Of all the E3s for me to miss, it had to be this one, didn't it?
Since I started regularly attending the event in 2011, From Software's RPG series has always had a presence, but this year, it had a presence. Where past Souls showings amounted to a few kiosks within a modest installation, this year, Bandai-Namco gave it the full E3 treatment, replete with a blood-spewing fountain and booth babes. (I can only assume their gold lame pants and low-cut tank tops are included as bonus armor in the inevitable limited edition.)
While it's still kind of hard to digest the fact that humble little Demon's Souls eventually created such L.A. Convention Center spectacle (which unfortunately involved dusting off one of E3's sleazier trends), the amount of Dark Souls 3 on display didn't really come as a surprise. Even though it has an "early 2016" release date—one I predict will slip into the summer months—production on this upcoming sequel remains in a fairly early stage, meaning no one at the event actually had any hands-on experience with the game. Instead, attendees watched a hands-off presentation led by none other than the reclusive director of Dark Souls and Bloodborne, Hidetaka Miyazaki. (Not that he's a J.D. Salinger-type—dude's just incredibly busy.)
Based on what I picked up reading various impressions, things are looking up—even if this latest installment couldn't possibly have the revelatory impact that Dark Souls or even Bloodborne had. Based on the details of this presentation, it seems part 3 will return to one of the most-missed elements last seen in 2011's Dark Souls: A contiguous world. (At least, that's what Miyazaki tried to emphasize in his talk.) Of course, this new sequel features Dark Souls standbys like bonfires, dragons, estus flasks, and the like, but that doesn't mean it's not trying anything new. Every preview I've read has highlighted DS3's "weapon arts" system as one of the more interesting new features for the series; apparently, each weapon type now has unique attacks and stances—somewhat similar to some of the odder armaments mostly found in Dark Souls 2's DLC.
There was a bit of hand-wringing over the future of Souls after it was misreported that this would be the last game in the series, but thankfully, Miyazaki soon clarified that the series will continue—but in a different form.
In a roundtable interview, Miyazaki stated, "...I believe [Dark Souls 3 is] the turning point for the Dark Souls series. First of all, Dark Souls has a really unique worldview. It's not a good idea, continuously releasing titles for this series because of that factor. And this will probably be the turning point of From Software as a whole—it's the last project we started working on before I became president. It's basically From Software, they started working on this project when it was an older generation. So it's a turning point. It'll be a turning point, but not final."
That's great news, especially if you're like me and extremely sensitive to sequel fatigue. There's only so much one developer can do with the fantasy genre (shh, don't tell BioWare or Bethesda), after all, and Bloodborne did a great job of proving From Software could put a different spin on the Souls experience. If anything, that PS4 exclusive felt more like a horror-action game with some light RPG elements—pretty far removed from the sword-swinging dark fantasy of Dark Souls.
Later in that same interview, Miyazaki stated that since From Software worked on sci-fi and ninja-themed games in the past, future releases may dip back into this subject matter. And really, the design philosophy behind the Souls series and Bloodborne doesn't have much to do with what the games are actually about, so there's no reason why these proposed ideas couldn't happen. I guess it's just refreshing to hear a video game director be openly worried about sequel fatigue—and kind of astonishing that his publisher would actually allow him to put their cash cow out to pasture.
While it's understandable to worry if another massive RPG is too much, too soon from this developer, I'm pretty optimistic about their future—plus, it helps that Miyazaki won't have to do all the heavy lifting, what with From's Isamu Okano assisting with directing duties. And though there's still much to learn about this newest Souls game, the coming months will no doubt bring us more deatils, and perhaps—gasp!—hands-on impressions. And if you know your USgamer editors, you know I'll be here, covering every tiny scrap of new info exhaustively. That's kinda my thing here.