Dark Souls is a series which is known for its excellent visuals and tough but rewarding gameplay and the latest installment in the series does not disappoint. It is definitely not for the faint of heart and even people who possess a strong capacity for blood and violence would be well advised to play this one in sunlight. We are just imagining what it would be like to play this one in VR. Sheesh!
Even as you enter the world of Dark Souls 3 in the very first few minutes after going through the controls, you will find yourself backing away from the first monsters, hoping against hope that you do not die. The shame of it! To be honest the lizard thingy on steroids got us. However, the battle really begins when you get to Judex Gundyr. And if you decided to experiment on a new build this time around, you may have to go through the fight a couple of times before you finally defeat the Heir of Fire. A word of advice, try to avoid its angry form, which is a mutilated/twisted dragon of some sort and you should be fine. This is the new part in the boss battles. Each of the main bosses has two main forms, a regular form which is fully capable of sending you to your proverbial grave and the angry form. The angry form gives the boss creature new moves and sometimes even an additional health bar.
The second thing you will notice is the truly beautiful artwork and the well-constructed and detailed backgrounds. The whole world has a haunting post-apocalyptic feel to it. Sometimes it does feel overly depressing, but that is to be expected of a world that by all cues seems to be dying. We have indeed come far when it comes to graphical fidelity, with each successive game being more beautiful than the previous one. But we are straying too far from the chronological order of things.
Character Setup is top Notch
You start the game by selecting your class, choosing from 10 different classes. It is better to take your time here. And if you have a favorite from the previous installments, it will have a familiar feel to it with some new elements in the mix. This is followed by the ritualistic character personalization screen, where you can make the character look like pretty much anyone you like or want. But, be warned, it takes a while to master. But, it is an important aspect of even pretty much every hack and slash – tactical RPG’s like Dark Souls 3.
Gameplay Elements: Weapons
How does the gameplay fare? It is pretty much similar to what was employed by Bloodborne and Dark Souls II. You can equip a range of different weapons which will have their own characteristics. They can be repaired, imbued with different qualities, infused, and enhanced with crystals. And this time around whole new builds based on dual wielding are very much possible. You can have the shield with the ability to parry attacks or you can go with a great sword and a dagger combo which will put you on top with a flurry of slashes followed by a finish with the dagger. You may actually want to keep multiple weapon combinations until you finally decide upon what to go through with. A fair warning though some of the shields lack the ability to parry, but have the added advantage of being able to attach with just the non-combative hand. However, once you get your hands on boss weapons you start hitting the sweet spot.
The Importance of Dodging, Tactical Retreats, and Patterns
Dodge is pretty much still one of the primary ways to avoid the dreaded message which has the tendency to appear onscreen fairly often: You Died. It is best to choose your battles wisely. Retreating in the battle is of utmost importance and knowing the shortcuts to refilling your life bar will prove very useful in the long run. Just a side note here: if by any chance you played and loved Bloodborne, then know that the mechanics of the game are quite different. In Bloodborne, it pays to be on the offensive; however, Dark Souls 3 is more about timing, proper defense, and finding out the patterns of boss creature attacks to exploit them. If you ignore all this and go on the offensive you will find that two hits from a single boss are enough to send you back to the bonfire. This is nothing new for seasoned Dark Souls fans, but new players will need to learn to be patient to truly go through Dark Souls 3. Or, if you are not averse to the age old tactic of rushing to the bon fires to save before actually tackling any of the creatures, then who are we to judge. To be honest, all of us use that tactic when we are frustrated at being killed again and again. Needless to say, the Bon fires are as important as ever. They will save your progress till that point, but since the magic is very much a part of the combat system, they also serve another very important purpose.
The Interface and Gameplay
Dark Souls 3 has a total of three bars. The first one is the health bar and it is self-explanatory: it shows your health. The second one is your Magic/Battle skill bar, and the third one is the Stamina bar. If your health bar hits zero you will die, but the good news is that it can be refilled by the Estus Flask. The magic or battle skill bar will help you perform those awesome moves and combos. Similarly, it will become depleted the more you use it. It can be refilled by the Ash Estus Flask during a fight. The last is your stamina bar, which refills automatically. It will be depleted by your general attacks, dash, and dodge. All the three can be regenerated at a bon fire. The inventory management looks complex, but can be mastered in a short amount of time.
However, here we need to go through the Battle Skills portion in more detail. It deserves its own space because this addition adds to the overall aesthetics of the fights and their core as well. Simply put, the skills are the combination of Weapons and Magic in Dark Souls 3. This skills system and its implementation through the Focus Points (FP) is what makes the different builds all the more interesting. FP (Battle Skills Bar) is basically your power when it comes to using these skills. The skills can still be performed if you do not have any FP, but they will lose their additional damage. So, the Long sword will still perform the special attacks, but they will be rendered pretty much like normal attacks, as the Focus Points are absent to fuel them.
Generally speaking the overall combat is faster and more in favor of the player than in the previous series. However, all of this will not save you from throwing caution to the wind and charging head on. That will only lead to one conclusion: certain death.
Boss Fights and Monster AI
This brings us to the bosses themselves. Bosses, like in the previous installments, are a major part of the Dark Souls 3 gameplay. After all, everything in the game is actually leading up to a boss fight in the end. I personally tried to go about killing them in a similar manner, which to my underlying suspicions was downright impossible. The best way to go is to actually analyze the attack patterns and work to exploit them. This can be rewarding because you get this huge boost in self-esteem after outwitting a merciless and brutal AI. That is of course not to say that you will not benefit from the whole experience. Sometimes you will not even know that you have set into a pattern similar to the one used for a previous boss, but it is there nonetheless. Some bosses are definitely going to be easier than others with the difficulty level depending on your gameplay style.
Till now we have been all in praise of the new title in the Dark Souls series, but there are a few things which are not as good as you would want them to be. This is even more pronounced if you loved Bloodborne. Although, there is no concrete proof that Bloodborne was from the Dark Souls world, but still it created a sort of expectation that things would be more diversified. Dark Souls 3 has a range of different bosses and other monsters that are unique, but at the same time there is this stagnant feel to them. Perhaps, it is due to the fact that it is all situated in a world which has a dying feel to it. But, still everything is like undead. You fight undead skeletons, undead dragons, and undead villagers. Their variable nature seems to be limited to undead guy with a bow, undead attacker with a pike, a larger undead attacker, and an undead walking tree. They are by no means boring and do deliver a consistently interesting gameplay, but I personally was expecting there to be just more diversity along the lines of Bloodborne. In truth, this may be a bit of an unfair comparison, but it had to be said.
Storyline and Lore
The Place is Lothric where the transitory lands of the Lords of Cinder converge. There are many theories which can be used to explain the cryptic lore of Dark Souls III. However, we will not fake a deep understanding, where there is none. The truth is that after having played all the installments the lore is almost as cryptic as it was the first time around. This in part is the appeal of the whole franchise. Many of the things are open to interpretation. And the game itself has 4 different endings based on your actions in the game. You will have to really read in between the lines to understand where the story is moving. But, as we mentioned before, the art style itself is as if the world is dying and on the verge of being reborn. We will not spoil any of the storyline, but if you approach it on a more holistic basis, you will definitely have a better success. We will just say this: keep your eyes peeled if you want to really understand what is going on.
Before we move on to actually giving our opinion on the overall game, let us review some of the things we love and hate about it:
Is it worth your Time?
Dark Souls III is a very complex game and it is understandable that it isn’t a piece of cake everyone is going to like. Actually, we would not identify it as a piece of cake at all. It is an acquired taste nevertheless. If you loved the Dark Souls II you will love this latest installment in the series. It has many new things to offer. The gameplay is much better, the graphical fidelity is great, the artwork is great, and the storyline is cryptic as ever. All these aspects make it an excellent game. However, for those who loved Bloodborne; they will enjoy this game, but they will be better served to play the game on its merit rather than comparing Dark Souls III to Bloodborne every step of the way. We give it a score of 9/10.
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