The Souls series has been driving players to the breaking point for years now, and yet we keep coming back. Dark Souls III is the perfect way to potentially end this celebrated series. With a story that is easier to follow and the familiar punishing gameplay, Dark Souls III won’t be making many new friends, but it will be a satisfying game from beginning to end.
Dark Souls III is punishing. It is a difficult game, but isn’t hard in the same way most games are. It rewards patience and understanding and punishes arrogance and greed. Defeat is necessary because it is the best way to learn. Even still, there is an incredible satisfaction that comes with defeating a powerful foe, especially on the first try. It is easy to tailor your gear to your personal style, and every style is viable. Leveling is simple, but is increasingly difficult due to the soul cost. At its core, Dark Souls III is still a simple game at heart with a sinister shell surrounding it.
The famous Dark Souls multiplayer returns with little changes. Ghostly visions of other players will pop up from time to time, reminding you that you aren’t in this alone. The newest addition is the password summoning, found originally in Bloodborne, that allows you to summon friends for co-op play. Though you are still bound by the rules of co-op, it makes things a lot more enjoyable by inviting your friends, if not necessarily that much easier. Invasions are still a major mechanic and create tense engagements that rival the game’s own bosses. Unlike with bosses, there can be a noticeable lag problem, but this is more of a user issue than a server one.
Story and Modes:
Though still mysterious overall, Dark Souls III offers a much more friendly story that is easier to follow. Characters are more upfront with information and do a better job of explaining why you are doing something. This is a departure from the likes of Bloodborne, which was fairly light on story information unless you sought it out yourself. As the Unkindled, you must return the Lords of Cinder to their thrones and relink the first flame, just as they have in the past.
Players who take the time to explore the world and seek its secrets will be rewarded with multiple endings, each with their own dramatic effect on the world. Though this is similar to previous Souls games, these endings are more satisfying because they are easier to understand. Upon completing the game, you can begin the New Game + modes that increase the difficulty and challenged the most hardened of players.
Visuals and Sound:
As good as Dark Souls III is to play, it is even more amazing to look at and hear. The game, especially on PC, is gorgeous. The many locations you’ll explore are faintly familiar for long time fans, but are beautiful nonetheless. Enemies range from armored knights with flowing capes to gruesome creatures and menacing monsters. The art design is brilliant and makes for one of the most technically and artistically impressive games in years.
The soundtrack is equally beautiful with subtle tones that sew tones of sadness and mystery. Epic scores compliment boss fights with each major boss featuring a different score. It not only amplifies the intensity of the fights, but also serves to let you know when a fight is especially important. Voice acting is quite good and sound effects are superb. Clanging swords, roaring flames, and some really gross death gurgles keep you well immersed in the world.
Dark Souls III follows the Souls formula to a T, only enhancing it rather than innovating it. In most other games, this might not be enough, but the Souls series is one of the few exceptions to the rule. By staying true to its core, Dark Souls III offers an experience that is still unrivaled. There just isn’t another game that offers anything close to what Dark Souls does.
There are dozens of hours of gameplay play available, even if you just play the story. For those looking for more, you’ll want to look to invasions for PvP or offering your services by assisting others in defeating bosses. New Game + opens the door to New Game ++ and each of those feature new items to find and challenges to meet. This is a game you can spend the rest of the year happily playing, and one that you may still be coming back to a year from now.
Worth noting is that I played this through entirely on the PC. Unlike previous Souls games, the PC port had no noticeable issues and had a sufficient level of graphical options. This should hopefully put you PC players’ minds at ease, you’re not getting an inferior port this time around.