Dark Souls III (PC) Review

By Athanasios 04.04.2016 9

Review for Dark Souls III on PC

The Japanese developer FromSoftware is a legend amongst role-players, and not without good reason. Its so-called "Souls" series, which started with Demon's Souls, continued with its spiritual successors, Dark Souls, and - the somewhat disappointing - Dark Souls II, offered a unique, for modern standards, experience, where nothing, from connecting the tiny scattered pieces of plot, to just staying alive, was an easy task. After the highly successful Bloodborne, which was, for the most part, cut from the same cloth, fans were eagerly awaiting the developer's next move. The result? Dark Souls III, the sequel that fans will absolutely adore and appreciate… and everybody else probably won't give a second look.

Rules: always roll-crash barrels and praise the Sun. Now that this is out of the way, let the reviewing commence. Many view The Witcher and Diablo as dark fantasy RPGs. In reality, these are just a bit more sinister than the average middle-earth world. Want true darkness? Embrace the universe of the Dark Souls franchise; a universe ingeniously bleak and melancholic, and constantly on the verge of death. There's no stereotypical good versus evil here, no maidens to save (Gwynevere… *sigh*), and no happy ending.

Visually, this might very well be the brightest in the series, and yet, that's similar to describing a maggot-eaten cadaver as being well-lit, because that's what the post-post-apocalyptic land of Lothric really is - a corpse… but there's real beauty here for those who can appreciate its gothic elegance. With locations that are both gorgeous and remarkably detailed, and an OST that sits somewhere between epic and sad, it's hard not to get engulfed in this constantly oppressive atmosphere. Additionally, while the setting is a little too familiar, it manages to stand on its own, and enhance this tale's themes of ash and cinder.

However, what's going on here? Simple… *ironic pause* Once again, everything revolves around the First Flame, and the seemingly endless cycle of the Age of Fire. Something feels different, though. The Lords of Cinder aren't willing to set another cycle in motion, and it's up to an undead hero to (literarily) beat them back to their duty. Cryptic? Vague? Well, that's how it's supposed to be, because, while Dark Souls III has a much stronger sense of purpose than before, the plot is basically a book of Greek and Norse mythology at its grimmest, with its few pages scattered in the wind… from the top of a mountain.

Screenshot for Dark Souls III on PC

The narrative technique used here? No narration. Instead, it's all up to the player to piece the lore together by painstakingly noting every single detail, and each tiny ambiguous phrase. In some ways, it's like archaeology; the ruins are here - now try deciphering what happened by searching in the shadows of the past. In other ways, it's like high art; it requires careful analysis, it fuels conversation, it requires exchanging ideas. Long story short: it's not for everyone, since it will confuse those not willing to read between the lines, between the lines, between the lines, and annoy those who expect something better than an ending that might pass off as a simplistic, NES-like "The End" screen.

This is what separates any Dark Souls title from most video games, and this is why its fans are a unique breed of gamers - and not just when it comes to the plot. Dark Souls III continues the tradition of being relentless, since its Spartan "You Died" game over screen will become an afterimage to everyone, because, while technically a hack 'n' slasher, even the simplest of foes can bring forth quick death if not absolutely focused on the battlefield, observing enemy movement and timing each hit, block, evasion, or parry.

Veterans will surely find this episode much easier, but, thankfully (for them), there are some nasty surprises lurking in the corners, like a certain (really annoying) enemy that mutates into a very formidable foe whose attack patterns are quite hard to read, or the simply fantastic bosses, which change their behaviour mid-fight as their health goes down. Generally, while not really harder than the previous titles, enemies are faster and more aggressive, but, so is the main character; an improvement that was, undoubtedly, influenced by the adrenaline-pumping pace of Bloodborne.

Screenshot for Dark Souls III on PC

Other changes include the use of focus points instead of a limited number of spell casts, the option to allot flasks between health and focus-replenishment, and, fortunately, the disappearance of certain problems, like arrows getting blocked by invisible walls. Hardcore fans will probably complain about the small distance between each bonfire (the series' checkpoints), yet the level design erases that problem, because, while the world is much smaller than before, it's also quite dense and non-linear, offering plenty of secondary paths and shortcuts to those who like searching around.

A simple, yet very interesting, concept that adds another layer of depth into the gameplay is Weapon Arts. What are they? Simple: each weapon provides an additional unique technique, with some requiring entering a 'stance' mode before unleashing an attack, while other more powerful ones need focus points to be pulled off. These can range from parrying with a shield, pulling an arrow even further back, and sharpening a blade to temporarily improve it, to infusing a weapon with elemental magic, or breaking the enemy's guard or stamina.

To be honest, though, those expecting any considerable updates will find changes being somewhat lacklustre, since this is basically a marginally upgraded Dark Souls. Levelling-up requires going back to the hub-like Firelink Shrine, which is somewhat annoying, yet offers some interesting surprises, mainly in the form of interactions with NPCs; entering the so-called 'Lord of Cinder' mode after beating a boss, or consuming a certain - rare and expensive - item that enables online play, such as PvP and Co-op, and, finally, Souls, which serve both as EXP and currency, are the most priceless things in here, since they get left behind where death did its deed, and disappear if the unfortunate hero dies again before reclaiming them. Yup, death still matters in this franchise.

Screenshot for Dark Souls III on PC

The thing with any Dark Souls title, is that few sit on the fence about them - it's either love or hate, with anyone daring to point out a flaw having to deal with, "You are a noob!," "You don't get it," or, the favourite of yours truly, "DIE!!!" The truth, however, is that, while great, Dark Souls III repeats certain mistakes of its predecessors - and, yes, they are mistakes; not different gameplay mechanics, unique systems, or alternative perspectives, but mistakes. Note that the following aren't a moan at the difficulty, but in some specific game mechanics - it's the "how," not the "how much."

The camera frequently leads to cheap deaths, since the view can easily get obstructed, and the clunky lock-on system makes having to fight multiple foes a tedious chore. Furthermore, battle can be very black-or-white: parried? Congratulations! The enemy is dead. Messed up the parry? Bye-bye, big chunk of health. Realistic? Sure, but it leaves little room for experimentation, especially when it comes to boss fights. The main problem, however, lies in how it's sometimes impossible to understand why this or that didn't happen: "I rolled to avoid the beast, it touched me, I'm okay. I avoided its mace, it didn't seem to touch me, but I got hurt. Huh?!."

For all its flaws, Lords of the Fallen got this right - not because it was way easier, but because it felt… immediate. The sword on the screen found its target? Then the other guy will bleed - end of story. On the other hand, the trial-and-error required in Dark Souls III is the equivalent of jumping off a cliff a hundred times, before learning how to land without dying - extremely exciting when that works, but that doesn't make the whole process any less irritating. As for the badly-designed UI, which is the polar opposite of hand-holding, let's just leave it at that, because it's better when reviews actually have an ending.

Screenshot for Dark Souls III on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Everyone will find something in Dark Souls III to nit-pick about, but, in the end, this is a wonderful sequel that every single long-term fan will grab and never let go - and there are plenty of reasons not to, although not much has changed, and despite the fact that it still hasn't fixed its biggest problems. Its world is still magnificently dark, its lore still a wonderfully challenging puzzle, and the gameplay is still that weird combination of pleasure and masochism. FromSoftware has once again created a game that you don't just play through, but experience as an engrossing odyssey… and, as expected from the series, it's not for everyone.

Developer

From Software

Publisher

Bandai Namco

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Dark Souls 2 was one of the hardest video games I've ever played. Don't expect anything lese from the 3rd!

I really struggled with Scholar of the First Sin...so hard to get into. I died miserably on a regular basis, even early on in the game, so I got a bit fed up, to be honest.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Adam Riley said:
I really struggled with Scholar of the First Sin...so hard to get into. I died miserably on a regular basis, even early on in the game, so I got a bit fed up, to be honest.

The fear of dying when trying to go back to the boss is awesome the first 10 times. After than it becomes a chore which takes away from the immersion.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

I'm so hyped for this. I've been going through all the Souls games to get ready, and I've been seriously itching for new content to dig my teeth into. 

Adam Riley said:
I really struggled with Scholar of the First Sin...so hard to get into. I died miserably on a regular basis, even early on in the game, so I got a bit fed up, to be honest.

I wasn't a big fan of Scholar of the First Sin to be honest. I think it's definitely the worst of the Souls games when it comes to feeling fair. I love the series, but even with SotFS I was constantly feeling frustrated and very rarely feeling rewarded.

It wasn't even bosses - I'm talking about stupid little creatures that look like they could merely be stamped on, but were incessantly following me around, nipping bits of energy...but when I say 'bits' it was actually large chunks and death came far quicker than expected. Totally killed any motivation to persevere further Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I played a lot of DS1 but it felt clunky and I never got into it that much. I skipped DS2 / SotFS. I did pick up Bloodborne last year on the PS4 and it was one of the best games of 2015 alongside witcher 3. I found the learning curve steep but rewarding and the bosses...my god the bosses. They gave me the same pump that the Metroid Prime games gave me of the adrenaline and the eventual success. I sunk a lot of hours into bloodborne and finished it a few times and loved running through all the chalice dungeons.

SoulsBorne games are hard, but they're not unfair. They punish you for being rash and the intro of DS3 is harder than most, even the next area is difficult compared to the others. I've only put in a few hours (at the second boss) but it's a blend of the speed that came from BloodBorne and thrown it into Dark Souls. The learning curve is there all over again as bloodborne rewards being offensive (no shield, get health back by counter attacking, and amazing 'trick' weapons) but DS3 is a little slower and you have to be a little more tactical as enemies now (out of nowhere) will throw a 6 hit combo at you. 

Dying is part of the game (let's ignore the internet's 'Git Gud phrasing here)  but each death you learn something, you start to get a feel for enemy attack patterns, and more so, is learning the game inside and out. Dying isn't for naught at all. If you died it's because it's your fault. There's always another route, some more souls to harvest, or tactics that can be picked up. You might loose some souls, but you can go and get them back, but you keep all the items that you've picked up which can help you. You can't underestimate anything in these titles. But when you overcome all of that, the sense of achievement is amazing. I've had fights that I've gone into entirely unprepared (e.g. not knowing it's a boss) and come out on top by a hair later on just because I've gotten better. Also, learning the area and the routes does quite literally mean that you can sprint through them with ease.

It's a true game of progression. But it is like marmite. There are too many games that spoon feed you narrative, controls and checkpoints. These games are the only ones that I've played recently that break that gaming norm and really bring you back down to earth. Once you get into it, it's addictive as hell.

Just one more try at that boss....

Echoes221 said:
It's a true game of progression. But it is like marmite. There are too many games that spoon feed you narrative, controls and checkpoints.

I don't want to be spoon fed with narrative, controls, and checkpoints... but I also don't want a vague idea of what an item or stat does... or at least competent targeting/camera mechanics.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

It's all there in game - Just have to read more. There's stuff in the manual and you can hit the 'learn more' button which gives you a readout of all the stats... And failing that, you have to learn how to use it. Targeting and camera are great in the soulsborne games as well. I've never had an issue with them, and the lock on is much improved with multiple enemies.

Echoes221 said:
And failing that, you have to learn how to use it.

That's the only way for many things, which is not good for such a demanding game.
Echoes221 said:
Targeting and camera are great in the soulsborne games as well. I've never had an issue with them, and the lock on is much improved with multiple enemies.

I sure wish I felt that way... Smilie

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?
hinchjoie

There are 1 members online at the moment.