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Dark Souls 3 Review: Die Harder

/ May 17th, 2016 No Comments

Dark Souls 3 Review

It’s easy to tell if you’re in a PSN or Xbox Live party with someone who is playing a From Software game. You will probably hear their mating call. It sounds something like, “Oh c’mon! This is bullsh*t! You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

The Dark Souls series is known to be so frustratingly difficult that the stereotype of throwing your controller in a rage becomes a reality. I went controller shopping shortly after the release of Dark Souls 3 (because of normal wear and tear on my controller; not anger), and the gentleman who assisted me said, “Ahh, you threw your controller playing Dark Souls, didn’t you?” The struggle is real, my friends.

However, if you avoid playing Dark Souls 3 because you are trying to avoid a frustrating experience, you are also missing out on one of finest gaming experiences this generation has to offer.

Build Your Champion

The character creation system in Dark Souls 3 is as solid as you’d expect following From Software’s efforts in Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne. Two different colored eyes; beard a different color than hair; Fashion Souls! But more important is the actual way that players “build a champion” through character progression.
 

Dark Souls 3

A strong fashion sense won’t get you far in Dark Souls 3.

In DS3, character progression is very similar to what it was in Dark Souls 2 and, to a lesser extent, Bloodborne. It’s important that you have an idea what kind of build you want to go with before you begin leveling up various attributes. With the amount of leveling up you’ll be doing from beginning to end, if you attempt to be a jack of all trades type, you’ll find that you’re the master of none.

For example, if you decided you want to be a sorcerer but then you watched an amazing sword fight on “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night, you might be tempted to start putting points into your strength. If you spread yourself too thin, though, you could end up like many of the characters on the show: dead. Other than that, the character progression system is fairly intuitive, especially if you’ve played one of the other installments in the series.

Atmosphere Over Story

Speaking of playing Dark Souls games before, if you have, you know what to expect when it comes to storytelling. For those who have not played a Dark Souls game, you need to understand what you’re getting yourself into. In addition to the gameplay being a puzzle that you have to be able to put together, so too is the story. In most triple-A games, a story is laid out for you. There may be some complicated plot devices once in awhile, but ultimately if you’re playing a game like Uncharted, you know what happens and why it happens.
 

DS3

DS3 is nothing without dark, violent battles.

In Dark Souls 3, a person could easily play from beginning to end without really knowing what they did beyond the very basics. This could be a deal breaker for some people. The cinematics after completing the game aren’t going to blow you away with some cathartic conclusion that explains the meaning of life in the Dark Souls universe. If you’re willing to put in the exploration and truly pay attention, though, the Dark Souls series has some of the richest lore in gaming and you’ll find the endings to be extremely satisfying. A perceptive player might even notice the plethora of Easter eggs that pay homage to previous installments in the series.

In this world, the lack of an in-your-face story is easily overcome by incredibly detailed, beautiful environments that are an absolute pleasure to traverse. You find yourself developing your own story while being given a chance to play around in H.P. Lovecraft’s sandbox. You may have to slay a few creepy creatures before being able to take a breather and appreciate your surroundings, but that’s why you were chosen to link the fires.

Like A Boss

One feature of From Software games that we have come to expect is the legendary, stress-inducing boss fights. Once I finally defeated Bloodborne’s The Vacuous Rom, I looked like I had gone 12 rounds with Tyson (not my character in the game — me). If there is one place I would say Dark Souls 3 falls slightly short of its predecessors, it’s with these battles. Don’t get me wrong, this is not something that will ruin the experience. Most of the boss fights are still quite challenging and some even maintain that sense of novelty that fans of the series love; however, there are a handful that neither seem novel nor challenging.
 

Dark Souls 3 boss fights

Dark Souls 3 boss fights aren’t as hard as you’d think.

Many of the bosses you fight during the first half of the game carry flaming swords. This can easily be explained away by the lore if you consider the importance of fire, specifically with the bonfires in the story. But there is still a uniformity with it that can, at times, seem a bit lazy. There’s also a couple of boss fights that don’t provide a challenge by the standards From Software has set for themselves. Sure, I’d love to simply take credit and file this one under me having what the kids might refer to as “mad skillz,” but there were plenty of other battles that provided the sought after challenge, therefore shining a light on the ones that did not.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Buddy)

The multiplayer in Dark Souls 3 is pretty much like the multiplayer in the previous installments except that there are no level restrictions when joining a player. It may take longer if you’re not within a certain range, but if you truly want to help a friend traipse through gaggles of undead creatures, you shouldn’t have a problem.

On the other end of the token, you have the invasions. This is where other players invade your game world as a dark spirit and attempt to kill you, steal some of your souls, and participate in some general buggery. Many people have complained about the frequency of the invasions because they can become quite the obstacle. However, for players who are just looking to go through the game without constantly being buggered, there’s always the offline mode. Sure, you can’t utilize the benefits of receiving handy dandy advice in the form of signs, and you can’t summon other players to help you with fights, but at least you don’t have to get killed by another player and then witness one of their many sanctimonious gestures as you lie dying.

Overall

Much of what is experienced in Dark Souls 3 is just an upgraded version of what we got in Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin and Bloodborne. For most fans, that is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a tried and true formula, and since From Software has basically announced that this will be the finale of the Dark Souls trilogy, I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with that. It certainly hasn’t gone stale yet. In fact, this is easily some of the developers best work.

The game has its issues, of course. Some of the boss fights are a little lackluster. Also, the occasional frame rate lag can be a bit of an annoyance. As a general rule, though, the boss fights are fun and the game runs quite smoothly. I would definitely consider this one of the few must play games of 2016 and an early candidate for Game of the Year.

Dark Souls 3 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

Michael Mays

Michael Mays

Michael Mays graduated from Concord University with a B.A. in both Sociology and History with an emphasis in Philosophy before moving on to obtain his M.S. in Criminal Justice. Realizing that these degrees and six figures of crippling debt only made him roughly three nightly Jeopardy answers better, he decided it was time to pursue his lifelong passion... competitive snorkeling. That didn't work out, so now he writes about video games.

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DARK SOULS 3 REVIEW: DIE HARDER

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall95%

GAMEPLAY9.25

Sure, Dark Souls 3 uses the same formula as the other installments in the series, but why fix it if it isn't broken? A couple of lackluster boss fights don't weigh this one down too much.

GRAPHICS9.75

As far as art direction is concerned, I'm having a difficult time thinking of anyone that does it better than From Software. Dark Souls is an absolute stunning work of visual art.

SOUND9.5

From the clanking of weaponry on shields to the moody, atmospheric score, Dark Souls 3 sounds like the masterpiece it is.

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