“Dark Souls” these two words are enough to reduce some gamers to a quivering wreck questioning their own insanity. To others it is a testament to their patience, sword wielding, spell casting skills. This month has seen the return of From Software’s third instalment of the highly challenging Dark Souls series.
This is a world in disarray, barely clinging on to its last breath. What was once breathtaking is now covered in decay. You have mass graves all around you in a damp, mossy bog-like location hidden in the mountains. This is the setting for the third in the Dark Souls series. For gamers with a death wish, From Software’s latest offering is your saviour so prepare to die, die and die again. Get set to do battle against large foes, the likes of which you have not met before. Patience, strategy and picking the right tool for the job at hand is key to keeping that “Your Dead” screen at bay. The story in Dark Souls 3 unfolds subtly as you are expected to study the many monuments and carvings to get a fuller picture of what is happening. Without wanting to spoil any of the story the main premiss is that the world needs a resurrection in order to rid the decay that has set in. To do this the Lords of Cynder need to link the fire which in turn will kill them. Well they have done a runner so it is up to you to go kill them and return their souls so that the reboot of the world can be done.
As you make your way to the cliff side, you are met with a stunning panoramic view of snow covered mountains. Look in the other direction and you see where the craggy clifftops end and the colossal castles begin. What is even more stunning is the retrospective view of the epic areas where you have just come from, or going to. This will allow you some strategic planing of your route and weapon setup. One of the many memorable moments is standing in an elevated area of a castle and seeing an enormous dragon hugging a tower top and breathing fire on to the unsuspecting undead roaming the walkways below. The scale of the areas that you can see in the distance is nothing short of spectacular. The major temple-like structure you will come across early on is Firelink Shine which acts like a hub. It is here you will get the first chance to buy/sell items as well as upgrade weapons etc. It is also here and only here where you will be able to level up your character. This can break up an otherwise immersive gaming experience but it is something that can be easily overlooked.
The level design in Dark Souls 3 is quite simply exemplary well designed and intelligently thought out. Dark Souls 3 isn’t an open world title but the labyrinth style layout gives it that type of feel, especially as you come across the variety of NPC’s on offer with their own problems. The sheer scale and size of these multipath locations means there is usually more than one way to the epic boss encounters as you track down the Lords to return their souls to their thrones. The locations used are full of detail and so immersive that you want to go exploring and it’s this kind of level design that keeps me coming back for more. I lost count of the amount of times I have said “just one more go”. I’ve battled through castles, forests, a very eerie deserted village and I still feel I have only scratched the surface. You will also find yourself knee deep in a slug infested swamp and all other host of horrors to discover. I have encountered all manner of undead creatures from butchers with gigantic hacksaws waiting to cut you in half, to a very over weight knight with an axe the size of a double-decker bus.
The fighting has a very smooth flow to it with your medium and heavy attacks being pulled off with ease. The combat really comes into its own with the new Battle Arts system. This uses some FP but the attack comes with additional abilities resulting in a much more powerful blow than normal. If your FP is depleted then it will take a chunk from your stamina bar. This really comes into its own with duel wielding weapons but I have also been experimenting with my wand and other weapons. The broad sword gives a nice and flashy three move combo, finishing on an almighty upward swing. With enemies coming in all directions it can come in handy when executed at the right time. Keep in mind that this same FP bar is also used to cast your spells. Some of the creatures of Dark Souls 3 you meet feel like mini bosses making the game feel that much more satisfying when you go and explore. There are even monsters sending purple smoke after you as they call in reinforcements, this game knows how to keep you on your toes.
The inventory screen for the most is intuitive and easy to navigate. You can assign consumables, spells, weapons and shields to the d-pad, with the x button taken care of using the consumables. Navigating the inventory screen in the menu becomes slightly harder than it has to be. It’s not as easy to get a proper comparison when changing equipment etc but it eventually becomes second nature once you familiarise yourself with it. Loot drops so far have been plentiful and you will not be short of weapons and armour, but for most you will need to be levelling up your stats, which there a quite a few to be done. Some weapons require you to be a certain level in specific areas of your stats.
The boss battles in Dark Souls 3 take the usual form where there is usually two to three phases during the battle as you deplete that health bar. So far I am in awe when it comes to the bosses in the game, not only are they bloody huge, they are also unique which is what you want in an action-RPG. I have battled a knight that has this purple alien like thing that grows from him, a massive four legged beast with some insane armour. Hell there is even a tree that comes alive for you to chop back down to size. Prepare to die over and over as you learn each of the bosses’ attack patterns and possible weak spots, when you die its a leaning process. The bonfires which are used as check points are fairly spaced out with one usually pretty near bosses. Let it be known that some of the bosses are actually optional but if you don’t fight them your missing out on a chunk of souls to spend.
Dark Souls 3 is a damn fine game to look at and there is a very high amount of detail that has gone in to each and every environment that you come across. Not only that each and every foe you come across has also got an insane amount of fine detail. Just taking a step back and looking at the panoramic view of snow covered mountains and seeing where the craggy clifftops end and the colossal castle begins is something quite unique. I like the fact that you can scout out an area before you venture fourth or look back and see where you just defeated one of the many bosses. It doesn’t come without its flaw, the frames can dip a little when things get quite busy on screen but so far it has been rare and even then I can still over look this. The camera can cause some unfair deaths, but it wouldn’t be Dark Souls without deaths, planned or unplanned. Rest assured though this is the finest looking Dark Souls game to date. The music is just so atmospheric of a medieval fantasy world and the environmental sounds really make you feel like you are there. Creeping about a village hearing crows and the creaking of a swinging sign, not knowing what is around the corner is heart stopping.
Dark Souls 3 has a multiplayer segment to it where you can be invaded by others or you can invade them which supports up to six players. However the real draw of online is that you can go through the game with your mate. At the time of writing I haven’t ventured online yet as I would like to experience it once the servers go live for the public. I can’t foresee any problems though and I look forward to doing co-op with my mates. I will update the article shortly after release if need be.
The Good Things
- The graphics are stunning with so much attention to detail.
- Battle Arts are a great addition to combat.
- Plenty of memorable moments.
And The Bad
- Some frame dips now and then nothing that distracts from the over all experience.
- Camera can cause some unfair deaths.
- Dark Souls 3 is a Gothic rich, medieval adventure which keeps dragging you back for more. The gameplay rewards both patience and exploration. With memorable boss battles and a few intense heart stopping moments it will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions. The environments all look stunning and have so much detail in them, nothing feels better than looking over a cliff edge and seeing the large scale levels the game has to offer. The occasional frame rate dips and dodgy camera aside this is one tough but rewarding action-RPG.
Dark Souls 3 is a Gothic rich, medieval adventure which keeps dragging you back for more.