Game Review: Dark Souls III

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Release date: 2016
Version played: Xbox One in 2016

The third and final of the Dark Souls trilogy, Dark Souls III is a third person action/adventure/role playing game released in 2016. After the release of Dark Souls II went without the involvement of Hidetaka Miyazaki, who was busy focusing on the Playstation exclusive Bloodborne, Dark Souls III saw Miyazaki return to the helm, and he has brought his new tricks to this game. In the land of Lothric, time is convoluted and the various lands of the world have converged. Utilising the well-known combat system, players will need to explore these transitory lands as they attempt to destroy the Lords of Cinder, risen from their graves in a desperate attempt to keep the First Flame burning. And so it is that ash seeketh embers…

+ the combat is more or less the same, save for the new ‘weapon art’ skills, which allow for a running charge when using spears, or a shield breaking swing for swords. A small handful are very useful, the majority just useful, and another handful are more or less useless. Learning to counter them is where the skill in Player-vs-Player combat will lie. The option to charge the heavy attacks carries over from Bloodborne, and it’s great here too
+ thought it’s no surprise, graphically, this is the best looking game of the series. All the armour and weapons looks great, and mesh together either really well or really horribly, depending on whether you are playing ‘Fashion Souls’ or not. The world itself is simply beautiful, and I have never wanted to leave more ‘gorgeous view ahead’ messages on the ground
+ some of the enemy designs are straight up horrifying. A few would not be out of place in the much more horror-influenced Bloodborne
+ the ‘open to interpretation’ style of storytelling is back, with arguably a marginally more coherent contained story. The ‘grand scheme of things’ lore returns, with numerous nods to the first game (though they do admittedly often cross into ‘fanservice’ rather than ‘clever nods’)

– the overworld is better designed, and makes far more sense, than Dark Souls II. Unfortunately, the game now feels far more linear than any others. In a few cases, you are unable to access areas until conditions are met, and in one instance in particular you are able to get all the way to the front door, but cannot open it until later. It is frustrating to work so hard to get somewhere only to be flat-out barred from entering due to contrived reasoning
similarly to Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, the enemies are still very (seemingly) unfair, utilising huge combos of attacks which cannot be interrupted or entirely blocked. These multi-hit combos will eat through your stamina only causing more damage. It is as if the enemies tactics are taken straight from the much faster paced Bloodborne, where it is not as simple to dodge in Dark Souls III
– much like the second game, on the Xbox One, when the screen gets crowded the framerate slows to a crawl. Add in the various spell effects and online play and it’s definitely something that may make or break a decision to play on console over a PC
– the second game was not great, sure, but it really does feel as if Miyazaki is making a point not to reference it. I don’t want to suggest it is purely out of spite, but the references to the first game outnumber those to the second a monstrous ten to one
– NPC quests are the most convoluted and ridiculously extravagant things ever; I don’t think I did any of them on my first ‘blind’ playthrough. Even following an explicit guide for one quest on my third run through was not an easy task

> at time of writing, June 2016, covenants are apparently not working as they need to. If you are a member of either of the ‘protector’ groups, you will rarely be automatically summoned as the game suggests

Should you play this game: After pouring over 120 hours into one character, completing the game over three times, I still can’t really think of any moments or gameplay features which stand out as ‘absolute must plays’. The game will scratch the Dark Souls itch, but that is just because it is more of the same, without the awe of first time exploration; you know what you’re getting, and if that is what you want you’ll love it. Otherwise, I can’t help but suggest just playing the first game.

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