Not often has a AAA title lived up to the pre-release hype. More and more games come out and as the release day comes, the excitement dies down. People are disappointed, that it’s not what they we’re expecting, that they thought the game was unfinished or lacked polish. Fans of the Soulsborne series (Dark Souls and Bloodborne) have been awaiting the release of the game since it was announced at E3 2015. With a fan based as dedicated and passionate about everything surrounding it, did Dark Souls 3 have any hope of surviving the hype train?
Welcome to Lothric
The world of Dark Souls is, well, a dark one. The lore was never truly explained, save for the thousands of fan theories (often very good ones) trying to explain everything that’s happening in this messed up world. But as much as it is dark, it’s also incredibly beautiful. Not often do I play a game and simply stop to enjoy the scenery. All the games that FROM Software have delivered have given me that amazing “Holy shit” feeling at one point or another, but DS3 is in a whole other category. Not only that, but you get to visit other, familiar locations. I won’t spoil anything, but safe to say that fans of the series will be incredibly happy to see some old friends making an appearance as well as access to some well known areas. Same thing goes for items actually. The fan favorites are back (Covetous Serpent Ring for example) and serve mostly the same functionality as in the last iterations. In fact, the whole game seems like a big fan service, incorporating all the most beloved elements from the first 2 entries in the franchise and making this a wonderful melting pot of awesomeness. FROM has clearly learned what the fans wanted for a new Dark Souls game, removing all the annoying mechanics that served no other purpose than make the game unnecessarily difficult. The health penalty for dying from Dark Souls 2 and the ridiculous summoning mechanics from Dark Souls 1 have been removed and replaced by a more interesting and admittedly, easier mechanics. Don’t be fooled, this doesn’t make the game “easy” by any means.
Tough as nails
Rest assured Dark Souls fans, the game is still insanely hard and unforgiving. The difficulty level that made the series so popular is back in the 3rd installment. The game is just as punishing, yet rewarding as it should be; and by that I mean that it’s fair. Often, modern video games give the illusion of difficulty simply by increasing the enemy health pools or making them unfairly strong. However, DS3 remains true to its form in that aspect. You never feel has though you’ve been cheated or that something doesn’t make sense. If you died, it’s because you fucked up. Simple as that. There’s this sense of satisfaction when killing a tough enemy or boss that only comes to me when playing a Soulsborne game. This amazing feeling of struggle and perseverance only to finally succeed in the end is incredibly addicting. Sitting there, sword in your hand, shield in the other, with barely a sliver of health left and no more healing potion, looking back and what you just accomplished and going “Fuck yeah”: that’s why I play Dark Souls and why you should too.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the earlier Souls game is the lack of proper multiplayer options. Of course you always had the possibility of summoning other players (providing the fact that you have the correct items, looking at you DS1), but if you wanted to play with a friend, though luck. Finding your buddy over the thousands of other people playing the game was mostly luck based, unless you finagled enough with the game’s’ wonky mechanics that you could get what you wanted. Well, good news! No more of that in Dark Souls 3. You now have the option to set a password on your summon sign so that only your friends who has said password can connect to your world! I tried it a couple times with one of my buddies who was a bit more advanced in the game than I was and it made for very interesting gameplay. Although much more advanced, the system is far from perfect. We had the hardest time finding each other’s summon sign at one point. We tried a ton of different options but ended up simply giving up because it wasn’t working. There seems to be a list of prerequisite for it to work and that if those conditions are not met, then we simply won’t see each other. No matter how hard I looked on the Googles, I could NOT find any information on restrictions when summoning a friend. Granted, the game just came out and it’s still very early in it’s life cycle, but a little more information would have been immensely appreciated!
Fashion, Style, Looks
More than ever, Dark Souls is a game about kicking ass and looking good while doing it. The series always had a “form over function” direction to its item stats and it’s as true as ever in Dark Souls 3. I usually play a “tank” type character, with heavy-armor and heavy weapons, making me almost impossible to stun. The drawback of this in the earlier versions of the game was that my mobility was greatly reduced. There was always the equipment load stats, where if you are below a certain threshold, your movements would be faster and it would be easier for you to get out of the way of ennemies. In fact, DS1 and 2 had multiple threshold, making the variety of builds and equipment set interesting to min/max with the playstyle you wanted to have. Now however, there is only one threshold, meaning that it’s much easier to move item sets around and find what look suits you, as long as you stay below that 70% equipment load. So go ahead, look at what you look like and enjoy how it makes you feel awesome, because that’s what’s important.
Play It, Play It Now
In almost all of it’s aspects, Dark Souls 3 is the ultimate Dark Souls game. It emcopasses all the interesting elements from the previous games, and mashes it together in a package that is not only enjoyable, but will remaing a staple for years to come. It’s sad to think that this might be the last Souls game to come from the masterminds at FROM Software. But with the Bloodborne series just starting up, I’m incredibly excited to see what Miyazaki and friends have in store for us in the near future.