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There's finally a demo for the Dark Souls 3 mod that transforms the whole game into a bizarro fan sequel to the series

 Desert Sorceress standing before mountain temple.
Desert Sorceress standing before mountain temple.

Dark Souls: Archthrones feels like a Souls series romhack, mashing up disparate parts of FromSoftware's body of work in a custom campaign for Dark Souls 3. This is one for the fans, full of clever winks and references to other games in the series, but as one of those fans myself, I sure do not mind being pandered to.

From the jump, Archthrones' opening level is a condensed homage to Demon's Souls, featuring the same stinky potato boy Vanguard boss⁠—new school fans will recognize his moveset and animations from the Asylum Demon in Dark Souls and Erdtree Sentinels of Elden Ring. I thought I was a shoo-in for a first try victory against this clear "supposed to lose" boss, but at half health he whipped out a new funky moveset ripped straight out of Bloodborne's Old Hunters DLC, and I was put in my place.

That kind of cheeky subversion of expectations gives me a lot of hope for Archthrones⁠—at its core this is an exercise in reference and imitation, but having that kind of inside baseball sense of humor by Souls fans, for Souls fans feels like its perfect niche.

If you're good enough at this sort of game to reach the boss' second phase, your brain probably has enough holes in it to recognize and be delighted by the Bloodborne gag disguised in a Demon's Souls gag, and I for one was tickled by this kind of freak nerd turducken. It takes one to know one.

And the quality of craft here is worthy of praise too: in addition to chopped and screwed assets straight out of FromSoft's catalogue, the custom model work on display is excellent. One of the starting classes, the Duelist, comes with this elegant plate armor and half cape that would make for a great end game set, and it was fully bespoke for this mod.

Installation's a cinch: just drop the demo files into your Dark Souls 3 install and run the game. After a first time setup, running Dark Souls 3 will take you straight into Archthrones, which has its own saves and online server to keep you safe from DS3's anticheat. At the time of writing, I've had more luck playing Archthrones offline, but the fact that it has mainline Souls asymmetrical multiplayer ambitions at all is commendable.

For uninstalling and playing the original game, you'll likely want to fully reinstall Dark Souls 3 just to make sure everything's fully clear on the saves/anticheat front. Archthrones does not currently have a set release date, and you can check out the demo for yourself over on NexusMods.

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Night sky nebula visible in cathedral interior over giant knight
Night sky nebula visible in cathedral interior over giant knight

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Knight approaching ethereal dancer standing before cliff
Knight approaching ethereal dancer standing before cliff

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Knight walking on bridge looking up toward windmill
Knight walking on bridge looking up toward windmill

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Knight approaching bell in tower over desert
Knight approaching bell in tower over desert

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Desert Sorceress standing before mountain temple
Desert Sorceress standing before mountain temple