Dark Souls 3 Review – A Welcome Addition to the Franchise

Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
Developer: FromSoftware
Publisher: FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment

Dark Souls 3 (III), possibly the last in its series, is a welcome addition to franchise. Without giving anything away, it’s set in the mysterious Kingdom of Lothric and your job (the Ashen One) is to prevent the coming apocalypse and the only way to do that is to end the Lords of Cinder, or in other words, kill them. That’s essentially the crux of the game, but with anyone’s Dark Souls experience, the story unravels with additional branches and surprises and it’s largely refreshing to play a game where you discover the story yourself. But more often than not, I seem to forget the story or what mission I’m currently on because of how heavily gripping and intense the fights are, so you just want to kill these dudes and move on.

It’s also a good thing to note that this is the last Souls game in the franchise so while it is unfortunate that there won’t be more Dark Souls games, I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the future! Besides, I’m sure we don’t want it to become another Call of Duty franchise to milk as much money out of it as possible, I know I don’t.

Character creation isn’t so bad

The character creation has always been something I haven’t been impressed by because I’ve seen better. Also you don’t really get to see your character’s face much anyway so it’s all pointless in the grand scheme of things but having to customize your character is just something to enhance the RPG experience. While it’s certainly improved over the previous games with more in-depth customization, let’s just say it’s not the best. However this is soon quickly forgotten by the time you start playing and get to mow down the demented foes waiting for you.

Dark Souls III Character Creation

How does the game play?

Well it plays as anyone familiar with the Souls series expects and in regards to the combat, there doesn’t seem much of a difference compared to the previous Souls games, however Dark Souls III takes the good things from the prequels, including Bloodborne and puts it all in one game.¬† Again, these are things that bug me when I’m playing sequels, what does it add or what does it improve? Now I admit I’ve played Dark Souls I, but skipped Dark Souls II (even I don’t know why!) but I can tell you that there is indeed an improvement over the combat and feel of movement in Dark Souls III. And that’s partly why I’ve enjoyed this game. It feels much smoother to play, like Bloodborne does and I’ve noticed that it is easier than Bloodborne and previous Souls games for the first few bosses (especially the first boss), or it might just be that I’m getting used to the style of gameplay and learning attack patterns alongside not wanting to die as much could contribute to that. However saying that, the difficulty ramps up from the first to the second boss quite significantly and it does get progressively more difficult as you play on. A good bit of advice is to be on guard at all times!

Can’t help but notice it’s vast similarities to Bloodborne in regards to combat and the designs of buildings and creatures but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing because I favour the combat far more than in Dark Souls 1 because it doesn’t feel anywhere near as stiff. This isn’t meant to be a comparison post to Bloodborne but it’s really not that difficult to pick up on the similarities once you’ve seen or played Bloodborne. Don’t get me wrong, it’s far from a bad game, in fact it’s a hell of a game, but it would have been nicer to see more unique designs. It might just be me and I’m being too critical but it’s how I felt while playing Dark Souls III.

Dark Souls III is a timing game. Hit the roll button too slow and you’ll get more than you bargained for, time a strike wrong and you’ll miss or get hit before you’re even halfway into your attack. Once you’ve nailed down the timings, you won’t lose any battle (unless your equipment is so weak that it won’t do much damage and you’ll eventually make a mistake). If you don’t panic, you’ll play much better and you’ll get hit less and the important thing is to stay calm, even after getting hit or losing your position. It happens. When you get hit, you’ll know next time how not to get hit. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Dark Souls III Fight

There is a leveling system yes, but I don’t find leveling up or upgrading weapons nearly as rewarding as when I finally beat a challenging boss because it’s the satisfaction of besting the beasts after spending a grueling amount of time on them. It’s so much that even the heap of Souls and items that you get from the bosses feel like added bonuses. That’s what makes Dark Souls as a franchise, especially Dark Souls III, so god damn great. Physical rewards simply feel like afterthoughts, even though a big reward is always granted in the form of Souls and and item or two.

With Dark Souls III, Focus Points have returned (from Demon’s Souls) and they’re used to execute Weapon Arts or special moves that each weapon type has. A slash weapon will do a move that relates to a powerful slash, although these moves will consume a fair amount of FP and can only be recovered by using Ashen Estus Flasks or at a bonfire. Weapon Arts is 100% optional and only serve as another form of combat and I feel that they aren’t worth doing because of how much FP is consumed and I prefer the extra Estus Flasks since the number of flasks you have are shared between HP and FP flasks.

Armour can no longer be reinforced but as a result, there are a lot more choices of armour to choose from, which I think is a great change simply because you won’t be stuck with one set of armour after upgrading it and newly obtained armour can used instantly. Therefore the focus of reinforcements are solely on weapons, which is good that it’s still around because it gives you a sense of progression. A progression of your weapon(s) becoming stronger as you find the materials to do so.

A constant sense of danger

Having to look around each and every corner (hidden creatures) slowly is what a Dark Souls (and Bloodborne) can only do. It’s a different kind of fear. A fear that you don’t want your character to die and lose your hard earned Souls and this is what I felt, a sense of danger no matter where I ventured, even in safe places I felt uneasy because of the what’s the come past such safe havens. You expect something fierce and ferocious but you don’t know what exactly to expect. And this is that fear. Sometimes I’d completely turn the other way to find a different path in order to avoid dark paths. But sometimes you have to be brave and stick it out. I’m just going to stick this quote in below since it explains Dark Souls in 7 words. And yes, it’s a Star Wars quote.

Death is a natural part of life.” – Master Yoda
Barely any direction given in Dark Souls III, if at all (like all Souls games), which is great touch because most games nowadays hold your hand and that can get boring after a while. Sometimes you’d like to figure things out on your own and explore without any direction given (i.e. a map) and rely solely on your instincts. Perhaps you could say Dark Souls III does this too much, but it’s what the game is about, doing it all by yourself (with the occasional help of NPCs) to give you as much as a challenge as possible, without it being overbearingly difficult of course! This is what makes the game so incredibly immersive and thought provoking. I always feel that I’m in this Kingdom, slaying these foul foes in order to get to my goal.
Reading messages put down by other players is something which adds to the Dark Souls experience. They’re a way to enhance the gameplay by either lightening the mood or aiding you with advice. There are moments, although rare ones, where there are messages that don’t help you out at all and lead you into dangerous situations. But this only happened, well only a couple of times in my playthrough. But reading random or funny messages such as “rear ahead, try/therefore thumb” that are behind the corpse of a creature simply make it that much more enjoyable. Even the helpful ones that guide you show that other players want you to succeed. You can also put your own messages down (from templates only) and it can be a heap of fun thinking of funny phrases or witty lines. You can easily turn these messages and bloodstains (show how other players have died in that area) in the settings menu just in case you don’t want any kind of outside help. The helpful messages and bloodstains can add to the tension, especially before boss fights where again, you’re expecting something to appear and challenge your might, or in other words waiting for your inevitable first death against that enemy.

Much too easy with another player

In my experience, pairing up with another player extremely trivializes the vast majority of the game, especially boss fights. The first time I paired with another player was against the Crystal Sage because I wanted to see how much difference another player would make, and boy was it a difference. The boss died extremely easily and we ignored one of the main mechanics just by simply out damaging the boss. I haven’t touched the summon signs since then. The whole point of every Souls game is to be challenged and struggle against mighty foes, so why add an option to ruin that experience? It’s not exactly I would fault the game for as it’s entirely optional and the whole game is completely doable on your own.
Dark Souls III Summon Sign
With any games, bugs are a plague, lurking within a game and waiting to be unveiled and of course Dark Souls III is no exception. Parts of breakable objects such barrel lids, planks from boxes and tables are left unaffected when breaking them. As a result, they are left floating in mid-air, which I presume isn’t what’s supposed to be happening. There’s also occasions with a couple of enemies where they go off-track from their patrols and instead walk in a small circle,. but eventually they end up ‘fixing themselves’ and get back on track. Really, there aren’t any game breaking issues or anything major, which is great! Even though I tend to pick up on these small details, I shrug them off if they don’t affect gameplay in any way. Have you found any?
Sound effects, voice acting, visuals, music all added to to an atmospheric and intense gameplay experience. Every nook and cranny is well detailed and certainly you feel uneasy when you need to be or glad when you’re at the mercy of a gorgeous view. Often, you’ll stumble upon friendly NPCs (not everyone is a hostile lunatic) where you get the chance to talk to them and mostly they are…creepy and weird, which is enhanced when they talk about something you have no idea about or when they laugh and it’s eerily quiet. It’s extremely freaky and effective, especially when you’re alone with them, although it’s not so bad when there’s more than one friendly NPC in your presence.
Dark Souls III Environment

Is this a worthy game?

Hell yeah it’s a worth game. Dark Souls III is filled with suspense, thrilling action and terrifying creatures that make you question how sane the designers are. Everything from the sad soundtracks to the grim environments make you feel like your fighting madness itself and that it’s believable and you have a clear purpose. Spending an hour will certainly turn into three quite easily because there’s so much to do, and an hour may not be enough to progress much! The game constantly made me question if there’s any sort of good in this world, which is what a great game does. It makes you think about the game more in-depth and to connect with it on a more personal or emotional level. I highly recommend picking this up because the experience you’ll have with it is damn worth every penny.

Score: 91%

What’s your take on the latest Dark Souls III game? Enjoying it so far or are you loathing it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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