January 26, 2020 at 6:35 AM #841
Dark Souls III
Rating: 3.5 – Good
The shark has been jumped.
Dark Souls was not the type of series that could last forever, but I have no regrets about playing all five of the games back to back — including Demon’s Souls and Bloodborne. But all things must come to an end at some point, and for the Dark Souls series, 3 is the final resting place. It becomes very clear very quickly when playing this game that there’s just nothing left for this series to do, and while I’d like to be sad about the current state of affairs, this series had a really good run.
Unfortunately, Dark Souls 3 just isn’t that good. It’s decent, especially if you buy the Ringed City DLC, but the formula is just stale at this point.
"The First Flame quickly fades."
Stop if you’ve heard this before. You wake up as a cursed zombie, and your mission is to defeat four lords to link a fire together. To do this, you’ll have to go out, slaughter a bunch of hollows, and eat their souls until you grow strong enough to kill the lords. Then after eating their souls, you have to go and kill the final boss. They call the big lords you have to kill in this game the Lords of Cinder, but it’s six of one and half dozen of the other. It’s all the same stuff with different names.
It’s an oversimplification of the game’s plot, but the point here is they don’t even remotely try hiding that it’s directly copied off of Dark Souls 1. Hell, the central hub of the game that you’ll rest in throughout is called the Firelink Shrine, and this game goes far enough to have you revisit areas from games of the past. They even do redux areas of places you already visit in Dark Souls 3. Dark Souls 2 often gets criticized as the game that ran out of ideas, but it was actually quite original. In 3, they quite literally wrote the plot with points from games in the Dark Souls series instead of writing something new. For the record, Dark Souls 1 came out five years before 3, which is more than enough time to come up with something new.
I get that the main plot points in these games don’t come from direct storytelling and opt for the more indirect approach of hints and lore points on items and such, but this is legitimately the laziest effort yet by From Software. Thankfully the gameplay more than makes up for it, and people don’t really play these games for the story anyway.
"Is this the blood? The blood of the Dark Soul?"
They play these games to see YOU DIED in red, over and over again, until they chip away enough at the brick wall to crack it down. That formula is still here, and it’s why this game gets a generous 7 out of 10. It’s a good formula, and it works. Gamers have proven that they like difficult, but fair, video games. And without that formula, this is not a good video game.
If this is somehow your first Dark Souls title, the basic rundown is this: you pick a starting job with some starter stats, and then you basically play the game as either a melee character, a mage, or a hybrid. I played this entire series as a melee tank, so I can’t speak much to how magic gameplay operates. The game is a third person action RPG, and as you kill bad guys and level up, you get more stats, which lead to being able to equip better stuff. It’s pretty self explanatory, but if you die, you lose all of your souls that you need for leveling up. If you fail to get back to your bloodstain, you lose them for good and can lose a lot of progress. It’s actually a wonderful way of doing things, but go back and play Dark Souls 1 if this is your first rodeo. The typical standard for exploration is also there. It’s a fairly linear game if you only bother with the main plot, but if you go off the beaten path there are more than enough side quests and hidden treasures to keep you busy.
My issues with the gameplay are twofold. First, and most importantly, this game suffers from following Bloodborne in this series. Bloodborne was a literal perfect video game from start to finish, and some argue it’s the best video game ever made. I won’t get into crazy details since I wrote a review for it, but the gist of things is that the game gave you ultimate movement freedom while making the enemies very fast and very difficult to deal with. It made for a very rewarding experience when you figured out what to do and how to do it.
Well Bloodborne was received so well that From Software got the bright idea to put a bunch of Bloodborne gameplay into a Dark Souls game, but they kept the character you’re controlling as a plodding old Dark Souls character — meaning you’ll be facing a lot of enemies that are really fast and require good rolling to deal with, but your own movement is basically trash. It’s a very bad mixture of events, and it’s more proof that From Software is out of ideas for this series. They don’t know if they want more Dark Souls, more Bloodborne, or even more Demon’s Souls. They do so many throwbacks and odes to all of the old games of this series, including direct ripoffs, that it’s just hard to tell what this game is trying to accomplish. It’s like watching a rapper hit it big, then continue rapping about being angry and poor. You aren’t fooling anybody.
This leads to the other problem. This game has the worst lineup of boss fights from start to finish of any game in this series. Demon’s Souls gets a pass here, because it was the first game. Those bosses were allowed to be bad, and even then it had some hall of famers. But the fifth game of a series? No. No passes allowed. These bosses are atrocious and they follow the Bloodborne example of being quick and obnoxious. That’s all well and good, but my own character needs to have freedom of movement to compensate. What I got was a Dark Souls character playing a Bloodborne-style game and being completely disjointed from start to finish. What I got from playing this game is that they should have just made Bloodborne 2, but they wanted to put a bow on Dark Souls first. That’s not really how things work. This isn’t totally a knock on Dark Souls 3, either. Bloodborne was just so good that it got in the way of Dark Souls 3’s own development.
If you get the DLC for this game, it actually becomes embarrassing. They don’t even bother to hide it at that point, especially in Ashes of Ariandel.
"I may be small, but I will die a colossus."
Musically, I feel like Dark Souls 3 has a very average soundtrack compared to the rest of this series. There is no real way to quantify this, so I move on.
Graphically, this game looks amazing. Dark Souls 3 was the first Dark Souls game on the Playstation 4, and you can really tell the difference compared to the games back on the PS3. It gets even better when you get into the DLC and late game areas, too, and I had a rather mediocre HDTV when I played this game. Since upgrading to 4KTV, I went and booted up Dark Souls 3 before writing this review just to check the graphics. If you’re a graphics whore, you’re really in for a treat with this game.
"Nameless, accursed undead, unfit even to be cinders."
I spent a little over a year playing this entire series all in a row, and now that I’m done with it, it’s a pretty surreal feeling. It’s a great series, no doubt, but by the time I was done this game I was very happy for it to be over. As good as these games are, From Software is clearly out of ideas for Dark Souls. On top of that, it’s blatantly clear that they refuse to fix basic issues that have existed since the first area of the first game. Camera controls have always been wonky, especially when dealing with large enemies, and there is a fine line between "difficult" and "bad design" that these games often blur. You also have an unbelievably entitled fanbase that defends every bad gameplay design choice in these games under the ‘they’re supposed to be hard, git gud’ umbrella. Hard games are great. Refusing to fix basic issues like extreme camera zoom near walls and large enemies is not.
With all that being said, Dark Souls 3 may only be getting a 7 out of 10, but that’s still a fine score and a game I’d recommend to any series fan. But this is definitely a good stopping point for the series. It’s time. There’s just no where else to go at this point, and it’s always better to just quit while you’re ahead.
Unless they make a Bloodborne 2. That would be Defcon 1 levels of nuclear hype the likes of which gaming could never handle.
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