Basic Game Review – Dark Souls 3

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Overview

To say that I know what the story is in Dark Souls 3 outside of slaughtering the bad guys, would straight up be a lie to my viewers. All I know is that the main character is “The Ashen One.” An undead person that runs around killing other undead things so that he can kill off various the lords in hopes of becoming one. Look, I know there is a deep lore to Dark Souls games hidden in its depths… but that’s up to the hardcore to find. I came here looking for some of that twitch based gameplay and it positively delivered.

Visuals

Before we get to the sweet gameplay, let’s talk a bit about the visuals. The PC version is the game I played and I can say it looks as pretty as it can for such a dark title. It’s a visually pretty game, but it’s definitely a console port. Its world is equally beautiful and gruesome at the same time. However, nothing is more notable than the haunting creature designs. Somehow, From Software continue to come up with detailed and frightening brutes around every corner.  The character designer must have the mind of a madman.

It runs the full gamut in the graphic options, SSAO, Max textures, Anti-Aliasing etc.  Like Dark Souls 2, it runs at a mostly steady frame rate of 60 fps. I say mostly steady because the FPS drops for seemingly no reason in certain locations in the game. Seeing as this is a console port and not particularly the most amazing looking game… the frame-rate drops don’t make much sense; especially not on a GTX 980.

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Audio

The music in Dark Souls 3 is intense and heavily fits the mood no matter the situation. It’s easy to lose yourself in the battle when the intense orchestrated music hits during a major boss fight. The voiceover work is solid, but it’s nothing to write home about. On the other hand, the ghoulish screams from the variety of beasts and the meaty weapon strikes are nigh unforgettable.

Gameplay

The combat is important in Dark Souls 3 but the exploration is what edges us on. You’re never quite sure what sort of world is just behind the next door. One moment you could be in a throne room, and the next you’re surrounded by a room full of sleeping giants. It’s the next best thing to the combat, that feeling of wide-eyed adventure as you explore the next locale for treasure and the looming death that comes with it.

Dark Souls 3 pits your ability to observe patterns and tap buttons with precision to avoid dying to even the lowliest of enemies. If you’re a fan of Bloodborne or the previous Dark Souls titles the combat will feel instantly familiar. Newer players will have to learn the ropes if they wish to play, but in my opinion, this Dark Souls is the most embracing for rookie players.

Dark Souls 3 does away with a mechanic that made its predecessors an immediate turn off to newer player. In Dark Souls I and II, the main character would lose a hint health each time they would die. Eventually, this would cripple you and battles and make getting around near impossible. There was a mechanic to remove the health problems, but most new players would give up in frustration before that was possible.

Now, players can die repeatedly and keep a proper health bar to face off against the deadly enemies at their leisure. You still lose souls when you die, but that’s another area where they’ve made change for the newer crowd. In Dark Souls II, you couldn’t really grind enemies to receive souls. After respawning enough of them, they would disappear and never come back to that area.

Dark Souls 3 always respawns enemies from the previous area after activating a bonfire. So players can lose big hordes of souls in death but will still have the option to grind for more when necessary. So if you’re a person that likes to grind out stats, you’re in luck with Dark Souls 3. Speaking of Bonfires, this game has plenty of them scattered around each location. Which makes it easier to travel than ever before. This allows for retreating to the main hub for items and upgrades at a casual pace.

Frost Fight

One big thing that splits the Dark Souls series from other games is its need to be punishing. Yes, sometimes its mean for the sake of being mean but it’s all a learning experience. Dark Souls is one large game of trial and error. You’ll have to carefully enter an area and observe the location of enemies and their attack patterns.

It’s a little easier once you’ve gotten the hang of the patterns of enemies, but you will still need to be on guard as enemies can still cut you in half without warning. That being said, you are probably going to die hundreds of time just to get to a stable position. As I said earlier though, the punishment in Dark Souls 3 isn’t as bad as it was in previous iterations. This allows you to die constantly but also learn from your mistakes without being unjustly penalized.

Sure you’ll lose a ridiculous amount of souls, but you’ll be able to push through the pain to create a powerhouse of your own. Dark Souls 3 is a game created out of skill, and most builds are directly related to how you play the game. It’s probably one of the few games where you can butt naked man with a stick and still beat some of the hardest bosses.

It’s a different category of fun compared to other games. You normally have this determination to push onward to fight, die and fight again. To brace yourself as you walk around the neck corner, or spin the camera around as you cross a bridge. Only for the fear that some beast could pull you down into the abyss. When you finally strike down a boss that stilted your progress after 20 deaths and you feel the rush of victory. This is Dark Souls 3 at its very best.

That’s not saying that the game is perfect by any means. It’s excruciatingly hard and extremely satisfying in most places and this is what makes it great. There are other times though where I feel like it asks too much of the player and not enough of its world. A lot of people don’t give it enough flack for this… but I’m not one of those people.

One of my major concerns with the Souls series is how much realism surrounds the main character and nothing else. I don’t have a problem with a fantastical world, but it’s the realism vs. fantasy in the gameplay that ruins the dynamic. There are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have to ignore just so the game can be difficult.

The title likes to keep it real when it comes to the player. You have a stamina bar, take high amounts of damage, and spacing matters when using weapons near anything with collision. You’re slowed down by wearing too many heavy items, and some weapons can’t be used without the correct stats. In every aspect all the monsters ignore these acts of realism.

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Dark Souls 3 is only hard because the enemies don’t have these limitations. They aren’t smarter than you and their aggressiveness is what makes them dangerous. They never try to trick you into a false sense of security, their main goal is to attack endlessly in a pattern until they become vulnerable. If stamina wasn’t an issue, the game probably wouldn’t even be that difficult.

It’s at this point that I can’t forgive Dark Souls as a series for a few design choices. The game is designed to be played how it wants you to play it. Enemies are overly aggressive and can swarm you without any penalties to their actions. They aren’t weighed down by armor. They don’t collide with the walls with big weapons. They can attack through friends without doing damage but still hit your character. It’s a bit insufferable how much cheap play that the computer can get away with.

Dark Souls 3 doesn’t give you the satisfaction of outthinking the enemy. Sure we can wait them out and perform better than they can but that’s the extent of it. You lead an attack beast into the arrow of his friend because you thought it was a great idea. There is no chance of leading a large sword wielder into a narrow hallway with hopes he’d be unable to properly swing. All hope is lost when two enemy types descend on you swinging wildly and you roll away in hopes they hit each other.

Dark Souls doesn’t do much to allow human ingenuity to come into play. Its logic is centered on destroying the avatar by both fair and unfair means. It doesn’t care that enemies can slaughter us through walls and pillars. It could care less that its auto-target and camera system doesn’t work well for multiple attackers.

You don’t get to think outside the box and it instead wishes you to conform to its ways even if some of those ways ruin the gameplay. My character has all the logic of realism, but when I enter a forest with different types of animals that team up only to kill my character; I lose touch with the world. These are legacy issues that come up all too often and add an unwelcome frustration to a game about precision and skill.

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It’s no benefit that Dark Souls 3 has an awful targeting system accompanied by a sloppy camera system. There are times when the auto-target just can’t keep up with who needs to be targeted and this could lead to a quick slaughter. The camera also doesn’t always understand if you’re against a wall or when it needs to spin around to offer space. This is something that is a must in a game about accurate movement and quick gameplay. Unfortunately, Dark Souls 3 often drops the ball in these areas.

Conclusion

Dark Souls 3 has an amazing combat system that usually feels incredibly rewarding. If anything, this is the least punishing of the series and that’s what the series needs to bring more people in. I’ve played every Souls type game there is out there, and this is the only one I’ve been able to stomach for more than 20 hours. It still has many of the flaws that can frustrate new and old players alike, but it’s also one of the most rewarding Action-RPG’s out there.

If you have the patience to get past the learning curve, you’ll find a depth of gameplay and exploration that many games rarely offer. Dark Souls 3 is absolutely worthy of picking up if you’re into action based combat. This is the perfect game to play before playing any of the earlier games in the series. It’s strange that the last game in the series is the greatest introduction for new players.