Thursday 7 April 2016

Dark Souls III

I always felt the "Prepare to Die" marketing campaign for the Dark Souls games always cheapened the true feeling that Dark Souls portrays. It gave a sense that the game was punishingly hard when really it was challengingly fair. You've got to be careful, watch enemy movements and realise everything can hit just as hard if not harder than you. It's tough, rewarding, but all importantly, fair. This is something the marketing undersells. Dark Souls III feels like the "Best of" series between all the Dark Souls games as well as Bloodborne and Demon Souls

Out April 12th on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and developed by From Software, Dark Souls III is the perfect entry point for people to jump into the world and genre the developers have cultivated. Queue the gasps of horror and anger. But if you let me explain I'll tell you why this is the greatest Souls game yet and possibly better than Bloodborne and all. The Lords of Cinder have abandoned their throne – well most of them anyway. As Ashen (you literally rose from ash) you must hunt them down and punish them for their acts. See, if I was asked what the original Dark Souls or Dark Souls II story was about, everything would be a bit of a mess by how I structure the world to you. Dark Souls III has an excellent way of easing people in while still being obscure in its story and world. 

The opening 5-6 hours are relatively easier than previous iterations but don't be fooled: This isn't a dumbed down or easier game. What From Software have done is excellently bring people into the game, get the grips with things while still distinctly feeling like a Dark Souls title. It will still kick your ass and the infamous "You Died" prompt will be seen dozens if not hundreds of times. However, I did kill a few bosses in the first try which was an unusual feeling. Then again, I could have just become a Dark Souls master in my tenure with the series (I haven't)

The speed of combat has been increased over the last Dark Souls title to find an excellent sweet spot between Dark Souls II and Bloodborne. Rolling feels more effective but it's not always a strafing mess which Bloodborne sometimes fell into. Weirdly enough, I felt as though I had many more options for how to build my character than I ever have. I always fell into the conservative sword and shield but here I mixed things up to great success.

Dark Souls has always been full of secrets and Dark Souls III is no different. There is so much lore to uncover if you look hard enough. The world has always been the largest narrative thread and that remains. You might even see some familiar places here that will definitely excite fans of the series.

The locations in Dark Souls III are varied and stunning. Standing on the peak of an area and seeing somewhere you haven't been in 10 hours really gives scale and connection to the world that very few games have ever done. Visually, the game is stunning and the varied locations keep things mixed up giving you something new to admire every few hours. The game will take about 20-25 hours to complete but the New Game + and beyond is where Dark Souls III truly shines. I felt as though the challenge in the main game was satisfying but NG+ is as hellish as you'd expect.

What must be commended though is how the developers have managed to keep the world feeling mysterious but making you feel not completely lost. Enemies are fun to encounter and the progression feels insanely gratifying. The game enraptures you and takes over to the point where I actually dreamed Dark Souls. There is so much optional content to discover also meaning you won't find all of its secrets in a single playthrough. I could go on all day.

A masterclass in game design. 5/5.


Jason Redmond

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