The big issue I had with Dark Souls is completely non existent within Dark Souls 3. The game engine is absolutely sublime, with a performance output that is extremely satisfying. Very rarely is there a dip in framerate, save for when a new area loads up or if there’s an absolute ton of lighting effects beaming into your face. Well played From Software on a PC port done well. About freaking time.
Even when lighting is dampening the performance, it’s totally forgiven because it looks so freaking amazing. Sun glare is scarily realistic at times, especially upon the horizon as it sets upon a gleam of bloody orange that crawls around every object you look at.
Honestly, this is by far the best looking Souls game, it has taken a leaf from the Bloodborne book to create an atmosphere so overwhelming it envelopes your senses. You’ll never want to leave. Well, until From Software create another successor. Maybe then you’ll want to leave. But this truly is a generation defining game engine that helps the levels breathe a twisted character as you wander aimlessly.
4. Level Design
Dark Souls has always had a great level design, going from one area to the next facing a tough enemy will end up leading to a shortcut which will bypass those enemies you just fought. It can be rather frustrating thinking about it but in reality is a quality game design. All Souls games have employed this but I feel once again that Dark Souls 3 may have the best level layouts of them all.
Even the first area in Dark Souls 3 is no slouch, you have to fight a boss, there are hidden areas with uber mini-bosses and then you reach your only safe point, Firelink Shrine. I must say that the game design here is very reminiscent of the Demon’s Souls game. Not many people enjoyed the hub world having a loading screen, however, I felt it helped to break up the game rather nicely. Arguably, Dark Souls 3 keeps the immersion grounded with the ability to travel between bonfires, so the game is effectively throwing a loading wall into your face but you don’t mind it so much.
Also, levels like Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, Anor Londo, High Wall of Lothric stand out because of the absolute beauty they resonate. Whether it be swirling mounds of fog or dust, banners waving in the wind, flames rising against walls or even the moon casting its gaze over the world all of these level invoke powerful emotions within you. This may sound a little deep but if an RPG can summon such emotion through a level design, then it is quite possibly the best RPG money can buy.
These feelings are only heightened when you’ve managed to successfully navigate each labyrinthian area only to then find a terrifying fog wall, behind which lurk some of the weirdest yet intriguing bosses in a Souls game yet.
3. Bosses & Enemies
Bosses are easily the main draw within the Souls games. They provide a tough test for any gamer, unless you’re just genuinely insane and decide to take them all on bare-handed. Skills I not only salute but yearn to have. Dark Souls 3 may have the best bunch of big bad guys yet though, every single one feels like they challenge you in a new way.
Not since Demon’s Souls have the bosses seemed more varied. I can’t say too much as I do not want to give any spoilers for newcomers to the series but some of my personal favourites so far are The Crystal Sage, Deacons of the Deep, Abyss Walkers, High Lord Wojlnir and so on. If you haven’t watched too many Twitch streams, when it comes to fighting each boss, you will never know how to react. Sure rolling helps to dodge their attacks, but you’ll still shit your pants when they charge an attack animation because you can’t tell what they’ll throw at you next. Or some simply disappear, leaving you crying as to how they are going to disembody your broken corpse.
But it’s not just the bosses that steal the show here; there are tons of mobs scattered around the map that are arguably stronger. I know it’s crazy to say, but some enemies are just pure evil. The Dark Knights reappear and holy hell, they really don’t want you making it to that next fog wall. My favourite so far, in a twisted kind of way, are the dollfaced demons that await you in pitch black rooms. They will jump out at you in a fit of rage ‘ganking’ all over the place. It is both freaking scary at the same time as awesome.
Variation seems to be the key in this Dark Souls in particular; the ‘standard’ mobs aren’t actually that standard even when you’ve levelled up, but the bosses pour out so much character bringing the levels and game to life. I suggest teaming up on a few of these bosses because they can be a pretty horrid affair when fighting them on your own. Unless of course you are a much more capable gamer than I am. Or maybe you have some better weapons that you’ve created from the bosses’ Souls…
2. Weapons & Armour
Ah, weapons. It’s so nice to see a return to so many weapons. Bloodborne, a game I haven’t really mentioned, didn’t really offer us weapons.. But Dark Souls 3 has revived the options, a similar take on Demon’s Souls own armoury.
There seems to be no end of what combinations you can mash up, I’ve seen so many players invade and help me wearing armour I’ve still yet to discover or even dual-wielding weapons I wasn’t fond of. But the point is, Dark Souls 3 accommodates any type of character setup, do you want to run around naked with a halberd in one hand and a scimitar in the other. Do it. Or do you simply want to be a good Samaritan, like me, and use healing powers with a vibrant purple glowing sword of justice helping all those lost wandering souls defeat Aldrich.
Dark Souls 3 has brought back the true RPG elements to the franchise, using certain weapons with specific attributes improves the items attack output, upgrading your favourite weapons/shields with shards.
There is virtually no limit to what the game allows you to do in this regard, and probably has one of the largest assortments of weaponry (correct me if I’m wrong). Dark Souls 3’s customisation really helps to immerse you further into its already rich world. Just remember though, upon defeating a boss, it unlocks higher tier weapons to use which can be upgraded with rare shards. These weapons are sadistically overpowered when fighting other players or they can be useful assets when assisting others in their struggles against the Lords of Cinder. This finally leads me into the final component of the best Darks Souls experience in the series.
As with all the Souls games, multiplayer has been subjected to the game’s quirkiness, making you having to jump through hoops just to join your friend’s game. Even then you can’t progress your own game, but merely help your friend progress in his world and vice versa. Some would argue a lobby system would be more befitting of game so grand, but then it simply wouldn’t be a Souls game.
Dark Souls 3’s multiplayer is possibly the strongest and best the series has to offer so far. Summoning strangers to help in a boss fight feels more satisfying than in the previous games, the level of camaraderie with your silent phantoms is both empowering as well as a little unnerving.
Invasions no longer feel as much a chore – while someone may have the best weapon sets you can rely on skill alone to carry you through an encounter, or kneel to the ground in prayer that The Way of The Blue Covenant may send some help your way. But my favourite addition so far are the ‘Mad Phantoms’. These summons are a complete wildcard who can hit you unlike friendly summons, they will either come into your game to help you defeat a boss or they could just be a dark spirit and kill you.
Here’s a great experience I had with two Mad Phantoms. We were seeking out Aldrich of the Deep. All three of us cleared the path towards the boss of all enemies when two Dark Spirits decided to invade. Now I was truly worried. Effectively this created a 4 on 1 battle if the Mad Phantoms wanted to ‘gank’ me.
However, we three stood firm, two of us killed one of the dark spirits while the other invader killed a Mad Phantom. Enraged, the two of us fought this lone invader atop a moonlit staircase. I managed to deliver a brutal blow to the invader, ending the skirmish. But I had no Estus left or much health for that matter. It was then that the Mad Phantom simply bowed, raised his sword at me and cast me into death. I was not mad, but I rather applauded his technique. He bided his time like a true killer.
This is why the Dark Souls 3 multiplayer thrives more so than its predecessors; it creates a truly cinematic fight without any set-pieces. I urge everyone and anyone to please indulge the multiplayer as it breathes life into a game so buried in darkness, death and despair. Also it makes fighting the bosses so much easier!
So there it is, a few reasons as to why Dark Souls 3 has revamped the series, albeit at the wrong time as we will never see a Dark Souls game ever again. It seems to be a running theme in my life, games I love always die off. Maybe I should add this to a list of games to remake, too soon?
I do hope though my words have inspired those pondering over Dark Souls like I did to now venture forth into Lothric. Honestly you will enjoy your time, getting killed, over and over and over again. Then some more. Maybe an invasion of Dark Spirits or two. Don’t fear however as I will be around to dispense justice against such phantoms. Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your Souls opinions or even stories if you have any!
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