Alright, E3 is just around the corner and the leaks are starting to spring in the secrecy dam like there is no tomorrow. A few days ago, the words ‘Dark Souls 3’ were flying about social media, largely being ridiculed by a whole load of people who thought they knew better. Suddenly, a bunch of supposed ‘leaked screenshots’ appear and suddenly the rumour has significantly more credibility! Sure, they might still be a load of faked rubbish but as anyone who is into this whole video games thing knows, damn it is fun to speculate, isn’t it? Here’s a bunch of stuff we’re hoping for in this (possible) next Dark Souls game.
First and bloody foremost, let’s get the Miz back on the Dark Souls train. Dark Souls 2 gets a bad rap for having a few rough sections and a couple of strange design decisions and one gets the feeling that these simply wouldn’t have happened on Miyazaki’s watch. Look at Bloodborne, which has his trademark consistent worldbuilding through areas, enemies, weapons and items. Everything has a place where it belongs in a game created with Miyazaki at the helm. He’s been made President of FROM Software, but has said in a few interviews that he is keeping his presidential duties to a bare minimum and delegating where he can so he can focus on game design. After the success of Bloodborne, his name means more to the average gamer than it did around the launch of Dark Souls and having him attached to the project would be a huge deal.
A CONSISTENT WORLD
Lordran, in Dark Souls, is a real place. I’m telling you. I know my way around it better than I know my way around where I live. Yharnam in Bloodborne is also a real, consistent place. You can look up and see the Cathedral from almost the start of the game and you can absolutely go there and look around it. In Dark Souls 2, there is a section where you go UP an ELEVATOR to get to a LAKE OF LAVA. The world of Drangleic makes absolutely no sense, whatsoever. As cool as The Lost Bastille was, you can only access it by essentially quick travelling to it from a couple of points, giving the impression that it isn’t part of this consistent, singular world, instead just being another level in a video game.
One of only a few areas Bloodborne was a slight disappointment was the lack of variety in weapons. Sure, you pick a class at the start of Bloodborne, but any Souls game veteran worth their salt knows that your class and the way you play the game is dictated primarily by your weapon, rather than some numbers on a stat screen. Dark Souls has so much choice, whether you want to lug around a hulking greatsword or have a nimble rapier, parrying everything that comes near you. You can even do a ‘suicide run’ into a ridiculously tough area right at the start of the game to get a specific weapon that will make things easier for you, or even - in the case of some hardcore Twitch streamers - pick some rubbish weapon and finish the entire game several times over with it. The leaked report seems to indicate a hell of a lot of new weapons, not including any returning from previous games, and this is very good news indeed.
There isn’t much in the way of magic in Bloodborne. This did fit in with the lore of the world they had created, but it is one less way of playing the game than the ‘Souls’ games has. Some of the most interesting stuff in Dark Souls and its sequel involves using magic to buff your weapons to a ridiculous degree before leathering a previously quite tough boss. Magic has always played second fiddle to the physical weapon based combat in this series but being able to toss around a few fireballs here and there adds a bit of variety and replay value, as you try out some strange, magic specialized character build.
LORE AND CHARACTERS
The worlds created by FROM Software are rich with history. Every single thing you see has a reason for being there. There’s no pointless bits of window dressing. In Bloodborne, even what appear to be inconsequential statues decorating areas have important ties to parts of the lore. The characters, however, are a bit lacking. Much like Dark Souls 2, it has a few interesting characters but not one of them has their backstory fleshed out to the same degree as Artorias the Abysswalker, or the tragic tale of Siegmeyer of Catarina, or even the is he/isn’t he tale of Solaire, supposedly the lost son of antagonist King Gwyn. Whether they’re referencing these old legends or carving out new ones, going back to the level of detail Dark Souls gave to each item, location and character would be rad.
Battling other players has always been a major part of the Souls experience but it is normally in these sudden, random duels within the levels - the opposing player preventing you from progressing in your own game. Dark Souls 2, however, added a few designated PVP areas which have their own little gimmicks to change things up a bit. The Belfry Luna/Sol areas pit two teams against each other, or the Rat Covenant area in the Grave of Saints, where you can set traps to try and foil your opponent, are both interesting ideas that appeared to be the beginnings of some really interesting stuff but in Bloodborne there isn’t really anything like this. Perhaps Dark Souls 3 could take these fledgling ideas and flesh them out into some new multiplayer experiences in the Souls games already unique online functionality?
Proper invasions are missed in Bloodborne. You can only be invaded if you are waiting for a player to be summoned into your game or when a ‘woman appears ringing a sinister bell’. You can even find and kill her to prevent them, too. In Dark Souls, if you are human, you can be invaded. Doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, someone can just waltz into your game as a red phantom and kill you. It is fantastic. Getting killed by a red phantom is one of the most frustrating things in all of gaming, but offing one… or being one yourself and killing someone else in their game, is one of the most satisfying. Limiting invasions was a smart decision in Bloodborne, likely to get a lot of the new players to stick around. They’re here now, so let me start killing them!
WEIRD, NEW SECRET MECHANICS
One of the coolest things about the Souls games is that they’re full of these weird mechanics that no one truly understands for years, if ever at all. Look at World Tendency in Demon’s Souls. Can you look me in the eye and honestly tell me how that works? What about Vagrants in Dark Souls? Anyone else even seen one? Even the simpler stuff, like the white rings appearing on the ground and hearing the bell tower sounding in the first Dark Souls are really cool little touches when you finally figure out what they mean. Bloodborne is a touch lacking in this regard. There was a lot of noise made about ‘Beasthood’ and whether or not you could transform into some kind of wolf-like creature, but once the Player’s Guide was released it was clear that this wasn’t the case. A shame!
FOR THIS TO BE THE LAST, FOR A BIT
Okay, FROM, time to slow your roll a bit. Don’t get me wrong - I really enjoyed Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 2, while Bloodborne and Dark Souls are two of my all-time favourite video games - but let’s relax a bit, here. Obviously, it must be nice to suddenly have this franchise that sells like gangbusters, but if Dark Souls 3 exists and manages to be released in 2016, that’s one a year we’ll have had since 2014. Dark Souls and Bloodborne share a common gameplay core, but are world’s apart in terms of how they go about giving you that experience and all the better for it. This *is* FROM Software we're talking about, mind, and if Miyazaki does return to oversee the project then there's every chance they can maintain their incredibly high standard of quality and I’m all for that, but the possible reality of a tired, boring ‘Dark Souls ‘17’ isn’t a reality I have any interest in.