Patience, fortitude, mindfulness and determination – all traits that you require to tackle From Software’s Dark Souls 3, but does the new entry into the Souls universe take the series to new heights while remaining faithful to its punishingly difficult foundation?
As a relative newcomer to the Souls/Borne (in reference to the addition of last year’s PS4 exclusive Bloodborne) series, learning the lore as well as the ins-and-outs of these games are at times both frustrating and rewarding – which can be a hindrance or attraction, depending on what you’re looking for.
In Dark Souls 3, you’re welcomed to the bleak yet strangely beautiful world of Lothric, where the beauty is equally met with the numerous dangers you will face on your journey to restore the Lords of Cinder to their thrones, to prolong the Age of Fire in order to delay the Age of Darkness ever further.
Where in the first Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, where you are a cursed being called a Hollow, in Dark Souls 3 you are an accursed, being called the Ashen One. As the Ashen One, you are tasked with the aforementioned task of re-throning the Lords of Cinder, but finding them won’t be easy – as you’re thrust in a brutal world filled with traps, powerful enemies and other perilous obstacles.
At the start of Dark Souls 3, you will need to select a starting class from the 10 on offer, where you can choose from the popular-for-beginners Knight class, to the Souls veteran (read as: die hard gamer) Deprived class. Once you have selected your class, you will select a burial gift that can give you an early advantage depending on your choice. After learning the basic mechanics and controls of the game, you’re then shuffled out into the harsh world itself, immersing you, as the player, into the series’ trademark baptism by fire.
Graphically, Dark Souls 3 is beautiful to behold. I was in awe of much of the architectural and creature designs that From Software has dreamt up and marvellously put together. All the designs tie together seamlessly and give you the feeling that you are in a living, breathing world of wonder and nightmarish monstrosities.
However, the bread and butter of all the Souls games is the combat, and in this new release you will be doing a lot of it. Dark Souls 3 is a frustrating endeavour for newcomers, but taking the time to learn enemy tells, strike patterns and movements is where your patience will be rewarded. The satisfaction once you have felled some of your more difficult foes is unlike any other game can produce. Nevertheless, don’t be too over confident at these achievements as Souls veterans know all too well that even the most basic of enemies can take you down just as quick as some of the hardest. Life replenishment is extremely limited, but can be refilled by rekindling bonfires which also serve as save points and fast-travel locations within the game.
Combat is pretty basic – you have a heavy and light attack, and if you have a shield, defences include a standard block and a parry. Parrying is one of the hardest tools to master, as timing is crucial. But wrapping your head around parrying can allow you to follow a block with a powerful attack that does some considerable damage. There is also the ability to sneak up on your enemies and attack them with a powerful stealth strike, which is useful in knocking down the enemy numbers before going in head-first. There are also options for those who prefer to use ranged attacks with bows, arrows, or spells, and although I had not used any during my play-through, they can provide an extra dimension to your combat strategy.
Dark Souls 3 is the type of game you play if you want a challenge. As frustrated as I got for failing in my various battles, the sense of accomplishment you experience once you have successfully defeated a difficult foe is often its own reward. The more you explore, the more wonderment you feel, especially when revealing more of the game’s lore and secrets. From Software have brought their Dark Souls trilogy full circle, building up from their early games to bring us their most well-rounded experience to date. I myself have been intrigued enough to want to go back and tackle the previous titles of this trilogy – however, if this is your first introduction to the series, you have chosen an truly fantastic place to start.
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