The Souls series is one that is seen with much respect & awe, it’s deep, punishing yet rewarding game play has seen it become a favourite of gamers looking for a challenge but there is so much more to it than the difficulty.
Dark Souls III is the latest instalment in the series & might very well be the best yet.
The Kingdom of Lothric is a land plagued with war, a war between two sides…the fire & the dark. This war has waged for a long time devastating the land & setting an event in motion that will see the destruction of all. The apocalypse is coming to Lothric & only you can stop it.
Raised from the grave, you play as the Ashen One tasked by the mysterious Fire Keeper to stop the impending doom by destroying the Lords of Cinder. Heroes once upon a time they now threaten the entire world & have to be brought down.
The story in Dark Souls III is my favourite of the bunch so far. I found it gripping & cared about the events that were occurring. Wandering through battlefields with the bodies of warriors lying where they fell, wandering through cities & palaces left in ruins by the war just heightened the seriousness of what had happened before & would occur if I failed in my task.
An action RPG you begin by customising your character, visually this might seem un-important as you’ll be wearing armour throughout the game but it’s a nice touch, making the Ashen One feel like your character. More importantly you can choose your class from a long list of options. Chose wisely as it will affect your entire game.
Awaking in a graveyard, you’re given little time to explore before meeting your first enemy. Long time Souls players will be familiar with the combat style with a combination of attacking, blocking, strafing & dodging the key to taking down all enemies in the game.
Your skills will be put to the test early on as you fight your first boss fairly quickly but thankfully this is more like a training fight than anything else.
At first you’ll have to make do with what weapons & armour is given to you but you’ll find plenty as you explore the land.
There is a huge amount of variety in equipable armour & weapons & as always getting the balance right of what you’re wearing & wielding is very important in relation to your weight & maneuverability. Wear lots of protective armour that weighs a lot & you’ll find that you’re a lot slower to move & it’s harder to roll or dodge (something that is very important in Dark Souls). It will also affect your stamina, something you need to be mindful of as this affects attacking, blocking, rolling & running!
Many times I’ve died because I stopped paying attention to my stamina only to find that I had exhausted it leaving myself open to attacks. It might seem punishing at first but it’s just about finding what works for you as a player. Do you go for the tank style approach? Slow maneuverability but able to do serious damage or do you go for lighter gear meaning you can dodge easier but your attacks will be weaker?
How you choose to play will be important, as you kill enemies & bosses you absorb souls & later use this to level up putting points into your many attributes. Do you focus on core strength & endurance or do you spend heavily on faith & intelligence? This mixed with your class means you can if you want focus all your efforts on become a powerful mage with many spells to gain throughout the game.
Everything has a strength & weakness so it’s just about finding what works for you.
The Firelink Shrine serves as a kind of hub where the Fire Keeper waits, as do a few shop-keepers where you can buy & sell items as well as increase the damage of your weapons (or infuse them with certain elements such as fire or poison). This is where the Lords of Cinder sat but now their thrones are empty.
It’s a glorious sight but that can be said about the game as a whole. It is gorgeous to look at from a distance or up close. It has some of the best locations in the series so far as well as an incredible return to an area from the first Dark Souls game. Anor Londo…a shell of its former glory & I was in awe as I walked the same halls that I had once struggled to defeat Ornstein & Smough in.
Many times I found myself stopping just to admire my surroundings as a boss pounding towards me.
The latter never lasted long as Dark Souls III has some of the best boss battles of the series so far. A ton of variety mixing up all different styles forcing you re-think battles on a whim. Not doing much damage with your basic sword? Apply some fire resin to it & suddenly you’re really able to fight back.
The sense of excitement & dread that comes with your arrival at a fog gate is unmatched. You have no idea what is beyond but you know you’re moments from either elation or deflation. Get used to dying, Dark Souls III can be incredibly tough at times but like always in defeat comes hope.
Dark Souls III is all about learning from your mistakes, watching an enemy or bosses attacks & patterns & ensuring you don’t make the same mistake twice. Getting your ass handed to you in a particular area? Go, level up & come back later…you’ll find it’s not so tough anymore. This such a key part of Dark Souls gameplay, it’s not about killing you for the hell of it, it’s all about the reward as you learn how to beat it. Rarely will you die because of something that was unfair.
That being said this is probably the easiest of the series so far so a great entry point for new players.
I managed to defeat the final boss at around the 25 hour mark which might seem short in comparison to the other Souls games but I inadvertently missed a few optional areas that should increase that time by a few hours or so. With four possible endings & the usal New Game + there is more than enough to keep you coming back for even more.
Multi-player makes a return mixing co-operative play with player vs player battles. Players can invade your world & attempt to put you down & vice versa. This can be quite frustrating as you’re battling your way a fair distance from a bonfire when you’re suddenly invaded. It does result in some amusing moments though as an invader suddenly realises they’ve made a mistake.
(I got invaded when I had a two summoned NPC characters with me, the invader came rushing at me then clearly paniced when all three of us turned our fury onto them – they lost…quickly).
Dark Souls III is a must-buy, an incredible entry in the series (and possibly the last) that streamlines what came before but adds even more. Don’t be put off by the ‘difficulty’, this is one of the most rewarding games you’ll ever play.
Dark Souls III
The Final Score - 9/10
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