Dark Souls III
Conception and Execution Score - 100%
Mechanics Score - 100%
Atmosphere - 100%
Entertainment value - 100%
Over the last eight years, From Software has graced us with some of the best dungeon-crawling games ever created. Starting with the PS3 exclusive Demon’s Souls, they’ve released a spiritual successor in Dark Souls, a sequel in Dark Souls II, a remaster of the sequel in Scholar of the First Sin, and even another spiritual successor in Bloodborne. While that may seem like a lot, they haven’t missed a beat; though you could argue the case with Dark Souls II. Now we see the release of the third, and final in the revered series, Dark Souls III. Right from the start it’s clear that From Software knew where they had taken a few steps backwards with Dark Souls II.
You take on the role of one of several undead heroes that are cursed to wander around Lothric, referred to as “Unkindled”. This wanderer is then tasked with saving the world of Lothric, which is on the verge of an apocalypse. To do this, they must link the “First Flame” by defeating the five Lords of Cinder scattered throughout the world. Like in Bloodborne and previous Souls games, the story is never given to you directly. Sure, there are cutscenes here and there, but those aren’t to tell you the fleshed-out the story of the world around you. These are primarily to introduce you to new bosses, or to show you a new area opening up before your eyes. The story is primarily found scattered through the many, many items in the game. Every item in the game has a detailed description and sometimes has details about the lore of the world that help you fill in the blank spaces in the lore. This makes for an exciting meta where with every item you pick up, you immediately go and read the description.
While you can play the entire game solo, most of the fun I had with this game was engaging in cooperation with buddies. Like in previous games in the series, you have the ability to summon up to three other phantoms to help you along your journey, through the use of soapstones. While you would think that summoning a phantom to help you out in your world would make the game easier, they scaled the health of the enemies and bosses in the world while there is a phantom. This makes it so you can’t just go through and destroy everything easily with a buddy. You still have to use strategy and tactics with almost every area and boss, just as you would if you had attempted by yourself. In addition to the co-op, there is also a PVP element present in the game that is unlike any other game out there. You can summon a dark spirit into your world through the use of another soapstone, or you could just get casually invaded while you’re trying to progress throughout your world. Getting invaded gives you a sense of panic, because you never really know where the invader was summoned, nor do you know when they’ll strike. It makes you watch every step, and be on your toes because literally anything can happen. There is no other game on the market that can come close to replicating the multiplayer component in this game.
Dark Souls III executed everything in this game to near perfection. They set out to make the best possible Souls game they could for the last in the series, and they nailed it. There are a few rough edges here and there, but I didn’t feel they hampered the experience enough to make note of.
Concept and Execution Score: 25/25
I was initially very skeptical about Dark Souls III, due to the poor mechanics of the previous game. In Dark Souls II, the hit boxes were so atrocious it made me not even want to finish the DLC. You could time all your rolls perfectly and be completely out of the way of an attack, and you’d still get hit. Dark Souls III has completely remedied this. No longer will you clearly roll out of the way of an attack, just to get hit anyway and completely mess you up. If you get hit in this game, you know it was because they actually hit you, not some shoddy hit boxes. This was probably the biggest area of the game that needed fixing, and I’m glad that they addressed it in the way that they did.
The combat in this game is where it really shines. This is the most refined combat in the series. Where Dark Souls II felt a little stiff at times, Dark Souls III feels like a mixture of the best games in the series. It has a ridiculous amount of armor sets and weapons, similar to Dark Souls I and II, and the speed of the game feels like a mix between Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls II. The game is sped up compared to the previous two entries, but fits nicely somewhere between them and Bloodborne. It’s fast-paced and engaging but also requires you to think on your toes: make split decisions that could make or break that battle. They’ve also introduced a new mechanic called Weapon Arts. Each weapon has an ability that allows it to do a special move with it, such as sheathe a katana based weapon to unleash an suspecting dash attack. This adds another element to mastering a weapon’s move-set, which for hardcore players of the series gives them something new to learn in a game they’ve devoted hundreds of hours in. Due to all of this, the PvP is the best that it’s ever been. Playing against a non-player controlled enemy can usually boil down to learning attack patterns, but against an invader there’s usually not any set attack patterns. This in turn requires you to have to think and react even faster than you would have, had you just been fighting a regular enemy. I spent hours just getting summoned into fight clubs, just to test my skills at PvP. I can already tell that I’ll be spending the majority of my time doing this in the future.
One of the major draws of this series always has been, and always will be, its’ boss battles. This entry makes no exception. Due to the lackluster bosses in Dark Souls II, I was a little skeptical on this front. I was wrong; oh boy was I wrong. There were maybe one or two bosses where I felt they got lazy in their design, otherwise, every boss in this game is incredible. The amount of detail in each is stunning, and you can tell that they didn’t want to take short-cuts with any of them. Not every boss acts merely as a damage sponge either. With some bosses you may need to hit a weak spot to get an open, where others require a specific method or weapon to deal the most damage. The amount of thought that went into all of these is extraordinary. The fact that they can still be this creative after pumping out as many iterations as they have in the past 8 years, truly is a testament to how great From Software can be.
Mechanics Score 25/25
There is not another game out there that can engross you into its world quite like Dark Souls III. From the second you take control after the first cut scene, you legitimately feel like you’re in the world of Lothric. From the beautifully haunting music to the gorgeous backdrops, Dark Souls III does what many other games only attempt to accomplish.
There isn’t a whole lot of music that plays while you’re exploring the world, which is a good thing, due to the fact that you need to hear every little thing that is going on around you. You could be exploring an area and hear an enemy scream from across the room and have to prepare yourself. The sound effects in this game make you feel like you’re actually walking around the world, instead of just playing a video game. The music is saved for the boss fights; which only serve to make them even more epic than they already are. Yuka Kitamura has masterfully composed some of the best boss themes the series has ever seen. The track that plays during the final boss fits perfectly with what you’re doing, and makes for one of the most memorable moments I’ve ever experienced in video games. As far as sound design goes, this game is top notch in just about every aspect.
The art direction of this game lends a lot to making you feel like you’re in the world. Hidetaka Miyazaki returns to the helm for this iteration, and it shows immediately. The world is very reminiscent of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, which is particularly evident in the amount of weapon and armor sets in the game. You may notice quite a few throwback items as you explore throughout the world, which is a joy to those that played previous entries. The layout of the world actually feels connected. At one point in the game you’re standing over a peak, and can overlook the entire area that you’ll be exploring for the next several hours. This is a design element that was severely lacking from Dark Souls II, and part of what made the original Dark Souls so special.
The graphics on this game are pushing on some of the best that we’ve seen on the PlayStation 4 so far. It’s hard to believe a game that looks this beautiful runs as smoothly as it does on the PlayStation 4. Of course the game has a few frame rate drops every once in a while, but it happens so little and it has little impact on the game, so I don’t feel it’s very significant. As of the release of this game, I feel that this game is the epitome of graphics on the system.
Atmosphere Score: 25/25
Dark Souls III is a game where the player can get exactly what they want out of it. Meaning they can choose whether they want to know the lore behind the world of Lothric, or simply just play through the game based on the combat alone. I could sit there and PvP for hours on end in a fight club, or I could sift through the item descriptions of the various items I’ve found throughout my playthrough. Both are equally satisfying and it’s rare for a game of this magnitude to achieve such a feat.
Just like other entries in the series, Dark Souls III offers players the option to experience the game through multiple playthroughs. Each time you venture into another journey you start at the beginning of the game again, and the world is completely reset. Meaning that you have to find all of the bonfires again and unlock all of the shortcuts and hidden areas again, as well as any NPCs that died in your previous journeys. All of the enemies are slightly harder the further you venture forth, making the game still a challenge even as your character continues to grow as well.
As mentioned above, the PvP is where this game truly shines, in my opinion, and where I spent the most of my free time throughout the game. Whether you choose to invade someone or participate in a “fight club”, there’s many possibilities in this game for you to choose from. While invading somebody to ruin their venture throughout the world is fun, in my opinion, “fight clubs” are the way to go when it comes to PvP. You get summoned into the hosts’ world through the red soap-stone, and fight other dark spirits that the host has summoned. If there is a fight going on, you wait your turn and watch the ensuing battle. There’s a sense of honor to fighting in a fight club that is rarely seen in other multiplayer games. With multiple fighting styles, players can spend hours just trying out new weapons and move-sets in PvP.
Entertainment Value Score: 25/25
Dark Souls III is as close to a perfect video game that we’ve seen so far. There’s not a whole lot of things you can say that are bad about it that aren’t minimal at best. Dark Souls III is one of those rare games that can capture you in a way that no other game can. You’ll get lost in the world, all the while just trying to stay alive and savor every estus flask that you can for the inevitable boss fight at the end of an area. While it’s sad that this is the final game in the series, this is the perfect way to send out one of the best series that we may ever see. There’s no other game out there quite like Dark Souls III; and I think it may be best that way.
Overall Score: 100/100
- Every Item in the game has its own description including lore about the world.
- Coop play (PVE and PVP aspects to it)
- Combat mechanics really shine.
- Boss battles are varied and more than just damage sponges.
- Engrossing sound effects and atmosphere draw you in.
- Fear of getting invaded at anytime.
- Frame rate drops from time to time.
- 1 or 2 bosses feel cookie cutter
- Final game in series