+Graphics are on par with the PlayStation 4 Exclusive Bloodborne
+Combat flow is smooth as well as crisp
+Musical score is phenomenal at setting up the emotion felt with each zone
+Armor designs heavily reflect on both Dark Souls and Bloodborne titles
+Difficulty scaling is insanely fun and moderately easy to-adapt to
+New enemy types fit well with some of the revisited areas such as Anor Lando
+New weapon arts allows for a new pace as well as flow in combat
-Major latency issues in PvP and Co-Op (tested on 200D/25U MBPs internet)
-Difficulty in navigating areas remains about the same for veterans
When Demon’s Souls launched on PlayStation 3 many gamers new something dark was looming in the air. The title was not easy, it was not fair, and it would punish a player however it could. Known for meticulous fights, devastating fights, and humiliation in any form; the Souls series by From Software has become one of the mos beloved franchises around the world. With bosses the size of castles, weapons that are inhumanely scaled, and armor designs that would make a D&D fan’s heart melt, the game has taken the world by storm. With five Souls style games under their belt, From Software has made a path of their own in the past eleven years. With a difficulty that goes without moderated in any form, PvP is brutal, enemies are devastating, and even the terrains await to perish a player who ventures through them. This was much my case with Dark Souls III, the final chapter in a franchise, and one that I’ve come to love dearly due to its grueling scale of difficulty. With 69 hours, 32 minutes and and 19 seconds under my belt, I was able to conquer a title in PvP, PvE, and gear farming in an astonishing way that even a Souls fan would appreciate as I had left almost every stone turned and every corner checked on.
When it was first announced that Dark Souls III would more than likely be the end of me seeing relentless enemies with sharp pointy things chasing me down, slaughtering me, and taking me outside to beat on me some more once a corpse, I felt a certain bit of me begin to break apart after having realized that my thousands of hours between Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls III and the “successor” neglected red-headed step-child Bloodborne were coming to an end, my heart sank. After all, a certain sadistic and twisted side of me, I’ll admit loved the brutal punishments. There was nothing like having an undead knight in silver armor chasing me down, brutally waylaying on me to death, and then proceeding to knock me around with his shield as a form of entertainment. The truth is? A certain part of me loved it when I finally managed to parry his attack with my shield only to grotesquely submerge my axe into his neck, and walk away with a toothy gri on my face. Only to b e moments later hit with a fireball and sent to my untimely death due to another player having invaded my game.
When looking at Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Dark Souls III players will notice that the series has taken a familiar twist back to originality as series director Hidetaka Miyazaki has now returned to the franchise, the game takes a path away from what Dark Souls II had done, which offered a different director, a changed pace in difficulty, and a derided hub-based game world, boring armor clad monsters, and a world that seems, at times, a disappointing visual world, Dark Souls III once more brings the sun to the series, and shines a light back on the franchise. Even as an exit, Dark Souls III has redeemed the series with a return to all things old as well as things new including the return of Artorias’ equipment, Anor Lando from Dark Souls, and even a nod towards covenants that’ll seem all too familiar for veteran players. While hardcore fans were disappointed with Dark Souls II, Dark Souls III has managed to redeem the franchise on a high-note.
When looking at the Dark Souls series, we have to focus on how bad as well as good Dark Souls II was, and to do so we have to bring up the central hub Majula from Dark Souls II. Majula, unlike Firelink Shrine tried to setup a central hub. One that felt alive, interactive, and one that players would become rather familiar with in a rather intimate way. In Firelink Shrine, players will come to use this place as their rest stop, one that serves as both leveling area and even their place to shop, upgrade, and create. As players become familiar with things such as upgrading their equipment and meeting new NPC’s that will appear in Firelink Shrine, players also might reflect on the fact the original central hub also went on by the same name. One that led us to several new areas, including Anor Lando, among many other fun and lovely places that killed us more than once.
Much as the game feels like a rebirth of Dark Souls, the third installment is the one that feels truly alive as players bring in new NPCs, but also the world around them. While many players may find that these NPCs seem familiar, some of them may not seem as familiar, and that may be due to the fact players have yet to unlock their quest lines or covenants, unless they’ve met the jerk that decides to send players constantly to a place of their own demise. While this is common in the title, Firelink shrine serves as a place where players can find some solace in their adventures, and even a place where a few deep breaths can be taken. While seeing as many characters than fingers on your hand coming and going from the Shrine, it’s interesting to see as it gives a sense of atonement for past doings and even believable context to a world that isn’t living and breathing to help you out.
As many of you know, Dark Souls is a beautiful franchise, artistically it is almost impeccable at its detail. While the series itself has been a disturbing mess thanks to Blighttown (I’m still not sure I’ve recovered from that nightmare), which is hailed as the most painful, ugly, framerate eating, and most painful locale int he series, it’s a zone that has presented players with trouble over the years, and to this date seems to do so. Dark Souls III, however, has been a departure from that issue as much of the title on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 has been able to sustain its 30fps goal and even managed to cut down on most of the framerate problems that previous entries have had.While never having played the series on PC yet, the game has managed to stay smooth, fun, and even enjoyable while some of the areas such as the swamps did manage to bog my framerate at certain points. This happened more-so on the Xbox One than on PlayStation 4, but both id see this occur to say the least.
While you may read that the PC version encounters various pop-in’s for terrain and enemies, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions both seem to encounter this issue, even with the newly released Version 1.04 (regulation 1.05). The problems have actually seemed to have smoothed out in some of the more high-end locations such as the Profane Capital where flame particle effects as well as shadow effects are numerous and push the consoles to their limits. As my good friend Damien said, the zone made my PlayStation 4 sound like an airplane prepping for takeoff during the height of a war, which remained true in many of the games stages such as Smouldering Lake, Irithyll, and even the Grand Archives where lighting effects were numerous as well as enemies.
As much as this seems welcoming with sights that will take ones breath away, the sights are not something that will keep you at ease when burning torches and patrolling skeletons come into range, and before long an ambush awaits. While players may feel at ease momentarily, that is not something that Dark Souls wants as players will find themselves gritting their teeth and banging their head on the wall because of. It is something that becomes a painful realization as players may find the weight of danger almost too much to bare.
While this does offer some relaxation to players, this small breath of air is not one that will help players take in as much hope as they would. As much as combat seems fluid and welcoming, Dark Souls III does offer a quicker pace of fighting with the “Combat Arts” that brings new maneuvers to weapons. Weapons such as the Wolf Knights Greatsword’s fighting stance, players will find themselves favoring the weapons primary fighting stance after pressing triangle. While holding L2, players can hit R1 or R2 in order to do a power attack that uses both FP (mana) to do a power attack that will send players in a whirling attack of death when doing a front-flip with the weapon in town only to knock enemies down. While one would expect some cinematic spectacle to draw in nearby viewers in the same room, these are to bring a new unique bit of combat to the game and even partially influences one of the games boss fights, which brings the uniqueness to the forefront as players will find themselves bringing the down as quickly as possible. This heavily reflects bosses that are hidden within the game by covenant choices as well as hidden bosses that require certain requirements to unlock their zones.
While combat itself accents both the cinematic beauty, musical score, and the dark gothic settings – Dark Souls III can be considered the greatest hits of the franchise as it takes the best parts of all three titles including the lost step-child that’s a PS4 exclusive known as Bloodborne. While the game itself may feel short for players that dart through it, veterans that love to turn every stone possible, the title holds plenty of surprises around every corner and even a few nods towards the original titles as players hammer away at enemies of massive sizes. While this is a departure as the last title, the ending feels complete, and will leave players holding their head up high with astonishment at the farewell the title brings forth. While it’s bittersweet, the title does offer coop and pvp in excellent ways that will keep the title alive for years to come, even when DLC launches later this year.
We just hope to see From Software keep the spirit alive with their future games. For an exit? This game shows how to perfectly depart from a series that has taken hearts by storm for those who like grueling difficulties. As for us? It is a perfect painting we’ll be appreciating for years to come.
Our review is based on a copy we purchased for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter, Google+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.