Title: Dark Souls 3
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Prepare to die again, and again. The thrill from the challenge is quite something
Price: £49.99 / $59.99 / €69.99
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The death-a-thon that is Dark Souls rears its hellish head once more to provide another immense challenge against beasties big and small. This third entry marks the series’ first true direct entry onto the current-gen consoles (after the port of Dark Souls 2), with many a familiar set-up for those veterans to the series.
For me, however, I was always a bit of a noob when it came to Dark Souls. The previous games never did quite agree with me and I couldn’t manage to get terribly far. This time though, there’s something about Dark Souls 3 that has made it that wee bit more accessible whilst maintaining the difficulty that the series is famous for.
It’s managed this to a degree that I’ve become more invested in Dark Souls 3 than I have been with any of the previous games. That makes it quite the achievement in my book. The introduction to its ins-and-outs was a lot more well put together. The addition of a boss in the mix was also a great touch to give newbies a feel for the much greater challenges ahead. I left the Firelink Shrine (the game’s main portal for everything) much better equipped than I ever was in the previous game’s equivalents.
One other added point of accessibility, which I had to delve around wikis for in previous games, was the good ol’ Estus Flask. This crucial item is the primary source of restoring health in the midst of battle. In Dark Souls 2, I completely missed the flask until a wiki told me to speak to a specific person. I tried entering areas without a flask thinking it was further ahead. Nope, it was right back in the town.
Thankfully in DS3, the Estus Flask is given to you from square one. Small thing, but it was rather welcome from this self-confessed-noob’s point-of-view.
There are however some interesting things that happened quite early on that could throw off the typical new comer. Normal run-of-the-mill enemies can quickly transform into corrupted megabeasts that could flatten you before you can ask what in blazes that thing was. This of course encourages the typical formula that Dark Souls is extremely well known for:
Run, die, run, swing sword, die, run, die, swing sword, kill bad guy, repeat.
Emphasis of course is on the quantity of deaths.
Menu systems and occassionally vague item descriptions are of course the norm in Dark Souls and the same remains true here. Levelling up is done through the spending of souls to improve stats once at a time. When souls are lost upon death though, it can potentially be quite the grindy task to build your character into a walking death machine that kills, rather than a walking death machine that’s always getting themselves killed.
Beyond all of these, gameplay and general make-up of the game will be totally familar to anyone who has spent more than a few hours on any of the previous Souls games or even Bloodbourne. I have found Dark Souls 3 to be a good bit more particular in how it deals with hitbox management though. Notably, it’s become rather good at knowing if a thrust will go over you whilst rolling directly beneath it.
I’ve had it remarked by several friends on the deep lore within the Souls series. Whilst I believe that to be true, to me that lore must be very deeply concealed. Pockets of NPC interaction give some flavour as to the world around Mr Unkindled (that’s you), but beyond calling some rebellious Lords of Cinder back to their home like a strict Dad overzealous in the use of his shoe, the story didn’t really provide much to the Souls experiene for me. The focus was more on the challenge of the game itself.
In my time so far with Dark Souls 3, I’ve proceeded to go much further than any previous game in the series has achieved with me. So much so that I’ve acquired a burgeoning addiction to meeting and smashing the challenges that the game provides. I guess this is the hook within the series that has taken a while to eventually catch me. Now I believe I’ll be chasing those monsters to every last bonfire I can find.
If I can stay alive long enough that is…
- Much more accessible than previous Souls games
- Soundtrack rocks my socks off
- Kingdom of Lothric is super-pretty
- It’s still fiendishly difficult. Not for the faint-hearted.
- Much is left for you (or the community) to find out. I’ve found wiki’s crucial to my adventuring
If you value the structural integrity of your controllers, then perhaps this is not a game for the younglings. Not only is it rated PEGI 16 in Europe, its difficulty is likely to be quite a lot for those that may consider allowing the much younger ones to go near it. Lots of blood and guts is one thing, but constantly dying may not strike a good chord with some others..
Many thanks to Xbox UK for providing a copy of the game for review