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We Played the First Four Hours of DARK SOULS III, and Here’s What We Learned

When I got my hands-on look at Dark Souls III back in August, I was impressed with what I saw. Considering this may very well be the final entry in the series, I was excited, yet still a bit nervous about what the end product would look like. While we don’t know much about the story, and/or how it connects to the previous titles—aside from what we saw in the opening cinematic, and witnessed in the “True Colors of Darkness” trailer—the four hours of content I was able to play through last week has bolstered my confidence that the game will indeed close out the series with a bang and please its devoted fanbase.

Firelink Shrine

Return to the Firelink Shrine

If it wasn’t already apparent after my first play through, things are certainly crystal clear now. Dark Souls III takes some of the best features from Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, and yes, even Bloodborne. The biggest influences come from the intricate, winding level design, which was popular in the first Dark Souls game, and the Bloodborne-esque weapon art system that is new to the Souls series—both of which we discussed in depth in our previous feature.

Aside from gameplay, however, there are several other things that have carried over from FromSoftware’s existing stable of titles, including several familiar places and faces. When it was first revealed that a location called the “Firelink Shrine” would be making an appearance in Dark Souls III, we weren’t sure what it meant. Would it be the same Firelink Shrine we saw in the first game? How is it connected to the rest of the series? While the location is still shrouded in mystery (I wouldn’t have it any other way), I did get to see the area (pictured above), and got a better grasp of what’s in store for the place.

After successfully (and easily) defeating the first boss, Iudex Gundyr, I was awarded a twisted sword and given access to the new Firelink Shrine. Once there, I was greeted by a new fire keeper, who—like Dark Souls II’s Emerald Herald and Bloodborne‘s doll—increases the player’s level. After doing so, I took the sword I’d just won, thrust it into the dark bonfire pit, and watched it burn. From here I was able to warp to the next area, the Wall of Lothric (which I’d previously played through in August).

Dark Souls III Image

Familiar faces, different places

From my understanding, this area will serve as the game’s main hub area, much like the Nexus did in Demon Souls and the Hunter’s Dream did in Bloodborne. We’ll be returning here quite frequently (via bonfire warping) to level up, converse with the various NPCs we’ve sent back here (two of which I found within the first four hours of gameplay), and reinforce weapons. Speaking of weapons, guess who’s back? Andre of Astora, the blacksmith from the first Dark Souls!

Similar to his actions in the first game, Andre reinforces weapons using titanite shards, and is able to mend broken ones. Infusion, however, now requires both a gem and a special type of coal. Those familiar with Andre will fondly remember meeting him at the Undead Parish in Dark Souls, after discovering a new bonfire and following the clanging sounds of his work. I experienced a similar phenomenon when encountering him in Dark Souls III. In fact, I almost missed him in my eagerness to warp to the next location. Upon my return to the shrine, I followed the same sounds to my old friend.

On top of being useful, Andre’s return has exciting implications for the lore, especially in terms of connectivity to the previous games. When the first game came out, the developer had said that the blacksmith was supposed to have a larger role in the game, and may have been related to Gwyn. Though it was scrapped for Dark Souls, I’m hoping his inclusion means we’ll at least learn more about him. If anything, it means we’ll see more crossover with the NPCs and story. The Crestfallen Warrior also makes a return to the Firelink Shrine, so anything is possible.

Dark Souls III Image 3

The Pyromancer strikes back

Another exciting Dark Souls feature making a return is the Pyromancer class (depicted above). Since we were able to start the game from the beginning, I got the entire rundown of all of the classes available in the game, along with their descriptions, which I’ve listed below.

  • Knight: “An obscure knight of poor renown who collapsed roaming the land. Sturdy, owing to high vitality and stout armor.”
    • Starting stats: Level 9; Vigor: 12; Attunement: 10; Endurance: 11; Vitality: 15; Strength: 13; Dexterity: 12; Intelligence: 9; Faith: 9; Luck: 9
  • Mercenary: “A mercenary and veteran of the battlefield. High dexterity allows masterful wielding of dual scimitars.”
    • Starting stats: Level: 8; Vigor: 11, Attunement: 12, Endurance: 11, Vitality: 10, Strength: 10, Dexterity: 16, Intelligence: 10, Faith: 8, Luck: 9
  • Warrior: “Descendant of northern warriors famed for their brawn. Utilizes high strength to wield a heavy battleaxe.”
    • Starting stats: Level 7; Vigor: 14, Attunement: 6, Endurance: 12, Vitality: 11, Strength: 16, Dexterity: 9, Intelligence 8, Faith: 9, Luck: 11
  • Herald: “A former herald who journeyed to finish a quest undertaken. Wields a sturdy spear and employs a gentle restorative miracle.”
    • Starting stats: Level 9; Vigor: 12, Attunement: 10, Endurance: 9, Vitality: 12, Strength: 12, Dexterity: 11, Intelligence: 8, Faith: 13, Luck: 11.
  • Thief: “A common thief and pitiful deserter. Wields a dagger intended for backstabs alongside a military-issue bow.”
    • Level 5; Vigor: 10, Attunement: 11, Endurance: 10, Vitality: 9, Strength: 9, Dexterity: 13, Intelligence: 10, Faith: 8, Luck: 14
  • Assassin: “An assassin who stalks their prey from the shadows. Favors sorceries in addition to thrusting swords.”
    • Starting Stats: Level 10; Vigor: 10, Attunement: 14, Endurance: 11, Vitality: 10, Strength: 10, Dexterity: 14, Intelligence: 11, Faith: 9, Luck: 10
  • Sorcerer: “A loner who left formal academia to pursue further research. Commands soul sorceries using high intelligence.”
    • Starting Stats: Level 6; Vigor: 9, Attunement: 16, Endurance: 9, Vitality: 7, Strength: 7, Dexterity: 12, Intelligence: 16, Faith: 7, Luck: 12
  • Pyromancer: “A pyromancer from a remote region who manipulates flame. Also an adept close combat warrior who wields a hand axe.”
    • Starting stats: Level 8; Vigor: 11, Attunement: 12, Endurance: 10, Vitality: 8, Strength: 12, Dexterity: 9, Intelligence: 14, Faith: 14, Luck: 7
  • Cleric: “A traveling cleric who collapsed from exhaustion. Channels high faith to cost many and varied miracles.”
    • Level 7; Vigor: 10, Attunement: 14, Endurance: 9, Vitality: 7, Strength: 12, Dexterity: 8, Intelligence: 7, Faith: 16, Luck: 13
  • Deprived: “Naked and of unknown origin. Either an unfathomable fool in life, or was stripped of possessions upon burial.”
    • Starting Stats: Level 1; Vigor: 10, Attunement: 10, Endurance: 10, Vitality: 10, Strength: 10, Dexterity: 10, Intelligence: 10, Faith: 10, Luck: 10


Rekindling the Unkindled

One of the things we’ve picked up on during Dark Souls III‘s campaign is the similarity between the Undead player character from DS and DSII and DSIII‘s “Unkindled.” As in the previous games, the beginning of the third entry sees the player awaken in an area (in DSIII‘s case, The Cemetary of Ash), fight through a tutorial area, and battle a boss (Iudex). The only difference, really, is that the player character, cloaked in class-specific garb glowing with embers, goes by a different name.

Also, instead of restoring humanity, the character restores their ember using the new item. The description, which reads, “No Unkindled can ever truly claim the embers that burn within a champion’s bosom which is precisely what makes their yearning for warmth so keen,” gives us a bit more information about the player’s fate.

Similar to reverse hollowing, restoring your ember enables co-op. Following the description of the ember is, ”With the strength of fire, the summoning signs of Unkindled become visible, and seekers of embers can be summoned to join in co-operation. But beware, the embers may also attract invaders.” Though I didn’t get a chance to try the co-op, I did meet an invader.

Dark Souls III Praising

The Verdict

If you’re a fan of the Souls series (like I am), Dark Souls III is sure to impress you. From the small chunk of the game I was able to play, it looks like the title is going to successfully weave tendrils of existing lore throughout the series’ final chapter. I can’t wait to see more once it launches worldwide on April 12.

Will you be checking out Dark Souls III? Let us know in the comments below, or share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @Samantha_Sofka!

Image Credit: Bandai Namco

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