The third and final chapter of the Dark Souls series is almost here.
It's been a long, agonizing wait since Dark Souls III was announced back in 2015 - and the fact that From Software has only revealed small glimpses and teases into the game's world only made the wait even harder. After the disappointment of Dark Souls II, fans have been hoping for a true return to the series' core mechanics - and, while Bloodborne was a fantastic game, it wasn't Dark Souls.
Now, with less than a month left before the game hits store shelves, From Software has finally pulled the curtain back on Dark Souls III. As with any Souls games, there's a lot to go over, even in the first few hours of the game - From Software clearly isn't holding back, and Dark Souls III features one of the most robust introductions in the series to date. As such, there's a lot of new ground to cover: new locations, new bosses, even new (and a few returning) characters:
Return To Firelink Shrine
Dark Souls rarely feels safe, but there's always one place that players can call home. In Dark Souls III, Firelink Shrine returns to serve as the game's central hub - though this new version of the shrine is unlike anything else seen in Dark Souls. It's a great, looming chamber, shielded from the ash and darkness of the world outside - and, as a result, players will find a small community waiting inside.
The first person players will notice is the Fire Keeper. Similarly to other characters in the franchise, the Fire Keeper will help players level their character up, as well as provide guidance through the game's story. The 'Crestfallen Warrior' (real name unknown) also fulfills a Dark Souls trope - basically, he's there to rain on players' parades.
Andre, the blacksmith from the Undead Parish in the first Dark Souls, makes a surprise return - and his role hasn't really changed much. He's there to make weapons and help keep the Unkindled alive - on the other hand, one of the Fire Maidens from Dark Souls II returns to sell items to any player who needs them. Of course, this is just the beginning of the game: judging by the size of the Shrine, there's plenty of room for more characters.
The Lords Of Cinder
There's one last character waiting to meet players at the Firelink Shrine: Ludleth of Courland, the only Lord of Cinder who didn't abandon his throne. It is Ludleth who informs players of the four remaining kings and their task to return them to their thrones - in a way, he basically kickstarts the story. His pale visage and shrunken form elicit a sort of pity that's reminiscent of The Fair Lady or Priscilla from the first Dark Souls, though he's quickly overshadowed by the looming seats of power that surround him.
These thrones reveal the four lords that players will eventually fight against: Yhorm the Giant, the Watchers of the Abyss, Saint Aldrich of the Deep and Holy King Lothric. These characters have been teased in trailers before, but this is the first time that players can get a real sense of their immense size.
Three New Foes
Speaking of scale, Dark Souls has always presented players with some of the most intimidating bosses in gaming, and Dark Souls III is no different. Along with the rest of the game's opening hours, the first three bosses have also been revealed - and again, From Software isn't pulling any punches.
The first boss fight that players will find is the battle against Iudex Gundyr, a corrupted knight from ages past. As the game's first boss fight, he's relatively simple: players will want to wait for his attacks to wind up, then dodge or parry at just the right moment. It's the basics of Dark Souls all wrapped up in a single fight, so veteran fans of the series probably won't have much trouble with him.
The second and third bosses are a bit different: Vordt of the Boreal Valley serves as the frozen, armored watchdog of the Lothric Castle's front gate. He almost acts as an extremely aggressive version of the original Dark Souls' Asylum Demon, though he hits quite a bit harder than his predecessor. The Curse-rotted Greatwood is, strangely enough, a corrupted tree - sure, it sounds silly, but even just keeping track of everything during his fight is challenging, much less actually beating the thing.
It's a lot to digest, and it's only just the beginning. If the first three hours of Dark Souls III are packed with this much lore and new boss fights, the full game could end up being on an entirely new level - not just to longtime fans, but to gamers as a whole.
The wait is almost over: Dark Souls III is set to launch on March 24.