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Published on April 13th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor

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Review: Dark Souls III

First up, a declaration. By no means am I from the hardcore stable of Souls players. I don’t believe in the end I “git good,” but rather I “git good enough.” That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my time with the series, nor have I gotten so rage filled that I’ve quit after throwing my pad at a puppy while punching someone in the nuts. I’ll lay it out plainly; I refused to play Dark Souls on 360, ended up playing Lords of the Fallen (I know, not the purist of experiences), shifted over to Bloodborne and from there started absorbing the series in the wrong order, so much so I’m still on my first playthrough of the original game. I’d also like to point out I’ve never played Demon’s Souls, so please expect me to make any comparisons there.

So, Dark Souls III. I’ve played it through once. Slaughtered almost every boss. Seen one ending. How did it go? How does it compare? Let’s get to it.

Dark Lore
Like most Souls games, there’s little in the way of introduction, but III takes a much more cinematic approach to informing the player of their overarching goals: find the Lords of Cinder, return them to their thrones and link the fire to save the world. Par for the course for a Chosen Undead, but there’s so much more to it than the first glance, but at the very least it gives less hardcore players a clear understanding of what their trying to achieve from the outset.

Not being a chosen acolyte of the series, I’ve never dipped too heavily into the lore and the overarching plot of the Souls series. Story has never been the greatest selling point in any game for me, and gameplay always trumps any other factor, as long as it’s more than just serviceable. Still, having ventured into the original Dark Souls, it’s clear Dark Souls III shares a very deep connection, from locales to the very essence of the series carved into the environments and relationships between bosses of two different entries. There’s a lot to get your head around, and there are countless extensive lore guides online if you’re interested in doing a deep dive withoout taking the risk of losing Souls in-game, but there’s plenty there for purists to pour over and so many dots to connect. It should keep fans busy for months and I can’t wait to see how far the rabbit hole goes.

Screenshot Porn
Get ready to abuse that screenshot function, this game is filled with both grim and beautifully designed locales. In any Souls game, there’s a first moment where you’re greeted by the sun and a visa (any excuse to praise the sun) but thanks to the grunt of modern consoles, DS III outshines any previous entry.

While everything is gosh darn purty, don’t expect an intricate level design like the original Dark Souls. Very few of the areas are connected in a meaningful way, and rather than labyrinthine design that links areas in a realistic geographical way, Dark Souls III could be considered much more linear, with each locale feeling its own entity. This could be potentially disappointing at first, but if you’ve played the series, you’ll realise that the series has been headed this way for some time. At the very least new-comers should be able to find their way without the need for obtuse clues or simply looking for a guide online.

The locations run the gamut of everything you’d expect from a Souls game; dungeons? Check. Dark wooded poisonous swamp? Check. Gothic cathedral? Of-bloody-course. Despite a lot of unique locales in previous entries, it does seem like a bit of a checklist of fantasy go-tos, but that’s not to say they’re dull. Each area is rife with new danger and secrets, and given my playthrough (just over thirty-one hours) it’s safe to assume I’m nowhere near finding 100% of the nooks, crannies, bosses and weapons, and for the first time I’m considering a New Game+ to test my mettle and to explore the world to the fullest, this being partly due to a rather nice and refined combat system. That brings us to…

This Town Needs an Enema/Enemy
Creature design has been pushed to the nines in this entry. It seems like a meshing of ideas from previous Souls games and Bloodborne, designed to bring the Eldritch horror of the later into the less grotesque former, and it works. I dislike slugs, they’re present and grossly accounted for in more ways than one. I was never wanting for something to either creep me out or genuinely put the shit up me,  sending me back-peddling while I tried to decipher their attack pattern. Fantasy enthusiasts need not worry though, knights and dragons are well represented and keep the series grounded in its roots.

One aspect that seemed well thought out was the representation of the humble hollow, with each area getting its own treatment. Variety is the spice of life, and in the Souls series, variety provides numerous different ways to die horribly. Thumbs up to that.

(Blood)Borne Ultimatum
It’s fair to say that the combat system has received a few tweaks since the first Souls game, but DS III has drawn its speed from its Lovecraftian cousin. While still retaining the use of shields, perfect for tanking, DS III allows players to build high speed classes focused on dexterity and hit and run tactics. Of course this was entirely possible before, it seems more like a proper choice than ever before.

Despite the player’s ability to shift and attack faster, don’t expect your enemies to let you off lightly. There are some extreme heavy hitters early on in the game to put you in your place should you decide to act the fool. It’s it could be seen as a more accessible game than previous entries, with fewer insta-deaths in the opening hours, something else that seems to be borrowed from Bloodborne, but don’t slouch or you’ll find yourself staring at the “You Died” notification more than once, like I needed to tell you that. Where you’re most likely to see your precious souls ripped away, is in one of the many boss fights.

Who’s The Boss? (it was Angela)
Ornstein and Smough. The Gaping Dragon. The Pursuer. Every game has its own set of iconic bosses, the original having some of the most arguably difficult in the series, so much so that when I took out Ornstein and Smough on the Sunday just past I danced round the room like a bloody loon. How many bosses made me feel that way in DS III? None. Sad as it seems, the boss battles in DS III never had the same punch as earlier entries, and I found myself stuck and frustrated on bosses that were (in essence) quite easy to beat.

Avoiding all spoilers, there were a few too many gimmicky bosses that either involved using a specific item or relied heavily on duplication. I’ll name no names, but a certain magic caster had me in fits of fucking rage, while I found myself dropping the last boss in much more swift fashion. I’m not sure what that says about me and my play style, or whether I had “git good scrub” by the end. I actually felt a little disappointed by the ‘climactic’ battle, but then I remembered the long road I took to get there.

The Whole of the Blood Moon
Dark Souls III, like its predecessors, is more than just the end game (because there’s always NG+ Ha. Ha.) but rather an experience created through every encounter and boss battle, the highs and lows, and the ability to break through seemingly impossible odds. It’s near impossible to try and explain the joy of defeating ever stacking odds, and every entry does a fantastic job of reminding you that you’re a tiny fish in a big pond, and then it enforces this rule by feeding you to an even bigger fish.

Debating the overall difficulty is a tough one. I can’t imagine a new-comer arriving and turning the game into their own personal stomping ground, Souls simply doesn’t allow for that, but it does a good job of slowly sliding the player into the meat-grinder rather than slamming them head first. However, there’s a very definitive point where any concept of back patting and shoulder rubs ends, and this is where the difficulty spikes to a point where Souls fans will feel right at home.

Summary
Dark Souls III is a worthy successor to the original, more so than Dark Souls II, that blends classic gameplay with modern intensity, though it’s easy to see how that could be divisive for the community at large. Hopefully this entry will provide answers to some of the questions Souls fans still have about the series, but I’ll leave that to them and finish by saying, Praise the Sun and pass the Estus Flask.

 

Us at HGR would like to thank guest contribute Thomas (@Orginarymagoo) for the review along with Bandia Namco for providing the site with a review copy.

Review: Dark Souls III Guest Contributor
Gameplay
Graphics
Control System
Fun

Summary: Dark Souls III is the latest installment of the Souls series and for anyone who loves to play challenge games and having their balls kicked over and over then Dark Souls III is prefect for you!

4.4

Insanely Hard


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