On 12 April, a great howl will go up from living rooms across the land as Dark Souls 3 returns sadistic gamers to a world of Gothic delights and towering foe.
To find out what horrors await, we attended an event hosted by the series' creator Hidetaka Miyazaki to test our mettle against its latest build.
Here's what you'll be coming up against.
The first thing that smacks you right between the eyes (shortly followed by an enemy's sword) is just how pretty the game is.
The ruinous landscapes of Lothric and Londor that we stumbled our way through were readily on a par with the lavish corridors FromSoftware bestowed on us with Bloodborne. We only saw a fraction of the game, but Miyazaki assures that the new world is on a much, much grander scale than both previous Dark Souls titles - thanks largely to the power of the next-gen consoles.
Light shimmers off puddles, capes swish - but more importantly, these improved visuals match the game's tighter control set. You won't be throwing your controller at the TV swearing that "That axe never touched me!": the enhanced graphics let you know exactly why you died, and just how far you need to dive to avoid that crushing blow.
10 new flavours
You'll have 10 different types of character to pick from at the start of the game, with some interesting new additions:
- Northern Warrior (pictured)
- Herald (he starts with a lovely massive spear)
- Thief (described by Miyazaki as being similar to the play style of Bloodborne)
- Assassin (super sneaky)
- Sorcerer (as it sounds)
- Pyromancer (though every character has a chance to learn pyromancy)
They've tweaked the stats
This one might only appeal to the hard-core Dark Souls fans, but the stats for building your character have had a subtle tweak. You'll now be able to level up on:
You'll also be getting "Skills" - a set of abilities added to weapons rather than your character (not unlike Bloodborne), in an attempt to help you get a literal edge over some of the harder bosses. Get planning.
A rough guide to beating the first three bosses
Here are our tips for taking down the first three bosses of the game:
- First boss (pictured): most of his attacks see him either sweeping his vast axe in an arch or jumping at you from range to bring it crashing down with terrible force. The blade doesn't extend the full length of the pole, so best to keep close and to his peripheries, dodging under it when he gives it a swing. Be warned, while he's slow, he can grab you if you spend too much time getting intimate with his front.
- Second boss: a strange, foggy, frog-like creature that wields a large mace in a ruined hall. It's arguably an easier battle than the first, provided that you spend most of your time running and dodging to get to the rear of this beast - where he's totally at your mercy. Don't bother using your shield - switch to heft your weapon in two hands to apply maximum damage.
- Third boss: a vast, putrid tree, capable of smashing you with its long limbs or secreting a deadly pus all over you. This is a long fight, so tool yourself up with health top-ups before heading in. The first stage of the fight takes place in a courtyard filled with smaller foe - don't bother with them unless they get too close, you'll want to focus on the pus-filled boils on the tree's front, sides, read and limbs. Pop these to deliver massive damage. Once you've taken off a fair chunk of its health, it'll break through the floor of the courtyard, forcing you to fight in the tight confines of a cavern below. Be patient, swiping at the boils remaining on the tree's front - but beware the extra arms it grows to grab at you if you stray too close, and the harmful pus.
It's still really, really hard
No surprise there - but it'll fill the franchise's fans with glee knowing that the latest instalment hasn't got any easier.
We spent around three hours taking on a build of the game Miyazaki assured us was set to an "easier" difficulty than the final release would launch with - just to let us see more of it. Even with that handicap in place, we were left squealing in rage after dying at the hands of the first boss for the fifth time in a row.
Miyazaki did comment that this game would allow you to gain a better control over the title's difficulties - but didn't explain if this might result in the game having an "Easy", "Medium" and "Hard" mode, or rather that the new 'Skills' should help you power past certain trying sections.