REVIEW – From Software is not letting up! We just had Bloodborne’s DLC a couple of months ago, and now here we are in 2016 with Dark Souls III. A new cycle is beginning, and it is up to the Lord of Cinders to link the flame again so that the age of gods can move on. However they rebelled, and you as the Ashen One must go and link the flames. The journey is rough, perilous, and full of dangers, plus demons. The question is however if the journey is worth it, or is our soul going to be damned playing the supposedly final entry in the Souls series. Find out here!
With Dark Souls 1-2 the world still could be „saved” in a way, yet with Dark Souls 3 this world is now at its end. Everything is collapsing, greyish, and for the first time, the linking of fire seems to be just a simple method by powerful beings without any issues. Except this time the lords have decided to ignore the call. Thus, the safety of this cycle is threatened, and from the cemetery, you must rise to seek the Lords of Cinder and to link the flame once again.
That’s pretty much the basic story, and while it is nothing fancy since we’re talking about a Souls game here it is acceptable. The lore of the game is where the meat of the story is usually at, but in Dark Souls 3 it felt like a remix of old ideas, and concepts. While Dark Souls 2 set in a different land mass, items from that games appear, and are referenced. Speaking of references, Dark Souls 1 is referenced to hell and back, from characters to locations, and even individual items return. While it is nice to see such references in particular franchises here, it feels weird. It seems like a greatest hits album of all The Souls games ever released. Looks nice at first, but gets confusing by the end of the story for the trilogy.
Even some of the sidequests will feel similar compared to Dark Souls 1. While homage is one thing, reusing weapons, and magic spells is an entirely different subject.
Dark Borne Zwei!
The title of this review is The Identity Crisis, and for a very good reason. The gameplay in Dark Souls 3 is well it is a mixed bag. They iterated on some of the issues, but they also stepped two paces back for every issue fixed. Multiplayer now has no soul memory, but a lot of times most invaders will face up against two or more Player Characters, or even four if there is a purple mad player. Lack of weapon variety was an issue in Bloodborne, so in Dark Souls 3 they decided to up the weapon count plus give them multiple abilities!
Except that, none of them are that useful, in fact, to be quite frank using a shield now feels more dangerous than rolling around (to the tune of Limp Bizkit). While weapons and shields have their unique properties, I was forced to ignore them. Because what From Software did was a baffling move, as most enemies now feel too floaty regarding moves and animation. It feels like Bloodborne bled into the development of Dark Souls 3 while the aesthetics seem like Dark Souls the gameplay is Bloodborneian? Enemies will flail around, run at you with lightning speed, and most of the times rolling is a better option (Unless you can parry good enough). Sure shields were never the best way to defend yourself against giants, but for smaller enemies it worked. Now it does not work and hinders any meaningful progress. The tactics in Dark Souls 3 seems to be limited to „ROLLING ROLLING ROLLING!” or just parry and pray to god it works.
There’s also now two estuses: One for health, and one for mana. It allows you to allocate estus energy between the two. It is an elegant system compared to the second game’s charge system for spells, as now you can allocate how much mana you want to replenish, instead of running back to bonfires. While this system is great, magic spells do require a lot of preparation for them to work. Not only that, because of the amped up the speed of the enemies, it is dangerous to use them. You can fire off one Heavy Soul Arrow, but by that time, four skeletons will be on your butt. Even if I respec, even if I try to „Git Gud”, magic, and bows feel even more limited than in the previous games.
The melee combat is okay, enemies (for the fourth consecutive game now) still can lock and change the direction of the hit to track you. Which at this point should be fixed, but it seems From Software is okay with this being part of the difficulty curve.
From this scenic lava pit to a decaying town
The environments in Dark Souls 3 lack to say, the least. They look detailed, well polished; the architecture is nice, but for some reason it looks less creative than the previous Souls games. While in Dark Souls 1 you went from an undead insane asylum to a Shrine that is connected to a undead burg, dark catacombs, and magnificent palaces (plus a Fortress). Dark Souls 2 had a pirate cove, a lava place near a castle, weird towers of flame (Not to mention the DLC locations).
In Dark Souls 3 the first third of the game is one big giant: GREYISH washed out the city, then it is off to the underground for a few caverns, and then one Snowy city before going back to the same usual greyish lands. It also feels very polished regarding level, and enemy design plus placement, but with that comes probably one of the most linear Dark Souls game ever created. It looks gorgeous on the PS4, but my god there is not much beauty to watch until the second half of the game. Polished graphics, and environments, but most of those environments feel like corridors rather than large open spaces.
Let’s hope the DLC uplifts this problem, and introduces to a lot of great locations, because currently in Dark Souls 3 that aren’t that much memorable.
The Boss is here, but the save point is that way
While the generic enemies feel copy/pasted from previous games, the bosses feel unique once again. Most bosses are now a mix between monsters and humanoid bosses. So this time compared to Dark Souls 2, Dark Souls 3 has less „GIANT KNIGHTS” syndrome. Most of the bosses also are luckily challenging and can take a few tries before actually defeating them. There are also rather unique in some cases, Deacons of the Deep is an especially fun fight, and Abyss Watchers was a treat. All of the bosses have two phases in Dark Souls 3, with the first phase being a sort of introductory to the boss, and the second ramps up the difficulty and usually hammers the player down to oblivion.
So while the bosses and their mechanics are fun, getting to them is not. The bonfires in this game are all over the place, most of them are away from the bosses. So you’ll end up just running over enemies to finally reach the boss. While this was present in some of the previous entries, here it feels too much. You’ll be running to that Fog to enter finally the boss arena again.
However as another saving grace, while there is no music during in-game generic monster fights, the music for the boss fights is probably one of the best in the series. It even tops Bloodborne in certain parts and provides an epic feeling to the boss fights.
Darkness or Light?
In the end, Dark Souls 3 feels like a much more linear, limited game with elements „rehashed” from the previous entries. It is a solid finale, but an all too familiar game especially for a long time From Software fans. A must have if you are a die-hard fan, but if not, I would wait for the Game of The Year edition with the DLCs added for a „complete” experience.
+ New bosses are amazing
+ New ideas implemented correctly
+ Stellar visuals, and great music…
– But the visuals are wasted due to the dull environment
– Unpredictable AI makes playstyles limited
– Floaty animation, enemies’ move sets are more like from Bloodborne than Dark Souls game
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games, From Software
Developer: From Software
Genre: Third-Person RPG
Release date: April 12, 2016