In a move that can only be called "inevitable," this year's E3 will bring about the announcement of Dark Souls III—if a source close to the matter is to be believed. (And they'd better be.)
And if you think it may be a little too early to announce a sequel to 2014's Dark Souls II, this timing actually falls in line with how early previous games were teased. Bandai-Namco announced a sequel roughly 16 months after the original Dark Souls' release, and that's about how far away we are from Dark Souls II's launch. Of course, the situation is a little different this time around; with the great Bloodborne sitting between Dark Souls II and III on the From Software timeline, you have to wonder how the people hard at work on these games haven't gone Hollow themselves. (Releasing four beefy RPGs in about six years seems pretty rough.)
This little leak brought with it some information that's bound to make plenty of Souls fans happy: Hidetaka Miyazaki—who directed Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne—will be taking the lead on Dark Souls III, rather than passing on these duties to his subordinates. There's plenty of misguided hate as well as valid complaints about last year's sequel, and while it didn't hit the same heights as its predecessor, Dark Souls II still feels like the most refined and playable take on From Software's brand of RPG—even more so than Bloodborne, which failed to carry over several of DSII's user-friendly features.
To be honest, the news of Miyazaki heading up a new Dark Souls sequel kind of surprised me, and not just because I thought he'd be busy with the entirely possible Bloodborne follow-up. Miyazaki's role at From Software comes off as pretty contrary to how most Japanese development studios work: Typically, creative talent remains in the director's chair for roughly a decade-or-so before moving on to a less hands-on and more supervisory role—which is exactly what Miyazaki did with Dark Souls II. Sure, this isn't always the case—Monster Hunter's Kaname Fujioka has yet to budge from his position—but Miyazaki has a lot more on his plate than the typical video game director. He's also President of From Software as a whole, so it can only be assumed he sleeps for 90 minutes a day and takes all of his meals intravenously.
If you're a regular reader of USgamer, you probably know that I'm a just a little cranky about sequels. So, does my excitement over this Dark Souls news make me a hypocrite? Only partially. While I've washed my hands of your Arkhams and Assassin's Creeds for giving me the same experience one too many times, From definitely treats their sequels more thoughtfully. And if you need proof, just check out the DLC for Dark Souls II; even if the core game left you wanting, these add-ons do their best to address fan feedback and bring some unexpected challenges. Even Artorias of the Abyss—the last piece of Dark Souls content Miyazaki directed—stands out as a major highlight, despite its admittedly clever reuse of content.
Frankly, there's plenty of places left for Dark Souls to go, and I'm interested in seeing what From does with the series now that they're not tied down to circa-2005 hardware—especially after Bloodborne. Sure, we're bound to get a boost in graphical fidelity, but what interests me the most is how a shift to the current console generation will improve Dark Souls' inner workings. Even though this system gives the player a definite advantage, after four games, I'm a little tired of seeing enemies restrained to an AI "leash" of sorts, which prompts them to start retreating after reaching a certain threshold—something that even Bloodborne was guilty of. And we can hope that, with the negative reaction to Bloodborne's lengthy loading times, From Software put their brightest brains to work on making sure this never happens again.
Still, even with From Software's amazing track record, there's reason to be cautious. Since Dark Souls entered production (presumably in 2009), it seems as if the creative team hasn't had a chance to rest their weary bones, or temporarily switch gears to an entirely new type of experience. But who knows? Maybe the folk at From are genuinely delighted at the prospect of making another RPG. Perhaps they've even been holding on to some stunning ideas that wouldn't have been possible in the previous console generation. Whatever the case, this year's E3 isn't likely to tell us much—if anything, we'll get a vague and titillating teaser in the vein of Dark Souls II. Whatever happens, it seems like there's no stopping From, a studio that's had one of the most well-deserved rises to power in recent memory. All we can do now is prepare to die all over again.