 but not the series. A Focus Points bar sits between the stamina and health bars, effectively covering the use of magic, and Estus Flasks can be manipulated to recuperate either the FP or Health bar. There's also a luck stat that effects item discovery. Most changes are slight however, for the most part this is a Souls game through and through, so fans will know what to expect.
Just how tough is it?
Very tough. For some it's tough to the point that it's inaccessible, and they won't go near it. That's their prerogative, but many of them still see the appeal others find, and appreciate how well made the Souls games are.
Combat is the most immediately difficult aspect of the series, but less because of the skill required and more because of the preparation and fore-thought that's needed. It's also tough in other ways however. Players are given little to work with, meaning, for the most part, they must explore to find where they must go next, and discover on their own what items do and how they work. The story too is drip-fed and told more passively than in other major series.
It's not an easy series to get into, but it certainly reaps rewards, offering an unparalleled sense of achievement at times. For as long as Souls has been popular, the question of whether the series should be more accessible has been posed, but be careful suggesting such a thing; even when a die-hard fan suggests it, the responses from some can be quite angry.
Dark Souls 3 is out now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.