Dark Souls 3: Review

The third instalment of From Software’s Dark Souls series is finally upon us. With the Director of the first game back in to oversee everything, the game’s tone goes back to the original, and the mechanics from the sequel have been tweaked and trimmed to make it feel a bit more nostalgic. While there are a lot of changes that people will debate about once every single nook and cranny is explored, it’s already safe to say that if this is indeed the last Dark Souls game for a good long while, it’s a great way to send it off.

Dark Souls 3 begins like any other Souls game so far, you’re thrown into the world with only a vague idea of what your objective is. You find an area filled with enemies, with some paths leading to enemies you’re not even sure if you’re supposed to fight yet. Soon enough, you find the first boss, reach the hub and then your journey truly begins. Dark Souls 3 in particular seems to start you off much faster than previous games, and the journey to that first boss is short, daunting and can lead to some interesting encounters.

The reason it can be so daunting, is the speed and aggression of your enemies this time around seems to be a bit higher than we’ve been used to. More enemies will run at your face, swinging wildly, and bosses in particular don’t allow you that quick heal unless you distance yourself and wait for the right timing. This hasn’t necessarily upped the difficulty, per se, but it does mean you have to be more cautious when encountering a new type of enemy on your journey.

Making up for this, a new system called Weapon Skills are in the game. Each weapon has a particular skill, whether it be a couple of special moves for breaking through an enemies shield, a dash to let you get away, or even a buff to up your damage. These allow you to think through a lot more different approaches to dealing with situations, and has resulted in a system where you have to carefully pick and choose what you wield. Particularly, it resulted in me finding a shield that allowed me to use my swords Weapon Skill without having the two hand the weapon, meaning I’m saving some valuable time when dealing with those aggressive, shield bearing enemies. It’s an interesting, but welcome addition to the game, adding a lot more depth to the combat in both PVE and PVP. Knowing what your enemy can do (as the AI can also use these Weapon Skills) is paramount to fighting them and winning, and it just adds to that wonderful feeling of discovery when you play a Dark Souls game without any prior knowledge.

Speaking of PVP, there’s a few new interesting mechanics involving the Covenants in the game. One of the new Covenants, the Mound Makers, allow you to participate in PVP in two ways, Invading, as per usual, and dropping down a summon sign. Either way, you spawn in as a purple “Mad” phantom. Your objective is to kill a Host or a number of other Phantoms, but if you are summoned into the Host’s world, you can attack enemies and help the other player. It results in, at least some of the time, bonding with the other player, before they turn around and betray you. This also has the effect of being a massive target to not only the Host and his Allies, but any other invading phantoms as well. While there’s only one way for the Purple Phantom to succeed, it does mean that some interesting trickery has been added to the invasions, if people don’t immediately decide to gang up and destroy you.

Thu_Apr_21_14-34-19_UTC%2B0100_2016

I’ve never been one for multiplayer in a Souls game until recently, before I started playing Dark Souls 3. This time around, I’m actively interested in it, seeing which Covenants I like and trying to acquire the rewards for ranking up with them. I’ve also been eager to help other players defeat bosses that they’re struggling with, though I personally never called upon help from a phantom during my first playthrough. While some of my reasons were purely selfish, trying to gain the item (Embers) to allow my health to be increased as well as allow invaders to enter my world, it’s very satisfying to partake in some co-operation from time to time, as Dark Souls is known as a very lonely game.

The bosses themselves are extremely memorable. While I did enjoy my time with Dark Souls 2, I must admit, the bosses themselves were not that easy to remember. Dark Souls 3 steps this up and has not only bosses that look amazing, but fight well too. There are many amazingly set up fights in the game, and while there are some fights that focus on a gimmick, there are situations where that certain encounter can be improved through NPC questlines. Though, while there are a couple of bosses that are disappointing, the majority of them test you in new ways, and always keep you on your toes.

Dark Souls 3 also does a great job at sending you to a variety of different environments that are stunning. They look grand, are interconnected (though set on a more linear path than previous games) and are all unique in appearance. What becomes a problem, however, is learning the layout of each area. It becomes more and more clear the more you run through the same corridors, streets or swamps that each area, though looking large from the outside, are really a lot more compact, filled with some unnecessary short-cuts and bonfires littered throughout. A couple bonfires in the late game are even in perfect view of each other, mere steps away. This may be to try and encourage more players to try out the Souls franchise, and while I can appreciate the sentiment, some of the grander, maze like areas from previous games seem completely absent. It’s also very possible to completely skip and miss out on at least 2 areas of the game, which may be good for multiple playthroughs, but to discover them on your own can require a bit of non-linear thought processes that some players may not understand.

That being said, after a solid 50 hours of playtime in my first run, I still had things hidden away that I missed, purely because I didn’t find them. Each area has some very well hidden outcroppings and such that have items scattered around, and finding them can be sheer luck. This is one of the benefits of having more compact areas, it rewards players from combing the environment themselves, making sure that they find every last item, finding every secret wall and making sure that no stone is left unturned. It’s a hard balance to strike, but I feel like a lot of the decisions From have made are for the better.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Dark Souls 3, and I feel like it may be an example of the best the franchise has to offer. It may be lacking in some areas, but it certainly was some of the most fun I’ve had, possibly partly due to the fact that when I was playing, very few people knew all the intricacies of the game. For those who have always been curious about the game, this is a great place to pick it up, go in blind and find out why so many revere it as one of the best franchises in gaming. I’m certainly excited to see where my second character and my New Game + will take me, and I hope that invasions and co-operation between players continues to stay abundant.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: