My footsteps echo down down the hallway of these castle ruins, and all is quiet as I step into the shadows. But then it's there, snarling and vicious, leaping at me with fangs bared. I roll aside just in time, spinning around for a counterattack. And then they come from behind -- four gruesome, twisted figures with long limbs and drooping skin. My stamina recharges quickly, but my frantic dodges are limited in this cramped space, and the creatures finish me in seconds.
This is Dark Souls III. It's faster and more streamlined than its predecessors, but still brutal enough to kill me without warning. It requires more patience and defense than Bloodborne does, but borrows from it as well; its developer From Software is taking cues from its newest franchise in more ways than one.
"Dark Souls and Bloodborne are two separate franchises, but both have [Hidetaka] Miyazaki-san's personal touch," producer Brandon Williams says. "One thing that people are already noticing is the faster speed at which combat and action in Dark Souls III moves. It's a bit faster than previous Dark Souls games but not as fast as Bloodborne. I'd say it's just right."
This speed is apparent right away. In true Dark Souls fashion, the demo begins at a bonfire, and this is the only respite from the dangers below. I descend a nearby staircase and confront two hellhounds, both of which pounce on me with alarming agility. In earlier Souls games, I might have raised my shield in defense. But because of my time spent with Bloodborne this year, I opt to dodge between the beasts, splitting the difference as they pass right over me.
The roll in Dark Souls III isn't as quick and shifty as the sidestepping in Bloodborne, but it is more responsive than the dodge in Dark Souls II. Stamina is also less of a problem here than it used to be, but if I'm not careful, I can still exhaust my character, leaving him defenseless against the monsters all around me.
If I do conserve my stamina, there are new options for me this time around. As a Dark Souls veteran, I appreciate any new tools I can use against my powerful foes, however rare they might be. And with Dark Souls III, From Software is implementing a feature called Arts.
Much like Trick Weapon transformations in Bloodborne, Arts abilities let me explore alternate attacks without switching items. For instance, with my starting weapon -- a longsword -- I can add two more attacks to my move set. One is a wide swipe, while the second, more powerful strike propels me forward with a heaving thrust. There's a windup period, and timing it so I avoid damage in the process is tricky. But then again -- Dark Souls always is.