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Dark Souls III Review – A Look Back

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Dark Souls III

With Dark Souls Remastered on the horizon – releasing May 25th, 2018 – let’s take a look back at Dark Souls III. As the Golden Joystick’s Game of the Year of 2016, Dark Souls III currently maintains an 89 on Metaciritic. Lauded heavily for its beautiful presentation, epic soundtrack, and some of the greatest boss battles of all time, the game was an instant hit and favorite for many. Dark Souls III evolved upon the series and capitalized on its own momentum with new covenants, new battle abilities, and some of the most jaw-dropping visual effects and animation ever featured in a game. Whether it’s the gorgeous animation of the embers flying off your character or the gorgeous views of Lothric, every part of Dark Souls III was beautiful and well-crafted.

Dark Souls III

Taking place inside the aforementioned kingdom of Lothric, Dark Souls III takes the same cues as its predecessors. You’re the Ashen One and you’re the one who has to be the change in a dead and dying world. Link the fire and discover the mysteries and lore of the kingdom. Much like the predecessors, your journey will bring you to various landscapes. Castles, icy fields, tombs, and catacombs are only the start of the many areas you uncover. You’ll meet familiar faces, like Andore of Astora, and new faces, such as the Siegmeyer of Catarina. NPCs feature a story that you can uncover in their sidequests. As you progress through the game, they’ll help you access areas, aid you in battle, and prove their worth to you right until the end. Despite not straying far from its foundations, Dark Souls III offers a rewarding experience for series newcomers as well.

The covenants and traditions of the series.

The Soulsborne series features many conventions that stay the same in each game. For those who may be wondering, Soulsborne is a portmanteau of Souls (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls) and Bloodborne. Both series were created by the same developer – From Software – and play similarly, all on the same engine. That being said, conventions from both bleed into each other. You’ll notice touches of Bloodborne, such as Yuka Kitamura’s music, or even references, like the Hunter’s Hat as an equip item. While experimenting with new things is always good, Dark Souls III evolves. One feature is the new covenants. While Blade of the Darkmoon, Warrior of Sunlight, and Way of Blue return, Mound Makers is particularly a new take on “friend or foe.” It allows you to kill enemies and players alike while invading.

Another new covenant – exclusive to The Ringed City DLC – is the Spears of the Church. What makes this covenant unique is the ability to become the boss fight in one of the game’s last areas. While similar in nature to the Old Monk Covenant in Demon’s Souls, this one takes the form of a covenant as opposed to a simple summon. Each covenant in the game takes similarities from previous games. Watchdogs of Farron invade and guard an area similar to the Cat’s Covenant in Dark Souls. The Blue Sentinels function as a vigilante group similar to the Blades of the Darkmoon, punishing players who invade others, and so forth.

What separates Dark Souls III from the rest?

In Dark Souls III, one of the most unique abilities include your weapon specials. Stance and Stomp are two primary examples. In Stance, you can move in a new stance that changes your primary attacks. You can gain an upper-slash guard break or an upward stab. With Stomp, your Poise (super armor) increases greatly. This is effective for punishing players and enemies by baiting them into an attack they’ve committed to. You can use a massive uppercut attack or an AoE strike. In the case of the Profaned Greatsword, you can even light your weapon on fire briefly. As a Greatsword and Ultra Greatsword user, these are only a few of the many possibilities you gain from these abilities. If you prefer to use Spears, Short Swords, or other weapons, be sure to try them all!

Dark Souls III

Similar to Dark Souls II, you can respec your stats. One covenant allows you to trade items so you can reset all your stats and create the build you want. With one of the later updates, a full-fledged arena mode was added to the game. Unlike the Arena in Dark Souls, this has multiple arenas and can allow 1v1, 2v2, or even 3v3 matches to occur. As PvP is one of the biggest and most popular points of Dark Souls titles, From Software dedicated many points to matchmaking. Selectable stages, modes, and rules all come from hitting up the Firelink Shrine’s bonfire. Plus, the infamous “lag backstab” from DS1 is long gone. While lag is certainly a permeable part of any online game, I personally had a far better experience playing DS3’s PvP mode.

How does this affect Dark Souls Remastered?

With the advent of the remaster coming out next week, From Software included a number of quality of life improvements into their game. Some of these were related to Dark Souls III. In addition to beautiful, revamped graphics in 1080p, changes from bonfire points to PvP affect players in their second run of the game. Bandai Namco went over a small list of changes recently. These include less healing options for PvP matches. Specifically, Phantoms can no longer use other healing items and their Estus Flasks are halved. Also, Password Matchmaking was added into the game. This will allow players to find one another for specific matches instead of players randomly being summoned to their location.

Dark Souls III

In Dark Souls, the aforementioned “lag-backstab” was a notorious element of the game. Any player of any skill level could simply exploit the game and wander around your back, stabbing you repeatedly. Even if you rolled away, you would simply be met with another backstab, effectively ending your duel. In Dark Souls Remastered, the game will use dedicated servers instead of P2P. Also, players can no longer summon Phantoms while in combat. Hopefully this will alleviate another serious problem of the original title – ganking. For invaders, it was a pain for players to do their job as Darkmoon Blades when their target would keep summoning on them. The rebalancing of the game will hopefully invite players back into Dark Souls 1 and make the game a much more enjoyable experience for veterans and newcomers. You can read the list of currently-known changes here.

Is Dark Souls III the best in the series?

Demon’s Souls conceived the series in 2009. Since then, From Software has evolved the Soulsborne titles with quality of life improvements. More bonfires, new combat options, and improved matchmaking are among the few. Dark Souls II was the subject of controversy, however. Known as the “B-Team game” in the fanbase, series created Hidetaka Miyazaki did not direct Dark Souls II. Some issues included world design and even lag in matchmaking. Dark Souls III, however, felt like a step up from elements in past games. In particular, one boss – Bed of Chaos – could simply combo the player, ending their lives in two hits, or even knocking them into a pit. Another problem with Dark Souls was the Tomb of the Giants. They were infamous for the “Skeleton Beasts.” It was all too easy for them to knock players into a pit, leaving many players defenseless.

Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III offers some of the best level design and quality improvements the series has to offer. It felt polished and streamlined from start to finish, offering some of the prettiest worlds, like the Irithyll of the Boreal Valley. Some of the hardest monsters, like Sulyvahn’s Beast, were fallible to the right tactics. As a debate among proper level design and enemy placement is common in the community, Dark Souls III never failed to please me. It was a beautiful masterpiece that allowed players more freedom, easier traveling, and fair, balanced options when competing against extremely strong bosses and enemies. Rarely did the game feel cheap, however. You were provided with plenty of ammo and tactics at your disposal. As I say, if a Level 1 naked barbarian can do it, so can you.

The Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City.

Dark Souls III offers two DLC packs. The Ashes of Ariandel was the first, released in 2016. Taking place inside of an icy, painted world, it echoed the Painted World of Ariamis from the first Dark Souls. The mysterious NPC, Slave Knight Gael, invites you into a painted world. The unforgiving ice wasteland is filled with living trees, packs of wolves, and even large insects. You enter the snowfield and move into a cathedral littered with bugs. Encountering several bosses, you meet a young girl painting a portrait. This sets players up for the second DLC, The Ringed City, which was released in 2017.

Dark Souls III

Having just beaten The Ringed City DLC, I can safely say it’s the hardest challenge I’ve met in the series. First of all, one enemy summons angels that fire holy blades at you. You must find the summoner or the angels continuously respawn. Another includes huge monsters with giant swords. What makes them more problematic is the length of their hits. Even after rolling, these monsters may still get a hit in. And once you leave the Dreg Heap, you fight a gigantic Summoner who traps you with magic archers and other enemies. All of this culminates into the single hardest boss fight in the series – Darkeater Midir. While he’s not the DLC’s final enemy, he is an optional boss and is perhaps the single toughest boss I’ve ever faced. Even the most experienced players will suffer long hours trying to take him down. Prepare for the worst.

Overall.

Dark Souls III combines the best of the Souls series. The masterful graphics, the beautiful soundtrack, the memorable boss fights, the variety of weapons and playstyles, and the level of exploration. You learn of much of the lore through the game’s items, or can even hit up VaatiVidya’s channel for lore. But what makes Dark Souls III special is how everything comes together and is worth more than the sum of its parts. Despite both being great games, I consider Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls the prelude to this game. Both games were great for their presentation, but heavily flawed in execution. Dark Souls III features none of their flaws. Perhaps the only problems I had with DS3 involved some enemies being a little too powerful at time, making dodging difficult. Also, one puzzle in the Ringed City is vague, forcing you to use abilities you otherwise wouldn’t use.

Dark Souls III

As I mentioned earlier, Dark Souls 1 was masterful, yet flawed in several ways. What I love about this game’s influence is that it sets a new road for the original game. First time players may have an easier time enjoying the original game and perhaps not feel as alienated by its difficulty. The quality improvements are noteworthy for any player, veteran or newcomer. If you’re ready to play Dark Souls Remastered, hopefully this review will give a bit of what to prepare for. Keep in mind, Dark Souls III is as perfect a place as any to start the series. While it’s not directly connected to previous games, it features its own story. If you’re ready for a challenge, I strongly suggest trying one of the greatest games of all time.

Wrap-up!

Thanks for reading our review! What’s your favorite of the Soulsborne series? Do you have a favorite or least favorite part in Dark Souls III? Let us know in the comments below. Still looking for some more gothic horror action? Check out our preview of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon here!

9.5
Light into Darkness.
A fitting end.
Dark Souls III calls forth the best of the Souls series evolution. From boss fights to stage design, the game paces itself well from start to finish. Enjoy the game's gratuitous lore and one of the single greatest soundtracks as you fight your way through an epic, unforgettable, yet unforgiving adventure.
Pros
Solid controls overall.
Epic soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba and Yuka Kitamura.
Memorable and amazing boss battles.
Tons of exploration to uncover secrets.
Cons
One or two parts of the game are vague.
A few battles might be quite frustrating.

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