On the off chance you DON’T know what Dark Souls III is, it’s an action-adventure RPG. What’s most important, however, is that this series is known for its challenging difficulty, something I tend not to really bat an eye at. I marked Dark Souls II down for its heavy reliance on trial-and-error by trolling you with deaths, and I went into Dark Souls III expecting more of the same.
And to my pleasant surprise, they’ve taken a page from Bloodbourne and have dramatically dialed back putting you in insta-death situations you couldn’t have seen coming. Since most insta-death situations are instead enemy ambushes, this is a good thing, as it allows newcomers to the series who may not be so keenly aware to have a small chance of surviving in panic mode. Additional influence comes in the number of minion and low-tier enemies populating the world. This eases repeated deaths with better soul farming and also helps to restore lost souls more quickly. And lastly, damage is also more forgiving overall, as I found myself surviving many more situations than I would have if it was Dark Souls II. So now you’re thinking the game went soft, right? Wrong: the big fights are just as hard as they’ve ever been in Dark Souls II. And this results in the perfect balance: an easier world to get through for newcomers, but bosses that keep more experienced players on their toes. When things are quiet, I unfortunately still find the platforming design to be painfully archaic and unnecessary, as simple things like ledges simply can’t be climbed. Moving outside of clunky adventuring is the usual RPG gear stuff with a healthy number of weaponry and equipment options. These weaponry options also come with new and flashy weapon skills, and while I found that a sword and shield still generally applies to most situations including bosses, I did find myself deciding size matters and using a more high-risk, high-reward weapon like a Great Axe for easily a straight 10 hours. And now that we’re talking about hours…
My first playthrough saw the credits roll in just under 39 hours. While this might SEEM short for a Dark Souls game, I DID spend some time enjoying the co-op experience, whether to learn what was coming up ahead, help others, or be helped myself thus speeding things up overall. While I still find invasions to be utterly annoying to the adventure, I seriously hope From Software’s next game makes a reality out of a glitch that had occurred in which co-op players were not colored silhouettes, but looked to be IN my world. At the end of the day, though, nothing beats the sullen and dark solo experience, and rest assured that with those tough boss fights and co-op/PvP at your disposal, you might just find yourself tempted to start a new game. Why? Because you get to keep EVERYTHING, and grow even more powerful against foes that get faster and more aggressive with each playthrough. In this day-and-age, this kind of length of an adventure combined with such favorable replayability is rare and worth giving credit to.
Dark Souls has a torrid history on PC, and I have both good and bad news. The good news is that it works, and that it CAN run at 60 fps all maxed out. The bad news is, even after some patches, framerates can dip below 60 for no apparently good reason, and then stay absolutely solid during an intense boss fight. And while the game does LOOK good, it’s truthfully time a new graphics engine is built from the ground up. Instead of making a current gen looking game, they instead threw textures and polygons at it, attempting to brute force the engine into looking detailed. This is easily noticed upon closer inspection, as things like draw distance pop is noticeable, close-ups clearly demonstrate last-gen underpinnings, and lighting work isn’t even close to more modern games. The good news is that this doesn’t affect the core experience, as the game provides nothing short of awe-inspiring monster noises, aggressive sound effects, and epic music for its epic boss fights.
Maybe I’m just more old-school than I realize, but there’s a part of me that will always welcome a challenge. The challenge has to be a test of my skill, however, and not a test of my patience. Dark Souls II tested my patience more often than my skill, but Dark Souls III almost entirely removes that, and I couldn’t help but feel like everything was on me. Therein lies why Dark Souls III is easily the best in the series. It removes the nonsense that made Dark Souls famous, sure, but it also makes this the most refined experience of all Souls games, Bloodbourne included. It’s a proper hybrid between Dark Souls II and Bloodbourne, even if both of those games share the same soul. And it’s this aged soul, outdated in both environmental navigation and graphics, that still burns a strong flame: one that truly tests the unrelenting might of its player.
I give Dark Souls III…