Title: Dark Souls 3

Platform: Windows, Steam, PS4,  Xbox One

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: Action RPG

Players: Single player, Online Co Op (1-4), PvP



Written by Whistler 11th April 2016

















(As of writing this I haven’t been able to try out the online functionality such as Co Op and PvP)


A franchise born of the flame in the last Playstation 3 era, the Souls series has always seen a mass in divide of opinion both in terms of difficulty and comparison against each entry. Dark Souls was a natural evolution of Demons, however it’s sequel while expanding mechanically seemed to show signs of franchise fatigue. So much so that Bloodborne saw some of the franchises most radical shifts with a faster and more aggressive combat along with an almost complete overhaul to the setting. So is Dark Souls 3 a cultivation of franchises brilliance or has From Software wore the formula thin?


Despite sinking upwards of twenty hours it’s still proving difficult to answer, while retaining some of Bloodborne’s essence Dark Souls 3 is most certainly a sequel to Dark Souls. Perhaps because of this it has some of the strongest aspects the series has seen and yet it’s flaws are all the more noticeable cause of this.

























 


Set in the old kingdom of Lothric you take on the role of the Ashen One, one of the many ‘Unkindled’ cursed to wander the land. Not even fit to burn in the fires of the afterlife, you must now take on the insurmountable task of ‘Linking the fire’. In order to accomplish this feat you must venture forth into a world ravaged by an unending darkness and hunt down the heroes who previously linked the fire, the Lords of Cinder.


It’s nice to see that From Software have learned from Bloodborne’s experimentation as Dark Souls 3 is the strongest combat the series has seen. Three finds a somewhat comfortable spot in between Bloodborne’s fast paced and Dark Souls 2’s methodical approach. While hugging your shield is still a solid strategy, dodging feels far more viable for those who prefer more aggressive playstyles. Combat has also seen the addition of a new mechanic with weapon skills where each equipable weapon and shield has a skill assigned to them. These skills can range from stances that enable attacks to break an enemy’s shield, sharpening an axe for a short buff or a shield charge. Understanding these can offer a whole new depth to playstyles you’ll likely adept and are facilitated with one of the most notable changes with the addition of focus points.

A surprising change up from the typical Soul’s approach, Focus points operate on a similar basis to the standard mana or mp featured in more traditional RPGs. All weapon skills will consume portions of your focus points and so too will spells and miracles, players will need to manage this secondary resource weaving yet more intricacies into the overall gameplay. With a new resource to manage comes a new type of Estus flask, the Ashen Estus flask where you can allocate either estus flask you can carry at the Blacksmith. While I tended to still lean in favour for healing, it felt incredibly liberating being able to freely play a more magic based user without having to sink points into spell slots to have multiples of the same spells.



























This time around environments have seen a massive improvement overall with well detailed textures and awe inspiring set pieces, visuals are far cleaner and crisp also. It seems From Software’s attempt to address Two’s disjointed (and borderline illogical geographical) layout has lead to DS3’s extremely linear world. Locales are elegantly dismal and utterly breathtaking but just lack any surprise that it’s almost stock standard to a fault; you’ll explore castles, forts, ruins, forests, catacombs (I swear if there’s suddenly a lava stage) that rarely step out of the norm. While it does occasionally branch out Dark Souls 3’s world feels almost claustrophobically linear.


One of arguably the franchise's biggest aspects is of course the bosses and the gallery of rogues this time around is slow to build up.

It takes a surprising amount of time until Three’s bosses ‘click’, three-four bosses later they just seemed so unimaginative (though far better than DS2’s ‘dudes in armour’ menagerie) even considering the new two phase system coming back from Bloodborne’s boss encounters. However once the first of the Lords of Cinder turned up DS3 finally kicks in gear, the Abyss Watchers is a fantastic boss fight more in line with Soul’s standards. Sure it was a relatively simple fight but was challenging nonetheless and once I learned a useful trick it became fast paced chess fight in motion. Still I can’t help that DS3 is rather perplexingly short on bosses and too often just didn’t hit as high a note as previous iterations’ boss fights had.


Leveling up doesn’t immediately feel as impactful either; souls almost feel wasted on leveling up stats for increased damage or health early especially considering how rapidly the cost of upgrading piles up. However this is likely to work in tandem with Dark Souls 3’s more gradual difficulty curve and attribute bonuses are felt once you reach certain thresholds.



























In the end your own expectations will likely be the defining factor in how you enjoy Dark Souls 3 and how you’ll react to the various refinements, changes and arguable downfalls. The rage inducing controller throwing combat is still present and it’s certainly a step back in the right direction after Two’s lukewarm experience. It’s a great journey all the same but just falls short of my own personal expectations, if III is Dark Souls’ final iteration then then it certainly ends on a high point makes and shows great promise for series’ successor.



Pros:

Fantastic visuals,

Weapon arts add an additional layer to combat,

Some great set pieces,

Rewarding and challenging,

Lower barrier of entry early on.


Cons:

Framerate chugs on occasions despite the 30fps lock,

More linear than previous installments,

Some underwhelming bosses especially considering how few there are.

 

Final verdict,

Dark Souls III strides forth just shy of a perfect mark with an 8/10.

 

Written by,

Whistler


 

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