We've seen but a small slice of Dark Souls 3, both at a recent preview event and at Gamescom last week, but our early glimpse of the game is promising. Yes, it looks like more Dark Souls — and, in parts, a bit like From Software's other game, Bloodborne — but after the divisive Dark Souls 2, a sense of familiarity is welcome.
At Gamescom, we sat down with Dark Souls series creator and From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki to talk about his latest game. We touch on the new Battle Arts system, which gives the game's weapons a new layer of attacks, Dark Souls 3's boss fights and more.
Here's what we learned about Dark Souls 3, which comes to PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Xbox One early next year.
On Battle Arts
"While working on Bloodborne, I started to realize what new things I should bring to Dark Souls 3, which has different characteristics, to allow players to have a viable range of tactical options and character build options," Miyazaki said. "Obviously, in Dark Souls, the player is allowed to use items, magic and more.
"However, as additional elements — as an evolution — I've added the Battle Arts to each weapon. Something similar will be added to spells in the game, and those definitely provide something new to Dark Souls 3. Those will maintain the basics, but bring something new to Dark Souls 3, that will definitely solidly polish the Dark Souls franchise, while remaining a Dark Souls game."
Miyazaki says the addition of Battle Arts will have a huge impact on how the game plays. It even sounds like some of the game's encounters and boss fights are being built specifically with the new mechanic in mind.
"It will drastically change the gameplay; it's not a minor thing," he said. "Battle Arts allow a player to have a wide range of tactical options. Even if players are defeated [by a boss], having Battle Arts will motivate players to try the same scene again, but using Battle Arts."
I asked Miyazaki about his philosophy in designing Dark Souls bosses, both from aesthetic and gameplay perspectives. After being disappointed in the variety and visual design of Dark Souls 2's boss fights, what we've seen of Dark Souls 3 inspires confidence that From Software is on track to deliver encounters that are far more memorable.
"One of the elements I want to bring to boss character design is contradiction," Miyazaki said. "We have the Dancer of the Frigid Valley; she is definitely a formidable enemy, but at the same time players sense not only that it's scary, but [that] there's a sense of sadness. Contradicting elements — that's something I want to bring to boss character design, not just fearful enemies but something more that can be sensed from each boss character.
"In regard to gameplay elements for bosses, we'll bring the heat-up system [to Dark Souls 3]," Miyazaki said, referring to the way bosses will alter their tactics and attacks mid-battle. The Dancer of the Frigid Valley boss fight, for example, changes things up by giving the character a second sword and a new suite of attacks.
Miyazaki also said he hopes to avoid "stereotypical" boss fights in the third Dark Souls game.
"I'm aware there are some boss designs that get a bad reputation from some of the fans out there," he said. "I'm aware of that."
On challenges, story and staying fresh
"Dark Souls without challenge, that cannot exist," Miyazaki said, responding to a commonly asked question about whether this new Dark Souls will be any more or less difficult than past games. But he said he prefers not to use the word "difficulty" when talking about Dark Souls games. Instead he talks about players overcoming challenges.
While Miyazaki says From Software is not trying to create something no player can possibly overcome, some of those challenges will upset their expectations. Some will make players exclaim, "Oh, my god," he says.
Dark Souls 3 will maintain the same type of cryptic storytelling that the Souls games are known for, as Miyazaki said he prefers to leave the interpretation of the games' stories up to players. Responding to a question about whether Dark Souls 3 is set in the same locations as the first two games, he said that though they share the same "worldview," "I have no intention of using the first two games as a basis for Dark Souls 3."
Now that the Souls series is well-established, its once-opaque mechanics and extreme challenge familiar to millions of players, I asked Miyazaki how he plans to upset expectations, as he once did with Demon's Souls in 2009.
"I definitely want to do something fresh [for Dark Souls 3] and I'm still working on it," he said. "I cannot go into details about it yet."