Dark Souls 3 Review
Dark Souls 3 is here. 2016…what a year to be alive. So my review is a little late, but for good reason. Just finished up my schoolterm for the year, so was focused on a lot of academic work. With that garbage done, now I can really jump into my most anticipated game of the year.
Before I jump in I have to make this statement. IF YOU INTEND TO PLAY DARK SOULS 3 DO NOT READ THIS. THE GAME ONLY GETS BETTER THE LESS YOU KNOW.
Right out of the gate I was blown away by the world environment. Dark Souls & Dark Souls 2 have some incredible environments, but Dark Souls 3 raises things to a whole new level. From haunting cathedrals, to crypts, to castles, to swamps, each area is very distinct and overflowing with story. While I love the locations, I was a bit let down by the linkage between areas. Much like Demon Souls, there exists a hub world in which you have to teleport from the main bonfire to the other game areas, and this mechanic feels like a bit of a step back from the worlds of both Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. Those worlds feel interconnected, but with Dark Souls 3, going from Firelink Shrine to other areas feels a bit disjointed. Now this is just a minor gripe, but it is something that stood out to me during my play-through.
Another thing that stood out to me during my play-through, is that each individual area in Dark Souls 3 is incredibly detailed. The Undead Settlement is one of my favorite areas, as the lore and idea behind the area is both shocking and gruesome. Miyazaki and company truly are some of the most masterful world creators of any videogame makers out there. The world they have created is simply a masterpiece, with emotions portrayed very well through every minor detail. From coffins, to crucifixes, to hanging bodies, every area had me itching to explore the lore and reason behind these horrible things. It is hard not to play this game and feel the dread and despair present simply in walking throughout the world.
NPCs play an even larger role in the game then in previous outings.There exists a welcome side quest system with many of the characters you stumble upon. One example of a quest I undertook occurred when I discovered a thief locked away in a tower. After freeing him, he asked that I check on a woman in the Undead Settlement for him. Unfortunately, all that was left of the woman was bones. Upon returning her bones, the thief provided me with access to various goods he had stolen on his ‘outings’. This side quest is just a little thing, but is something that I appreciate. There are plenty of other deep and interesting side quests, so be sure to explore as much as you can. The game also does a nice job of adding in characters from previous outings, which is a bonus for those of us who have played all the Soul’s games.
Now for the story line of Dark Souls 3. Simply put, it is deep and sad. As with every souls game, the story is as complex or as simple as you want it to be. If you are looking for story, or more context, each item contains a description that acts as story telling device. Again, this is another area that deserves praise. Each item helps in peeling back a layer of the story. So just when things are not making sense, a weapon or item will drop that suddenly provides context and further plot development. To some this may not be enjoyable. However, I have always loved the lore side of Dark Souls (specifically the interpretations of the community). On the note of items, there is a wide array of things to find, weapons to gather, and armor for fashion souls. Seriously, there are tons of items in this game.
Performance wise, Dark Souls 3 seems to run pretty well on my rig. I heard about people having frame rate issues, but in my experience these problems were few and far between. Aside from graphics, sound design is good, with some areas literally scaring me to death with the random screaming. I did notice that the audio sometimes loops, or runs over top of other audio, so characters will be screaming and talking at the same time. Again this is a minor annoyance, and given my fanboy-ism, is easily overlooked.
The world is only half a Souls game and the other half is the challenging combat system. Rest assured, combat is very much Souls like. As I have not played Bloodbourne, I was initially taken back by the new found quickness in the game. Bosses no longer feel like lumbering beasts, but rather the bosses have balanced speed and strength. One fight in particular really pushed me to the edge of my abilities, but was it ever satisfying to complete (I won’t spill the beans about the fight, but it was great). While I have heard some criticisms regarding the more gimmicky bosses, I actually find them refreshing. It is a nice change of pace to have certain objectives in some fights rather than just the staple rolling, attacking, then repeating.
Battle Arts is a new combat feature which changes fighting style. Each weapon has its own unique and special move set, and this is another welcome addition to the Souls series. Getting some of the boss weapons and seeing their specials had me absolutely floored. As I mentioned earlier, there is a wide range of weapons and armor to collect, and each piece feels like it can hold its own in the game.
One interesting change to the Souls series, is that in Dark Souls 3, armor can now no longer be upgraded. While I like that this pushes the player to try different pieces, it also means that the sweet set you found and want to play through the whole game with, will result in a much harder play-through. There is also a minor issue with enemy tracking, which can result in some frustrating, “I swear I dodged that” experiences. With that aside, combat is fast, frenetic, punishing and overall fun. I’ve been having a blast running a dexterity build character and will for sure do a few more runs trying out strength and sorcery.
Dark Souls 3 is how you add to a video game trilogy. Not only are things more refined, everything has a purpose. Simple things like holding down on the D-pad to cycle to Estus, had me questioning why this wasn’t in the other two games. Dark Souls 3 benefits immensely from the new combat system, breathing a breath of fresh air into a somewhat stagnant system. If you consider yourself a Souls fan, this game is a instant purchase. If this truly is the end of the Souls trilogy, FromSoftware has done an incredible job sending it out on a high note.
What I Like
- Controls feel tight and intuitive
- Setting and environment
- Tons of secrets to find and items to collect
- Fashion Souls
- Infuriating, but satisfying bosses
- New changes from DS1 and DS2
- NPC roles expanded
What I Don’t Like
- Some minor graphic and audio issues
- Combat can feel cheap at times
Arbitrary Rating: 9.8/10 (yup really good)