Castles, dragons and souls – What more do you really need in a video game? Dark Souls 3 came just in time to scratch our masochistic itch.
The Dark Souls franchise is one of gaming’s rare series where you will want to keep trying no matter how punishing it can be. And each time you push on further you will get that feeling of euphoria, like you really accomplished something. What sets it apart from other games is that even getting to the next check-point, the game’s iconic bonfire, is a huge accomplishment. Not a small part of this is attributed to the fact that some of them are hidden reasonably well.
And the game is so punishing that every time you die, Dark Souls 3 will remember it and if you die enough times it will punish you further by lowering your health semi-permanently. That is, until you heal yourself by paying a fairly high number of souls at the shrine. Like the lore of the game the process for this can be fairly convoluted. First, you have to acquire an item and bring it back to the Shrine Maiden. And all that on the condition that you took at least one Dark Sigil from an NPC.
The Dark Souls systems are so complex that even after a closer look you could be mistaken about how some concepts such as howling works. Some might consider this a liability, but I wholly embraced that aspect of the game. To fully understand the concepts used in Dark Souls you will need to read a guide, unless you want to play the game numerous times to figure things out for yourself. What you will learn through trial and error is that everything you do in Dark Souls III has a consequence. So don’t go thinking if some character kindly offers you free levelling up that down the line there won’t be any drawbacks.
What is amazing about Dark Souls III is the way it draws you into its sombre, yet beautiful world. The graphics may be gloomy, yet they manage to be wonderfully expressive nevertheless. The lack of a constant music soundtrack makes you focus on enemies’ eerie bawling and shrieking. And when an imposing track begins you know you’re in for some ass kicking. That is because the first time you face a boss you are most likely to just be petrified as he wipes the floor with you.
Dark Souls III feels a bit larger on a grander scale of things. Don’t get me wrong. We did get castles, forests, and many incredible areas in Bloodborne and previous Dark Souls and their locales were absolutely impressive. But in Dark Souls III everything just feels bigger and better. While Bloodborne focused much more on claustrophobic streets of Yharnam, Dark Souls III opens up a gigantic playground that you can fully explore.
Unlike the previous entries in the Dark Souls series, Dark Souls III profits from faster paced gameplay, introduced in Bloodborne. On the other hand some of the enemies can be pretty annoying, since no matter how big or small they are they move really fast. This is a bit of a let down from the previous Dark Souls titles which balanced enemy speed a bit better. Now an enormous lumbering tree can be nimble as it senses the player from a distance.
Dark Souls III is one of the rare modern games that really employ old school level design and puzzles. The game is definitely not open world, but is also not entirely linear, giving you just enough variety and possibilities to make your own way through. It is really impressive how many parts of the game are optional and quite frankly the level of detail and depth staggers me. These days developers will mostly avoid any additional content in their games for fear of putting in hours and hours of development into something not many people will get to see or experience. FromSoftware is still not that kind of company. They will put something in a game that only those really invested will get to see and explore, and they will be rewarded for it.
While Dark Souls III draws from elements that Bloodborne brought to the franchise, it doesn’t shy away from its roots. Back are the familiar bonfires, shields, magic spells including Miracles, Pyromancies and Sorceries. It also gives generous amount of nods to the series like the return of the “Onion Bro”, Siegward of Catarina, who appears to be the same character from the first Dark Souls.
Like in Bloodborne, you can recruit NPC’s for your Firelink Shrine. This is a large hub-like area where you can level up your character by talking to Fire Keeper maiden and interact with the characters you have found on your laborious journey. It is quite reminiscent of Nexus in Demon’s Souls.
Like in previous Dark Souls games you can employ different play styles. You can go down the uncertain path as a magic user or just try to brute force through the unsightly horde of enemies while wielding a powerful sword and shield combo. What I found useful in my playthrough against enemies that are too tough to face head on is that you can always use a trusty old bow and arrow technique to draw them out one by one and deal with them individually. That is particularly useful if you find yourself in a situation where you are facing a horde of annoying enemies.
The story is in line with other Dark Souls titles where it is told through events, character stories and tremendous amount of item descriptions. Like its predecessors Dark Souls III thrives on the concept of showing over telling. This is an often overlooked concept in games today that was perfectly encapsulated in old school game design. Everything you need to know is silently shown. You do feel like a part of the game’s world and not just like a bystander that is spoon fed information every few minutes. And this is incredibly liberating. Everyone can experience the game at their own pace, having an adventure that is their own.
It is staggering how much detail the developers put into Dark Souls 3. The game even gives you binoculars early on so you can inspect distant parts of the castle and admire them. On the beginning of my journey through Dark Souls III, I was walking down a path that opens up to a fortress. There were many enemies on my way, but somehow I managed to stay alive. When I came closer, a fierce dragon appeared and burned every enemy in sight. Later on you can even make the dragon go away, leaving you to pick up goodies that many charred enemies left in its wake. Moments like these make Dark Souls III really stand out.
Dark Souls director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, expressed his interest in perusing new ideas and exploring new themes and announced that FromSoftware is already working on a new IP. This makes Dark Souls III a perfect game to finish the trilogy, without diluting the same incredibly successful formula.