Having played every Souls game and the excellent Bloodborne I expected this new game with great anticipation and after spending close to a hundred hours on it, I’m here to answer that question, and given that it’s just before the release of the ‘Ringed City’ DLC
The flames are fading and this epic (although hard to follow) story is coming to an end. The Lords of cinder must be returned to their thrones by our “hero” the Ashen one, so the flame may once again be relit. As with every Dark Souls game the end goal has to do with lighting the first flame so the age of fire doesn’t end. Once again the game throws the player into this dark and gritty world only armed with his starting equipment and no choice to do anything but go forward.
The goal of this game is pretty straightforward when compared to it’s predecessors. In the hub area (which I’ll talk more about in the gameplay section) you can see the thrones which you must fill with the remains of the Lords of Cinder, every single one of them is distinct and gives some hints to the kind of enemy you’ll face . Each Lord has their own unique lore which can be fairly interesting and you’ll often encounter npcs with questlines tied to them. Which gives me the chance to talk about the strongest suit of this game’s story, the npc questlines; traditionally the souls games tell their story through their world,reading all the item descriptions will become common practice, if you desire to learn more about the story, since there no cinematic cutscenes or any form of exposition to be found here. So the npcs play a big part in learning more about the story and in Dark Souls 3 it seems their role is even more substantial. Many of those stories can reach to many touching moments and also your understanding of the world and its major figures to deepen.
Now one of the most common said flaws of Dark Souls 3 is the amount of fanservice in display. Lots of older characters and locations appear in the game and this is often criticised as lack of originality.Well it is, to a certain extent. Making the player nostalgic of the extremely loved original Dark Souls is a good tactic to make your game more loveable by longtime fans. Although people can be too harsh at times I’d lie if I said I didn’t enjoy some of the fanservice and the callbacks to the older games in the franchise but some more originality wouldn’t hurt. Dark Souls 2 although continually bashed for it being different by the community, was braver in that aspect, Dark Souls 3 tries to play it safe.
Now gameplay has always been the strongest part about the Souls’ franchise. The classic souls formula that makes the games fun and challenging is still here but some changes have been made. For starters, this is the fastest the souls games have been. Getting some of that Bloodborne DNA in it’s system, Dark Souls 3 is really fast when compared to the previous games and this can be observed not only in every animation, but also on the enemies who are also sped up to compensate. Well that’s a nice change because it keeps the gameplay fresh, but I’m not so sure the same can be said for the rest of the changes.
Before we delve more into the rpg mechanics or the combat let’s talk about that aforementioned hub. The firelink shrine is your link to the outer world and it itself is disconnected from it. I was a big fan of the interconnected world of the original Dark Souls but sadly that world design is not used here, rather, Dark Souls 3’s design harkens back to Demon’s souls. Also fast travel can be used from the beginning akin to Dark Souls 2. So in the hub you will level up, upgrade your equipment and also find various vendors and npcs. Also merchants and mentors of magic,miracles etc. found in the world will come here to set up shop or teach you respectively.
Taking a look at the rpg mechanics, many aspects of the game have been a bit simplified. No more armour upgrades or stats to scale with, in fact, armour in this game is almost just for looks now. Especially since the highly controversial change of the poise mechanic which now makes tanky builds useless. You see, poise is a stat that determines if you can be stunlocked or not, wearing heavy armour in older games would mean that you would get stunlocked mostly by heavy weapons that can “break” your poise by dealing a higher value of poise damage than the one your armour currently had. Now no matter how heavy the armour seems to be even a dagger can stagger you. That’s also part of the Bloodborne DNA since armour had mostly a decorative role there too, but the problem is that these are too different franchises and I don’t want my Dark Souls losing its rpg elements.
Also crafting materials seem plenty. By the end of the game I had tons of them, enough to max out more than a few weapons, that’s really unexpected for a souls game. Although it allows for more experimentation with various weapons, it also makes it easier for you to reach endgame with maxed out weapons, since there is no need for tracking down those titanite chunks and slabs anymore.
Other than that the core gameplay remains great. Combat feels meatier and more satisfying, every impact of your weapon on an enemy has a distinct feel to it. Thanks to the added speed it feels much more responsive than the previous games and the changes since Dark Souls 2 to the parries and the backstabs are for the best.There also some great boss encounters, without delving into spoilers I’ll just say that some bosses arenas combined with their unique fighting style will give you an unforgettable experience. There are also a few bad ones too, bad as in being too easy or gimmicky, but I didn’t find them to be too negative towards my experience, still I wish they weren’t there in the first place or made more challenging.
PresentationGraphically Dark Souls 3 is, okay nothing too spectacular for this current gen , but artistically wise it’s great. Brooding with atmosphere from its gothic designs, you will be walking inside a decaying world filled with all kinds of monstrosities, and some exceptionally well designed enemy bosses and mobs. Also level design is great as expected from a souls title. The only negative I have to say in this section is that the game can look a bit too “samey” at times, the colour palette doesn’t change that much and you’ll see more than a few cathedrals.
As far as sound and music goes, they are exceptional. From the harrowing cries of the monsters you fight to the ambient sounds of nature this game just oozes with atmosphere in the presentation department. The music of course is amazing, you’ll be listening to the soundtrack long after you have beaten the game.
Dark Souls is well known for it’s unique online features. Everyone can leave notes down for players to see whether they be helpful or harmful. Players can invade each other’s world using a certain item with limited uses, but you can also find early on a version of that with unlimited uses provided you have the skill to defeat the tough enemy that carries it. Co-op is easier than ever with the password matching system since friends can set a common password so that they can find each other easily when leaving down their summoning signs. I’d say this game provides the smoothest multiplayer experience yet. PvP though is heavily criticised by the community for the lack of poise I analysed in the gameplay section of this review , since tanky builds are irrelevant, still that gives the chance for other aspects of the gameplay to be explored, I’d say it’s a double edged knife.
Dark Souls 3 is a great game although not by any means the masterpiece many hyped it up to be. It plays it safe by adhering to elements fans like in the first game, while also simplifying other aspects of the gameplay, thus making it somewhat more accessible but also taking choice away.
Still, many of the core gameplay elements that make the souls franchise remain and this harrowing yet beautiful in it’s own way world, will give plenty of reason to explore and keep pushing on.