By William Shelton
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Systems: PS4(Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Obtained By: Purchased
I’ve never thought that reviewers had some kind of obligation to beat a game before reviewing it, but I’ve always liked to be at least approaching the end before reviewing. Here however I didn’t even make the attempt. In 13 hours i’ve gotten so far as the first Major Boss and i’ve got 3 or so more to go before the games over. Meaning I’m expecting at least another 39 hours of play time to go. So i’ll just do the review now, and should anything really change my opinion in the hours to come, i’ll do a revised review.
Dark Souls 3 does not break the franchise mold of withholding major story details from the player. The game opens with a brief explanation: the Lords of Cinder have forsaken their thrones and as an undead it is your job to return them to their rightful place so they may rekindle the flames once more. If you want more than that you have two choices: read every item description or find lore videos on youtube. While that’s unnecessary to enjoy the game, I’m personally looking forward to the lore break downs because the story that’s here is quite interesting once you get into it. And that’s one of From Software’s greatest story telling strengths: the story is as deep as you want it too be, but is never a barrier to enjoyment.
Also not quite the barrier to entry this time around: the difficulty. The game still lives up to it’s name, and is definitely not “easy”, but for the first time in the franchises history I think they got the difficulty curve just right. Within minutes you’re at the games first boss and he serves as a pretty concise tutorial of what the game is expecting, and what it will be throwing at you. Like with Bloodborne you can’t progress and level up until you’ve beaten the first boss, but he’s close to a bonfire so you don’t have to spend too long between facing him should he kill you, and as monstrous as his second form is, you learn fast that you have to get in close and attack. The next boss (which can be found not too long after the first) reinforces this idea while increasing up the difficulty back to those classic Dark Souls levels. All of this combined makes this the most accessible of the franchise without the game ever having to lower it’s standard difficulty.
Also helping matters is the improved feel of combat which is closer in speed to Bloodborne than the original Dark Souls while still retaining the Dark Souls identity. You can’t be as hyper aggressive as Bloodborne wanted you to be and you still have to commit to each action, be it blocking rolling or attacking, but I found that I was getting into and out of scraps a lot faster than in previous entries in the franchise. Creature design is much improved over the underwhelming Dark Souls 2. Each boss (and even some regular enemies as well) has two forms that change the battle in interesting ways and even the common foes begin to move away from “common knight” or “hollowed zombie” after the first few areas (although they haven’t left entirely in my time with the game).
But there is one aspect of the game I just do not care for: the level design. Exploration is still rewarded, but it’s overall too straightforward in my opinion. I was hoping they’d go back to the Metroidvania style world from Dark Souls 1, but I would have dealt with the spoke layout of Dark Souls 2. Instead all you really have to do is keep moving forward and you’ll eventually get to the next area. In my time with the game I missed the feeling of praying for a dead end so I could start exploring one of the other dozen of paths I found along the way. As much as the level design bothered me, the levels do impress visually. This game is damn beautiful. Even when the game is filled with death and decay, there’s a beauty in it’s morbidity. I remember hearing something about how creative director Hidetaka Miyazaki wanted to make sure the creature design had a certain dignity to them and not move too far into “gross out” territory, and you can really see that idea throughout the game. The music is also pretty damn good too, even if it’s relegated to boss fights. The absence of music is never an issue, as it helps establish the tone of sole crushing isolation. It’s just you, the sound of steel hitting steel and the screams of either your fallen foes or your own woeful death rattles.
Even having only beaten one major boss, I’m looking forward to playing more. The only real question I have is once I’m done, will I start a New Game Plus or start a new character? While I still think the first game is the best in the franchise, this is a close second.
Game Play: 9.5/10
Replay Value: 9/10
Reviewers Tilt: 9.5/10
Overall Score: 8.63/10