I first played the original Dark Souls years ago, and put it down pretty quickly without, truth be told, really giving it a fair shot. Last year I tried Bloodborne, despised it initially (describing it as being “hard for hard’s sake” on this very blog), but then went on to fall head over heels in love with it. I now rank the game amongst the very best I’ve ever played. Dark Souls II: Scholar of The First Sin came shortly thereafter, but I found it ugly, clunky and unrewarding, ultimately giving up at the second boss never wanting to set eyes on the damned thing again as long as I Iived. It felt backward and old fashioned rather than challenging or sophisticated.
As you can imagine, then, I had mixed feelings about the upcoming Dark Souls III. It certainly looked quite like Bloodborne, but would it play like it too? I missed out on the opportunity to find out first hand by never properly finishing the application process for Dark Souls III’s Network Stress Test (read: demo), but I’ve been watching coverage of the game closely for a while now, leading up to its April release date here in the UK. A few days ago, a very important tidbit of information came to light as regards Dark Souls III’s gameplay, which has altered my perspective on it quite dramatically.
Looking back, I think the single most frustrating gameplay mechanic in Dark Souls II for me was ‘hollowing’. When you die you become hollow, losing a chunk of your maximum life. Keep dying and this will continue to happen until you get to 50% and is only reversible via rare and coveted Human Effigy items. It’s a real kick in the teeth that every time you fail the challenge becomes greater; like taking penalties and having to move a further 20 yards back every time you miss. But hollowing may not feature in Dark Souls III, from what I can gather.
My suspicions were first aroused while watching some of Eurogamer’s in-game videos (which I’m having difficulty linking to here but I’m sure you can find yourself). Granted, some of them are spliced together from multiple playthroughs and attempts, but at no point did I see a hollowed health bar.
Lots of gaming sites have recently weighed in on the game following a preview event, and many are reporting that hollowing seems to be out completely, replaced by an inverse mechanic of beefing yourself up called ‘kindling’. In a kindled state, your character has more health and the ability to summon co-operative help. Kindling is lost on death, but can be restored by killing bosses or using Embers.
The key difference here is that players are being rewarded for playing well, i.e. maintaining a powered up, kindled state by staying alive, rather than being beaten down over and over for their mistakes. As some are pointing out, though, it’s possible that hollowing was simply removed from the most recent preview build for the benefit of journalists, YouTube dignitaries and the like. Try as I might, I can’t find concrete confirmation either way.
But, if hollowing is out for good, its something I can really get on board with. I’m desperate for more Bloodborne, given that a true sequel, which although unconfirmed must be on the cards, is likely years off. By removing my main source of frustration, From Software would make Dark Souls III orders of magnitude more appealing.
See you on the Wall of Lodeleth, maybe?