Reviews: Dark Souls III
Either an unfulfilling time sink, or an arcade classic.
Ah Dark souls III, the purported final installment of an rpg series completely devoid of any role playing, with a "Story" so hidden and thin while at the same time being utterly pointless. If you're someone who loves rich role play, with interesting NPC's and quests, along with the ability to play out the story in your head with choices in the game. Well, look elsewhere. If you're someone who loves reasonably challenging dungeon crawls with epic bosses to kill. Well come on in. To sum up the whole series. "Everything is fucked, and you can't do anything about it." The "Story" (if you even want to call it that) of the Souls series is told mainly through text on items. Where you can basically learn about stuff that already happened before you ever got there. Even better, your character isn't even a bit character in this play. Nope, EVERY. SINGLE. ACTION you take in this series is COMPLETELY, UTTERLY, POINTLESS. You're not a hero, you can't save anyone. You're not a villain, everything is already doomed. You're not an actor in the play, your a random bum rooting around in the building the play was shown 60 years ago. The misery and hopelessness that the game positively oozes is so utterly overbearing that it simply becomes laughable. The endings are generally around a minute long, and filled with all the substance of an old NES ending. "Thanks for playing! Please play another round!" The NPC's are pretty much flat, dull characters, with only a handful of lines. Some of them have "quests" where you can meet them out in the field a time or two, maybe kill a boss together, and then they'll either die, or you'll end up killing them yourself. That is, of course, if you even noticed them at all. Or are the type to summon an NPC character to fight a boss that you don't need help for. About 99% of play is spent wandering around dead areas, killing mindless dead men/monsters (again) all so you can kill a boss, get the thing, and move on. It works so perfectly as an arcade game its almost hard to believe that, that WASN'T the designers intention. It really does become comical. With such moments as a sickly god being devoured by a blob monster, alive and conscious throughout your entire fight before finally dying with his murderer. Sounds horrible right? Except that he is a character from Dark Souls 1, where your only (non multiplayer gimmick) interaction with him is to....murder him. That's it. He was just a flat boss with like...two lines of dialogue. Sure you could find out some of his backstory, and how much his life had sucked. But even pre-murder you couldn't do anything with said knowledge. You couldn't talk to/befriend him or anything of the sort. It was either kill him or ignore him. So his reappearance here isn't "Oh my god!! That guy! I'll save/avenge you old friend!" It's more like "Oh hey, its that guy....annnnnd boss defeated. How many souls was that worth? Sweet, I can level up."
I've been playing Dark Souls since around the time that DSII released, and like most people I had to smash my head in and play until my thumbs were raw before everything clicked together. However, initial barrier to entry aside, I can say beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Dark Souls franchise is probably my favorite series in just about any medium, bar none. Dark Souls is a masterwork in storytelling without words, gameplay that conveys the tone and emotion of the world without you realizing, and is probably the best example I can think of when it comes to immersion in a world. For all it's darkness, Dark Souls MAKES me care about its world and characters, and Dark Souls MAKES me push myself to do better so I can understand all of its secrets, with DSIII as no exception to that. Dark Souls has made me a better story teller and a better understander of storytelling in turn, and I'll carry those lessons for the rest of my life. Dark Souls III was phenomenal, and Dark Souls as a whole is absolutely stunning, and it has been a privilege to get to experience all of this. May The Flames Guide Thee.
One of the grandest Grand Finales ever
It wasn't long into DS 3 that I could feel the sense of weight and scale the game had to offer, and after finishing it it really does feel like the Souls franchise has reached a triumphant zenith. FROM went for broke with this, and honestly I'm kinda wondering what the DLC could be about when nearly every important plot thread's been tied up nice and neat. Mechanics-wise, the game really does have the best of all its predecessors. Bloodborne and DS 1's sprawling, shortcut-laden areas, DS 2's fast travel and automatic weapon repair (with degredation slowed to the point you'll probably never notice it unless you do tons of invading) along with smoothed-over covenants, and even Demon's Souls's mana bar makes a triumphant return, to make the attunement stat something useful for non-magic user. The game is by far the most linear of bunch, but that's not really much of a problem unless all the gear you really want waits at the end of the game. Outside of really dicking around there's a very clear "path" you're supposed to take through the game, with the occasional short fork for areas that may be required, but other times aren't. Still, the early game can be the most difficult part when your options are limited and the souls you get feel like a pittance compared to what you need to level up. And yes, this is a Souls game, so expect some really challenging sections, to say nothing of tough bosses. The combat is much faster, almost Bloodborne-levels, but you still need to be patient and fight conservatively for the most part, because just because you're seeing a lot of old faces doesn't mean the Darkwraiths or Black Knights you fought before are going to be as easy to parry. But frankly, compared to the hell of some previous bosses most of DS 3's aren't that brutal. Not to say they aren't climactic and imaginative, with even the game's first boss feeling like a massive apology for everyone who complained about DS 2's over-abundance of armored dude bosses. Admittedly, there are some minor problems. There are a lot of one-time surprises where the game just up and decides to punish either caution or recklessness, and you won't know which way's right at first. The lore for some characters could be better as it stands right now too, with there not being enough buildup for the bosses in the final stretch, but with two DLC packages on their way I'm hoping some of my concerns will be addressed. And otherwise I have no complaints on that end either. The various NP Cs are hands down the best, the most colorful and engaging in the franchise, with their quests giving sufficient leeway to not run the chance of cocking it up. I do recommend saving this though for the end of your own Souls adventures. Play as many of the others as you're able to, even Demon's or Bloodborne, to fully understand and appreciate how far the story and the games themselves have come. It is everything I hoped it would be, and even more.