March 14, 2016

I have never been good at FromSoftware’s Souls games. Ever since Demon’s Souls was released in 2009 (or 2010, for those that had the patience to wait for the Australian release), I’ve always had the sort of relationship with the franchise you don’t want to admit. You see, I’m genuinely quite terrible at it.

I am horrendous even compared to other people who aren’t any good at these games. I don’t really understand a lot of the back end systems; I only ever played the Warrior class and I don’t really mess around with magic. Hell, I’m still prone to using the occasional Estus Flask at an inopportune moment in a mad panic. When some skeleton dude or whatever comes and tries to mess me up, my plan of attack is to start rolling around the floor and flailing my sword wildly. Basically, I have no idea what I’m doing. And yet, I have still played all the games in this series, and I’ve still had fun being absolute garbage at them. So when I got the opportunity to head to Bandai Namco’s Sydney office to check out Dark Souls III, I prepared myself to be subject to a serious amount of punishment.

Following a quick cinematic introducing you to the game’s main foes, the Lords of Cinder, you get to create your character. There isn’t a whole lot new here regarding stats and classes are far as I could see, but I was told that the creation tools have been given an overhaul and provide a lot more depth. I don’t really get too involved in this as I like my character to be dressed in as much armour as possible, so after giving the preset a mullet and naming him ‘Aussie Battler’, I was in the game.

There’s an opportunity to get a quick rundown of the controls, but the only real significant change here is the introduction of a ready stance, which gives you a bit more flexibility and agility regarding attacking. If you’ve played a Souls game before, you’ll be straight into it…or dead, if you’re anything like me. Within the first 10 minutes of the game you’ll come across a sword-wielding statue kneeling in a wide open area, and in my naiveté (or just plain stupidity), I ran up to it and without hesitation hit the button prompt to remove the weapon. My excitement upon receiving a new weapon was quickly dissipated when I remembered this is a Dark Souls game; by removing the sword I triggered a boss fight. I’m not sure if you can actually avoid this and just head straight to the Firelink Temple (more on this later), but damn did I feel dumb.

Dark Souls 3 combat

Upon his inevitable death, I was greeted by what is one of the more significant changes to the way Dark Souls plays. In the previous games, death was punished by becoming Hollow: your maximum HP would decrease, you’d lose your ability to summon White Phantoms to aid you, you’d lose your collected souls etc. However, in Dark Souls III it seems the only penalty for death is the loss of collected souls, which are recovered in the usual way by retrieving them from the location of your last death.

I managed to eventually beat this early boss (it only took about four or five attempts). Just beyond this boss is the Firelink Temple, which is a name that anyone who played the first Dark Souls game will be familiar with. The Firelink Temple serves as the same purpose in Dark Souls III, being a safe haven where you can get weapons repaired and interact with characters integral to the story. However, the similarities end there. This is a very different looking Firelink Shrine, and Dark Souls III eschews the openness of the first game and has the shrine act as a central hub similar to Dark Souls II, which will probably come as a disappointment to some fans.

Going from the Firelink Temple into the next major area, you immediately noticed how much larger the environments are compared to the previous games, how gorgeous the bleak an ashen scenery is. It seems as if the game is not only designed to utilise the current-generation processing power, but also to take advantage of the increased agility that your character now enjoys.

I started to actually get into the swing of things. I didn’t die too often and when I did, I was quick to learn my mistakes and began to amass a healthy amount of souls. Stupidly, I started to forget that Dark Souls is a complete bastard disguised as a video game. At one point, I came face to face with about 5 enemies blocking my path, with a staircase to my left. Not wanting to let Aussie Battler die again, I decided the best course of action was to give the enemies a miss and see what awaited me at the top of the stairs. Oh what a terrible choice that was. No sooner had I reached the very top step was I engulfed in flames by a fucking dragon. But the great thing about Dark Souls was that upon my resurrection at the bonfire, I was able to return to that same area and use my knowledge to lure the enemies that had previously blocked my path towards the waiting dragon and have it obliterate them for me.

Dark Souls 3 dragon

This elation that followed was, of course, swiftly terminated by my sword breaking mid-combat with an 8 foot tall knight. You can’t win ‘em all.

Dark Souls III is as tough as the series has ever been and it doesn’t do a whole lot to mix up the formula, which is exactly what fans will want to hear. However, I worry that after Bloodborne and the Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin DLC last year,there might be a bit of franchise fatigue at this point. I was also a little concerned that despite the jump in processing power provided by the Xbox One and PS4, there were still the occasional frame rate dips similar to those seen Dark Souls and Dark Souls II in the previous generation of consoles. I was assured that these weren’t present in the previous build, so hopefully it gets ironed out before release.

Whether you’re jumping into the franchise for the first time, the type to take pleasure in doing a Dark Souls run without taking a single hit or , like me, you skipped over Bloodborne, then there’s definitely a lot worth being excited for Dark Souls III when it hits Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on April 12th.

April 23, 2019

Sony has introduced a new policy regarding sexual content. Japanese developers are reportedly angry and many western gamers are once again convinced that “Social Justice Warriors” have imposed their will on the gaming community. But is this being driven by the return of American Puritanism or is something else going on? It might not be as simple as a culture war or a California-driven plot to change gaming. Some of the biggest recent controversies in gaming and the internet may be all about China. Business Is A Numbers Game And These Numbers Are Astronomical Businesses exist to ma...

March 4, 2019

Here’s a quick look at the 3rd quarter reports for some of the big Japanese game companies for the financial year ending 31st March 2019.   Nintendo continues to exceed expectations, with net sales up 16.4%, operating profit up 40.6% and ordinary profit up 23.5%. A good holiday season saw almost 15 million Switches sold this year, with Smash Ultimate selling 12 million and the Pokemon Let’s Go games selling 10 million. Smash Ultimate was the main driver of new Switch Online subscriptions, although many new subscribers chose shorter terms like single month subscriptions. No m...

February 7, 2019

Did you know that the Nintendo 3DS is eight years old? It’s weird to think about, and it sure makes me feel old. Although the little system becomes overshadowed more every year by its newer sibling, the Nintendo Switch, it’s still the chosen platform for some spectacular game releases that wouldn’t really fit anywhere else. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr’s Journey is one of those games. When the original Bowser’s Inside Story released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, it was praised for how well it used the system’s dual screens; shifting between perspectives is visu...

November 20, 2018

Luigi’s Mansion is, for various reasons, one of my favourite games of all time. I’ve finished it at least six or seven times since its 2001 release, including an almost-complete gold portrait run, and I’ll jump at any chance to replay it (though not as much as a friend of mine, who’s finished the game 31 times). The trailer for the 3DS version filled me with equal parts excitement and apprehension: It’s now accessible for a new generation, but how can you improve on the original game’s simple perfection? Once again, I picked up the flashlight and ventured into Luigi’s Mansion. T...

August 26, 2018

If I told you to imagine a game where you smash pots and whack baddies with your sword, what would you think of? How about a game where you use items to solve dungeon puzzles, and collect all sorts of goodies along the way? Well, it’s not the game you’re thinking of…probably. It’s something a bit more off-beat, with more ‘rainbow’ than ‘bow and arrow’: It’s The Swords of Ditto, a roguelike action-adventure RPG developed by Onebitbeyond. Your game begins with you being awakened on the beach (strong Link’s Awakening vibes here) by Puku, a mysterious beetle-like creature....

June 13, 2018

After some great and not so impressive conferences at this year’s E3, Nintendo was highly anticipated to bring us some juicy news. With the potential for some much wanted first-party titles for Switch, I stayed up until past 2am with high hopes for news on Pokémon, Animal Crossing, and more. With caffeine and sugar in my system, my body was ready. Like previous years, this year’s presentation followed the Nintendo Direct format,. The show began starting on a less colourful note with Demon X Machina, a mecha game for the Switch. Following this was Xenoblade 2 Story DLC ‘Torna –...

June 12, 2018

In my first year of university, I saw a jock-looking dude walking around wearing his ‘Class of 2005’ high school top; nothing out of the ordinary, I was sure he was well beloved by his peers. In my final week of study, I saw that same guy wandering around the campus by himself, slumped shoulders still adorned by that very same top — this was in 2009. Sony’s E3 Showcase this year reminded me of that guy still clinging to the glory of past years. This was most evident during the special presentation for The Last of Us Part II. This was Sony at its most self-indulgent. It gathered gu...

June 12, 2018

Ubisoft is one of the few gaming monoliths that can still surprise us. Who would’ve thought that Assassin’s Creed: Origins would mark the franchise’s return to form? Who could’ve predicted  the critical successes of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle? This was reflected in previous years through Ubisoft’s E3 presentations, which were always the most interesting and unpredictable, backed by an sincerity unmatched by any other company. It’s curious, then, to see Ubisoft pump the brakes with this year’s showing. Beyond Good and Evil 2 closed off last year’s show, so it’s fitting ...

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June 11, 2018

Bethesda had an interesting 2017. Despite a lacklustre trip to Bethesdaland and reports that several of its games didn’t meet sales targets, the company was still the number one publisher on Metacritic, a fact proudly claimed by Senior VP of Global Marketing Pete Hines. Though if this year’s E3 press conference is any indication, 2018 and beyond are going to be very big and important years for the publisher. The show kicked off quite literally with a bang as inspirational speaker Andrew W.K. and his band introduced us to to the recently unveiled Rage 2, as well as endless shots of aud...

June 11, 2018

The Xbox One has arguably provided the better experience in recent years. Its Backwards Compatibility program has given new life to old games, and the Xbox Game Pass has given users a healthy library of legacy titles. However, the console is behind in one regard: New games. In order to furnish its seemingly lacking game library, Microsoft is looking outward, including to places we wouldn’t normally expect. The common criticism was that Microsoft isn’t producing first party games to the same extent that Sony is. To address this, Xbox lead Phil Spencer dedicated three or so minutes to a...

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