To this day I am amazed about the success the Souls games have accrued over the years. Especially in western countries, a JRPG series that convoluted and hardcore is not the best formula for success and could have easily turned out as one of those niche hidden gems only dedicated fans know and love. The happier I was when I saw the ever growing popularity of Dark Souls, making it to the behemoth it is today. But with commercial success can come the adjustments to appeal the wider audience. Can Dark Souls 3 still live up to fans’ standards, or is the series slowly withering away?
The inner machinations of Dark Souls’ are an enigma
After a very brief opening cinematic and an even shorter cutscene, you are thrown into the world of Dark Souls 3. As an Unkindled you begin your journey on the search for the Lords of Cinder, and that’s pretty much all the information you’re given at this point. I love the vagueness of the lore, where you can absorb as much of the story as you are willing to through player interactions and infos in the loading screens. It gives you incentive to look around in the world, explore and wonder what exactly happened here. This feeling is greatly supported by the beautiful surroundings. With so much love and detail put into the world, it’s hard not to get lost in it.
Dark Souls’ leveling and equipment systems are extremely complex and may require the use of a spreadsheet, a wiki page of your choosing, and a degree in rocket science. Raising your stats is done as in its predecessors – by spending souls you collect by defeating enemies. Those souls basically function both as your currency and your experience. They are also dropped upon death and lost completely if you die again without picking them back up, which adds a thrill to everything you do and generates a mesmerizing level of tension. As the series is known to be quite unforgiving, you have to use everything you can get. Being good at exploiting game mechanics means being good at Dark Souls. An enemy can’t get to you, but you can hit him? Wither him down with ranged attacks! A mighty foe is standing next to a cliff? Make him commit suicide by chasing you! As they say, everything is allowed in love and Dark Souls.
The Souls series consists of games that punish you for every mistake you make. At this point this is both common knowledge and something that is expected by – literally – die-hard fans. The newest instalment is no exception for the series’ difficulty, since every enemy you encounter poses a threat that should not be underestimated. Despite this constant tension which can lead to infuriating deaths, the game very rarely feels like you had no control over your situation. It’s almost never cheap. Almost is the key word though, as very few bosses can feel unfair. It doesn’t happen often, but adding more enemies to a boss fight for example doesn’t make the fight harder, it just makes it more tedious. The more you suffer in order to finally get past a certain area to light the next bonfire or beat the next boss, the more rewarding the feeling is you get afterwards. As you exhale in satisfaction of your won battle, you to proceed to your next obstacle. Dark Souls 3 has this down to a science.
A rekindled love
Dark Souls 3 releases your inner masochist with its brutal difficulty, making you want to succeed at any cost. With its beautiful detailed scenery and hidden lore, it’s hard not to fall in love with the world the game presents. From Software succeeds in finding a perfect balance between older games and the fresh touch that came with the more recent Bloodborne. Anyone who is up for finding satisfaction in an intimidating challenge should step into the dark realms of Dark Souls 3. But be warned, you will certainly die.
What we liked:
- Unparallelled feeling of success
- Deep lore
- Even deeper character progression
- Encounter design rarely feels cheap…
What we didn’t like:
- …but when it does, it can be ridiculously unforgiving.
This review was written using an Xbox One review code provided by Bandai Namco. How did you enter the Souls series? What additions would you like to see in the next instalment? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter!