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The Final Bonfire

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    Dark Souls III

    Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding

    The Final Bonfire

    Dark Souls 3 is the supposed culmination of a saga started in 2009 with the release of Demon’s Souls for the PS3. Over the past seven years, gamers have been treated to a familiar gauntlet under multiple guises, whether that be in the form of the widely known main series, or more exclusive forays into the peculiar, like last year’s Victorian themed Bloodborne. These titles outside of the main Dark Souls continuity must be mentioned, as the final entry in the Dark Souls trilogy looks to amalgamate them all into one. Dark Souls 3 seeks to be a greatest hits of sorts of what has come before it. While it mostly succeeds in this goal, some old problems from the past remain at its core.

    Dark Souls 3 has the benefit of inheriting the legacy of a series that has been building on the same core principles for quite a few games now; said principles revolving around overcoming challenges through trial and error, outside assistance, patience, refinement, or a combo of the four. This is an action rpg through and through, but there are hidden depths that give it an edge over the competition. More often than not, you may find yourself being the hunted instead of the hunter, as the enemies have a relentless edge to them from the get go and only get more powerful and devious the further you venture. Even the most successful characters lie only a step away from certain oblivion; the chances of seeing your character massacring enemy forces unchallenged being slim to none. The best chance for any player is to use their chosen skills, the enemy’s own weaknesses, and the environment itself to outwit and overcome the enemy; aspects that make it almost a kindred spirit to the survival horror genre. Dark Souls 3 is a game for the determined gamer, and does a fairly good job at rewarding persistent players with a challenge that can be overcome.

    As daunting as this may sound, Dark Souls 3 gives a new player less reasons to fret than its predecessors. The game is a little less cryptic, with a noticeably linear geography compared to past entries that gives players little wonder on where to go next after each densely rich stage is conquered. Failing to make the right character or choosing the wrong upgrade path is a thing of the past as well, as the experimental nature of the series has reached an all time high. Almost any weapon or spell you can think of from the realm of medieval fantasy makes an appearance; the diverse moveset for each being further enhanced by the new weapon arts system that seeks to give each weapon more individuality. The crowd pleasing multiplayer aspect of the series makes its return, warts and all, with a seeming emphasis on the cooperative side of things, as the chances of teaming up with a friend are greatly increased with the inclusion of a new password system along with some other interesting customizable features. While the server is not always game, and the game will actually drag you out of a critical boss fight back to the menu if you get logged out, when it works, it works well. A good portion of the bosses seem to be geared towards being taken on with allies, whether they be real players or npcs scattered throughout the world, but you are in for an epic encounter solo or not. This series has thrived on bosses, and like the concept of this iteration itself, most of them look to mix encounters from the past in creative and fluid ways. Dark Souls 3 takes some brisk steps towards accomplishing the hard but fair image the series has sought to cultivate since the series began.

    Dark Souls 3 continues the time honored tradition of delivering a fun fantasy tale rife full of tragedy, misery, decay, sacrifice and darkness. Seeing as this is to be the final entry in the franchise, a greater emphasis has been placed on narrative and explanation than ever before, however there is still a ways to go before a dialogue driven ‘Souls game is to be seen. There is a deep lore lurking underneath the kingdom of Lothric, with surprising connections to pasts iterations. In classic ‘Souls tradition, it is up to the player to put the pieces together through experiencing events, reading item descriptions for various artifacts and weapons acquired, and interacting with npcs if the player is lucky enough to find them at their seemingly random appearances.

    The gorgeous art style of the ‘Souls series returns for this iteration. The game manages to accomplish a world that is larger in scope than the rest yet still retains the feeling of intimacy established in the original Dark Souls. Lordrick is far less claustrophobic thanks to next gen technology, yet never reaches the point of excess, as even the rich vistas serve a purpose if you look close enough. The armor and clothing sets are as interesting as they have ever been; even the most basic of get ups have a certain charm to them. An apocalyptic feeling permeates the setting as players face off against some of the nastiest creatures the series has yet to offer. Most impressive is that it all holds together throughout the experience; the glitches and hiccups being few and far between. This is all accompanied by a sometimes bombastic, sometimes poignant score, with some interesting nuances of its own.

    The trek through Lordrick actually has a feeling of abruptness when all is said and done, as if a third act is missing, yet ends on a satisfying note thanks to some hair raising bosses towards the finale. Dark Souls 3 gets straight to the point, but that still does not mean that this is a short adventure, as the world is full of secrets to explore; players can look to clock in anywhere from 24 to 48 hours the first couple of times through. Both playing as different characters and continuing on with the same to a higher difficulty is encouraged, as there are many different ways to conquer the game; the difficulty of boss encounters changing dramatically depending on how a player’s character has been molded. When the multiplayer is taken into account, this aspect is increased tenfold, as the world of competitive online Dark Souls is almost a different beast entirely.

    The ‘Souls series is not for the faint of heart, and Dark Souls 3 is no different by the end of the day. Those looking for a darkly satisfying action rpg that requires a little patience and determination, enter if you dare.

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