The (possible) final iteration of the renowned Souls series is upon us. It may well be the end of an era, and if it is, From Software went out on a high note. The world of Dark Souls 3 is the most terrifying, overwhelming, and refined world the series has ever seen. Its presentation is ruthless and bleak in the most beautiful way imaginable. Enemies and bosses (for the most part) require careful consideration and strategy to overcome. This game, along with all of its never-ending punishment, respects the player more than any game ever has. Let’s get into it.
Jumping right into Dark Souls 3, you can instantly feel the game’s epic scale and beauty. On the graphical side, textures and lighting look just as you’d expect a Souls game to look like. Which isn’t a bad thing. The world around you just feels inhabited, making the games ruthless, unforgiving nature even more true. The game’s environment as a whole feels very dense, and heavy, constantly bringing pressure upon the player, whether you like or not. I always felt the need to explore and discover, even when I didn’t need to.
The thing that casual and hardcore Souls players alike love about the franchise is how the game respects the player. Dark Souls 3 never assumes anything. You’re expected to be able to do everything solely by your own intuition. I loved this. It required effort that I never expected a video game to need. This all plays into the Souls game’s relentless nature. You will die. A lot. And that’s no different this time around.
Besides the environment, the enemies themselves have a lot to do with this. Trial and error is required here. Enemies were always waiting around every corner to backstab or shoot me. I never underestimated any of them, because they could all bring me down with seemingly, a blinks notice. Enemies were also decently varied. Even though the types of attack stayed largely the same. The pattern of fight, die, lose souls, get souls, fight, and then die again is rinsed and repeated always. This, all being in the effort to level up your character and slay the monsters that had defeated you once before. Its makes the process very addicting and rewarding to the player.
The majority of Dark Souls 3’s bosses are as interesting as they are tough. But others are not. There were a few too many instances where I, the player, could easily take down a boss no problem. This wasn’t because of my skill level or attributes, but because of the games sometimes over-ambitious boss mechanics. Some bosses, such as a few giants I encountered about 12 hours in, simply required me to stay close and swipe at their feet. This resulted in no damage to me, and a largely underwhelming boss fight.
Another possible criticism of the games as a whole, is that once you beat a boss, its gone forever. This I suppose reduces its replay value slightly, even though the game is all about replaying levels over and over again. Hardcore fans will easily accept this, but newcomers may not be so easily swayed by the idea, since boss fights are very fun for the most part.
Dark Souls 3 gets rid of some of the weapon mechanics from the last game in favor of a new gem-based upgrading system. Through a selection of about a dozen different gems, the player can customize a weapon’s attributes to their liking. I had fun simply discovering new gems, none the less applying them to my weapon. Each weapon also has its own move set. Katanas allow different slash-based fighting, while great-swords bring more damage based attacks to the table. A great addition if I may say so myself.
Dark Souls 3’s plot takes a slightly different turn then 1 and 2. This time, instead of an undead or hollowed, you are an unkindled, looking for the lords of cinder to aid your being. (Don’t worry, all the great lore of the last games still apply here) This is where a new mechanic and gameplay item, Embers, come into play. Embers not only increase basic stats temporarily, but also enable you to fight with a friend or friendly AI. This is a component I never really used much. I found much more joy in conquering bosses myself, rather than getting assistance. This brought more satisfaction and joy to me when I finally did defeat a boss or pass an area.
Dark Souls 3 is the “most perfect” Souls game to date. The combination of an overwhelming environment, deadly enemies, refined weapons system, and the rewarding punishment we have come to love, make this game amazing. And, even with some wonky bosses, I couldn’t have asked for any better.