Following the success of From Software’s PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne, the Souls community was expecting some sort of new reveal from Hidetaka Miyazaki. The reveal is in the form of Dark Souls 3, and unlike its immediate predecessor, Miyazaki is back at the helm as the creative director of the game.
This obviously is a reason to cheer for the Souls community; Miyazaki’s work has an almost cult-following and is globally recognized as deep, complex, yet fantastically executed. Each game he has worked on has been better than the previous, his vision and imagination evolving with every project he decides to take the lead role on.
Sadly, Dark Souls 2 wasn’t one of those projects, and the resultant product was – for a larger part of the Souls followers – a disappointment. There is of course unjust ruthlessness in this opinion, because Dark Souls 2 in itself was indeed a fantastic game, and one of my personal favorite titles released last year.
With Dark Souls 3 in the works, we have Miyazaki back, and in addition to its cinematic reveal trailer at the E3, there was also off-camera pre-alpha footage shown to recognized Souls enthusiasts.
One of these enthusiasts is the much followed YouTuber and Souls fan VaatiVidya, who had the privilege of watching the pre-alpha footage at the E3.
His ‘First Impressions’ video of Dark Souls 3 doesn’t really show any footage, but he does give great insight as to what kind of gameplay and lore content we can expect.
One thing that bothered me though in his video was how he suggested that Miyazaki (who was personally presenting the game) consistently compared Dark Souls 3 to the original Dark Souls, all the while nearly completely ignoring the existence of Dark Souls 2.
Some say this might be due to speculations of Dark Souls 3 being a prequel to Dark Souls 2 (which is unlikely given the teaser seems to show a lot of Drangleic-inspired architecture), but Miyazaki’s emphasis and comparison with the original Dark Souls remained even during gameplay. This fact, for me, is concerning.
Now, there were a lot of things that Dark Souls 2 did that didn’t live up to the high standards set by the original game, but there were many things done correctly, and it is important that the right things need to be acknowledge. Dark Souls 2 is primarily accused of being less difficult than the first one, although the difficulty is in general subjective.
The mechanics however of Dark Souls 2 were much more refined, specifically gameplay-wise. The game had a slightly slower pace to it (and Dark Souls 3 is set to have a faster pace), but the combat in Souls 2 was more tactical.
Better decision-making in-terms of leveling investment was required, as all the stats were balanced unlike in the original game where Endurance was the well-known overpowered stat, and Resistance was essentially useless.
Similarly, the emphasis and application of use of a variety of weapons was a necessity instead of a luxury.
I rarely used the bow in the original Dark Souls, but found myself using it in the second one more frequently out of necessity against certain types of enemies that were extremely difficult to tackle otherwise (such as those notoriously relentless mace-wielding Drakekeepers in Dragon Shrine).
This was a feature I admired in Dark Souls 2, because it compelled players to explore multiple paths. By the time I was around level 150, my player could cast advanced Faith miracles, could cast rudimentary spells, could use pyromancy effectively, and use bows, all-the-while being a primarily melee-oriented character who could tank through several bosses.
This diversity allowed gave me a much more enjoyable experience in-terms of gameplay. Yes, the linearity of the environment and excessive use of humanoid enemies/bosses was a tad bit annoying, but the gameplay mechanics really stood out.
Another thing I admired was the correction of the back-stab, which greatly balanced out the PvP. No longer were players attempting to cheaply fish backstabs throughout a PvP duel like Dark Souls, whose much criticized insta-backstab is regretfully coming back in Dark Souls 3.
Parrying was obviously poor in Dark Souls 2, but I felt that was also done to balance things out, because once you learned how to parry in Dark Souls 1, everything became too easy. I was dropping Black Knights like flies by the time I learned how to parry effectively, and Gwynn who should’ve been the toughest boss of the game became almost pitiful.
There are too many good things to learn from Dark Souls 2 for it to be ignored, and while we’d love to see the open-world and interconnected feeling of Dark Souls 1 along with fantastic boss designs such as the Gaping Dragon and Kalameet, I would like Miyazaki to take into account the refinement Dark Souls 2 brought while directing the next installment.
Even boss-wise, there are many positives to take from Dark Souls 2. The Fume Knight was one of the best bosses and also statistically one of the most difficult in any Souls game. It was a wonderful fight, and the two-staged battle really challenged a player’s ability to adapt and adjust to varying boss move-sets in little time.
Combining the refined gameplay mechanics of Dark Souls 2 along with the fantastic settings and creative aspects of the original will guarantee the best game in the series.
I trust Miyazaki’s vision, so let’s hope he does take note of the positives of Dark Souls 3’s predecessor during its development.