The Souls series is the very definition of an unlikely hit. When Demon’s Souls came out in 2009, the game made a splash with critics, but it took time — and the semi-sequel Dark Souls — before many gamers started hearing about it. What makes these games unique is that they’re deviously tough, with no obvious story line and some of the bleakest, most miserable worlds ever created for a video game. And yet people love them.
With the U.S. launch of Dark Souls III set for April 12, 2016, we thought we’d take a look at what we know about the game to make sure you’re ready for it.
1. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel
If you’ve played any of the previous entries in the series, you basically know what to expect from Dark Souls III. Like its predecessors, it takes place in a dreary fantasy world filled with ghouls, dragons, and creatures that are much worse than that. You fight them using weapons, shields, and magic, making your way slowly from area to area, collecting souls as you go.
2. You’ll die a lot
Seeing as this game doesn’t alter the core ideas behind Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, it should come as no surprise that death lurks around every corner. Even regular enemies can take you out in just a few hits if you’re not careful. And bosses? Expect to die regularly as you learn their patterns and figure out how to counteract them in order to emerge victorious. Every step in this game is hard won. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re not going to have any fun playing this game.
3. Weapon skills have been added
So what’s new in Dark Souls III? For one thing, weapon skills. Weapon skills are powerful secondary attacks you can use with each weapon in the game. Just like everything in a Dark Souls game, they have pros and cons. On the plus side, these attacks can drain a major chunk of your enemy’s health bar. To balance out their power, they take a long time to wind up, leaving you vulnerable to attacks, and they cost FP, a resource you’ll also need to cast spells.
4. No more hollowing
In previous Dark Souls games, dying resulted in more than just lost souls. Your character would become “hollow,” which meant your abilities or hit points would be reduced unless you used an item to bring yourself back to normal. Hollowing was a pain, because isn’t losing souls (i.e., experience points) punishment enough? Does the series really have to kick you while you’re down? Thankfully, the whole hollowing system seems to have been removed from Dark Souls III.
5. You can feel at home in Firelink Shrine
Just like in Dark Souls II, if you want to level up, you’ll have to go to a central hub area called Firelink Shrine to deposit your souls. This is where you’ll also find shopkeepers and a blacksmith who can help you upgrade your weapons. It’s a safe haven, unlike every other inch of the game world.
6. Bosses have more than one attack pattern
If you manage to survive long enough while fighting a boss, you’ll discover that all of the bosses have somewhat predictable behavior, but you’ll also notice that every boss changes its pattern at some point during the fight. That means a single strategy won’t get you through any boss from start to finish. Expect to spend extra time learning a new set of patterns about halfway through each boss battle.
7. Secrets and shortcuts abound
One neat thing about the design of the Souls games, including Bloodborne, is that exploring often leads to shortcuts that let you move from place to place much quicker once you’ve unlocked them. The same goes for Dark Souls III, so make sure you explore every nook and cranny. You never know where you might end up.