Playing an early area of Dark Souls 3 at a recent Bandai Namco event and fighting its AI enemies is like retreading old ground. You get the typical array of Dark Souls weapon attacks to slash, smash, and blast your enemies, plus there are new Weapon Arts abilities available with every weapon. At first, using the new abilities with the traditional backstabbing and circle strafing tactics just made me think, "Yup, this is Dark Souls all right." But just as I started thinking the game was more of the same, I began thinking how the Weapon Arts system would affect the game's online player versus player battles, and it changed my outlook entirely.
While I didn't find the new Weapon Art moves to be particularly useful fighting Dark Souls 3's early enemies (backstabs are still the most effective way to quickly dispatch AI controlled aggressors), I can see how these new attacks can potentially be incredibly useful in one-on-one, online battles we'll engage in later in the game. I haven't actually faced off in any online battles yet, but from what Weapon Arts are adding to your movesets, it sure looks like player versus player duels are about to get much more complex.
Think of the Weapon Arts as an extension of the Dark Souls series' two-handed weapon mode. In previous games you can fight with a standard sword-and-shield set-up, or hold your weapon in both hands for extra damage. You can still do that, but now there are Weapon Arts, which give you a few more options such as additional stances to powerful special moves. But the best thing about the new system is, it functions differently for every weapon.
Hold the Weapon Art button with the default longsword and shield equipped, and your warrior will take the sword in both hands with the hilt held high and the blade pointing straight out in a ready position. From this stance, you can perform a powerful uppercut slash using the weak attack button, or do a devastating running thrust by hitting the strong attack. The greatsword isn't as complex. Using your Weapon Art causes your character to slam the ground with his or her foot, sending a shockwave out that pushes back enemies that have gotten too close. Then there's the dual scimitars, which unleash a whirling spin attack with both blades.
Facing online opponents in the previous games has always been a game of trickery. If you can catch your opponent off-guard and deliver a devastating attack, you have one foot in the winner's circle. Weapon Art abilities will give players many more tools in their bag of tricks. With the Weapon Arts it would be easy to do things like telegraph weapon stances, making them think you'll attack with one move set, but then switch stances at the last second. Or, you could launch a greater number of surprise power attacks and special weapon abilities (like the super stomp) with the tap of a single button. Those things - on top of the already intricate move-sets - could make player invasions and duels even more unpredictable.
There is a ton of potential in the Weapon Arts system. The Dark Souls series has always made the weapons feel unique, each with its own hidden strengths to discover. With Weapon Arts there's more to experiment with even in familiar weapon-types you might have thought you had already figured out. The weapons in Dark Souls 3 could gain an incredible amount of depth over their predecessors, making mastering one of them and destroying any online opponent who challenges you an incredibly rewarding achievement. There's still much more of Dark Souls 3 to experience, but if From keeps up with these types of deep surprises in the game mechanics, the third entry in the series should be anything but the "same old thing."