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Dark Souls III

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Dark Souls 3 came out in 2016. For those unfamiliar with the series, Dark Souls is a challenging action role-playing game made by the Japanese studio FromSoftware. It’s the brainchild of Hidetaki Miyazaki (no not that Miyazaki), a different genius) and a series I’ve invested many hours each title of since Dark Souls 1 (missing out on Demon’s Souls). Anyway, here are my thoughts on it:

Difficulty

It’s hard to rate the difficulty of this game, having played so many previous titles and become so familiar with the series, but to me it felt like Dark Souls 3 is the most accessible title in the series.

That’s not to say its easy, in fact it’s still very challenging in places. But one of the main things I mean by this is that players are able to summon NPC help for nearly every boss in the game if things are getting too difficult.

On top of that I found that there were few bosses I found myself repeatedly dying to (Nameless King and Lothran/Lothric being exceptions..!) and many areas were straightforward to explore without dying in the first attempt.

Combat

To me the game’s combat felt like a step back after playing through Bloodborne. It was slow and clunky, relying heavily on shields. I get that this is what every game in the Dark Souls series is like, but ultimately Dark Souls 3 lost ground made in From’s previous title.

Where the combat did shine was in the new weapon arts and additional attacks. The player is given a lot of diversity in their weapon selection. I found myself duel wielding for the majority of my playthrough, because the fast attacks and insane damage output made many battles a breeze, but still fun to play.

Lore

The game builds upon the lore of the Souls series in a number of interesting ways. It mainly feels like a continuation of Dark Souls 1, but gives a number of nods to Dark Souls 2 in its items and descriptions. Like any Souls game the lore is obscure and requires digging into, reading every item description, watching YouTube videos, scouring Reddit threads and so forth, before the significance of the events and items can be truly comprehended. Dark Souls 3 does not disappoint in this respect and is a nice continuation of the story, attempting to wrap things up neatly with its multiple endings.

Scenery

The game is filled with seemingly requisite panoramas and some stunning scenery. The player actually starts at one of the highest points in the world and from there it’s just a descent into the increasingly murky lands below Lothric.

Along the way there is plenty to look at and admire. Dark Souls 3 reimagines some of its more notorious areas from previous titles in the series (Smouldering Lake->Lost Izalith/Demon Ruins, Farron Keep->Blighttown, Catacombs of Carthus->The Catacombs, Archdragon Peak->Dragon Shrine etc), and from what I’ve seen it’s often an improvement.

Bosses

The bosses of Dark Souls 3 never seemed to reach the challenge of previous titles with a notable exception (Nameless King), but the fights were often enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the battle against the Abyss Watchers (basically an army of Artorias’) and the surprise appearance of my Siegbro against Yhorm. By the end of the battle I was yelling at him to use the Storm Ruler while I frantically dodged. Needless to say, he didn’t let me down.

NPCs

On the whole the NPCs were enjoyable. I found Siegward to be the most enjoyable. His simple bravado, siegbrau swigging and snoozing were a winning combination reminding me of Siegmeyer (of course) combined with Solaire as if reincarnated as one person.

Patches makes a return, and even though he’s a total bastard, you can’t help liking the guy. Really makes for some fun moments. Some of the notable nods were Hawkwood, the now named Crestfallen Warrior with a more interesting storyline and Anri, the reincarnated Oscar, Knight of Astora with the role that was cut from Dark Souls 1. Newcomer Greirat, the thief with a heart of gold, was also a welcome addition to the ensemble.

Exploration

The game sits somewhere comfortably between Dark Souls 1’s intertwining and engaging level design and Dark Souls 2’s fairly linear ‘run in this direction until you can’t go any further’. The player is able to teleport between bonfires from the beginning of the game (I see that Lordvessel there Firelink!) and the areas often seem to loop around each other, with new shortcuts being opened up all the time as the player explores. In saying that, the player’s journey is basically from the top of the world to the bottom and back in a straight line. Honestly, it didn’t bother me much, but it is a shame to see what, again, felt like a step back from the original installment (as well as Bloodborne’s genius level design).

Crafting, Upgrades and Infusion

Crafting felt streamlined and straightforward. The player only needs to collect a fairly limited range of items to upgrade almost any weapon. The blacksmith is located in a convenient location and there’s no need to acquire various embers to allow the blacksmith to upgrade weapons to their full potential (just coals for infusion).

I found it interesting that the player is no longer able to upgrade their armour, but think it was a good decision on From’s part as upgrading armour in Dark Souls 1 and 2 often felt like a waste of resources that could be otherwise spent on weapons and shields. It also meant that players weren’t penalized for switching what armour they wore depending on the prevailing threat at the time.

Infusion is a mechanic carried over from Dark Souls 2 which I didn’t utilize much. In saying that it seemed to have the potential to allow any build to use basically any weapon. What I mean by that is that as long as the weapon requirements were met, the player is able to infuse a weapon to scale with say, their intelligence, even if the weapon naturally scales with strength. I ended up sharpening my weapon to scale better with my dex/int build (specifically the dex stat), gaining all the benefits of improved scaling without any significant drawbacks.

Replayability

Like all Souls series’ the game offers NG+. But the main reason to come back is to try a different build, with different styles of weaponry. Basically the game has near infinite replayability, as the player has the ability to make each play-through feel very different depending on their choices and preferences.

It took me 3 years to finish (after a long hiatus due to Souls series fatigue), but I’ve finally got round to it. I should say that I realise that if you’re interested in this game you’ve most probably already finished it yourself, or read everything you need to – but this review was promised before Dark Souls 3 came out. Like my Siegbro; I’ve finally fulfilled my promise, praise the sun.

– Lance Donnell

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