Dark Souls, you beautiful, magnificent bastard. I’m always reminded of a scientific study from way back when when ethics were less important, where the separated a baby animal from its mother to see the effects. If the child received a positive reaction from the mother, they would become attached but not overly so; if the mother reacted negatively to them, the child became incredible attached to them, and finally, if the mother reacted sometimes positively and sometimes negatively, so the child didn’t know what to expect, the child would become the most attached. It’s an awful experiment, obviously, but that’s how Dark Souls is. Sometimes it treats you nice and you feel like a god, sometimes it beats the shit out of you and makes you hate it, but it’s hard to not want to come back over and over and over again.

But it’s a bolder, newer landscape than when the series started. Times have changed. Hell, Bloodborne has come out, and done extremely well. Dark Souls has adapted too, with Dark Souls 3 being slightly faster, slightly more mobile in comparison to its predecessors. I played (what I could of) a DEX build, focusing on low armor and high maneuverability, but mostly because I felt there was more around me I needed to dodge, to parry, and I didn’t think STR was going to cut it in the short term. It probably was, and I’m probably (I am) a scrub, but hey, that’s Dark Souls.

Early on, the game pops you into an Undead Cemetery, which felt very familiar. Of course, this is only a tutorial area, really letting you learn the ropes and hunt around for secret alcoves and the like before it drops you right into a boss fight, Iudex Gundyr.

This fight was loads of fun, but oddly it felt like a fight that deserved to be later in the game. Not late game, as it wasn’t hard, but definitely later. See, the way I see it, most early bosses don’t really have any tricks up their sleeves. The Taurus Demon had the drop-down stab mechanic, sure, but once you take the sword out of the bosses chest and he comes to life, he’s a very standard fight up until about half way when a huge dark shadow bursts out of him and starts attacking instead. This changes his movement, his attacks and his reach, which I suppose is something similar to the Smelter Demon from Dark Souls 2. Maybe that’s exactly what this game needs though, a little bit more shaking it up, and I can tell you now; that giant shadow creature thing, that wasn’t the last I saw of it. I don’t know if it’s random or set, but it appeared from normal mobs a few times which was…deeply upsetting for me.

One of the things I was very surprised by early was the gaining of one of my favourite weapons, the Uchigatana. This has been a staple of my DEX builds, so I was overjoyed. It was a hell of a fight for it though, but to the victor, the spoils. I didn’t actually get much good loot off enemies, so this was as good as it got for me.

The game felt harder than I was used to as well. It could be that I’ve been out of the loop for a long time, as I wager the difficulty of the press builds are usually turned down, but I died a lot. And I mean a lot. Knights wrecked me, normal mobs wrecked me (sometimes), bosses super wrecked me, and this damn dragon, just hanging around and burning enemies also wrecked me. Actually, he reminded me a bit of the Hellkite Wyvern, but I didn’t have the arrows to try and shoot off his tail. A shame.

Dark Souls has always been a hard series to preview. It’s hard enough to review as it’s so skill-based (or at the very least, strategy-based). I left the event feeling defeated but interested. It felt different, but still nostalgic, almost like it wanted to keep true to its roots but still feel like it had evolved. It’s hard to gauge whether it has truly achieved this in the few short hours I had to play it, but well, it’s hardly done me wrong before, so I have faith.