The controller breaking nightmare is back with the release of Dark Souls III. Developer FromSoftware‘s third entry into the brutal but beautiful series is set in the Kingdom of Lothric, where an undead warrior known as the Ashen One is tasked by a mysterious woman known as the Fire Keeper to avert an oncoming apocalypse brought about by the endless conflict between fire and dark. But the only means to avert this event is by linking the fading First Flame. In order to link the flame, the Ashen One must destroy and inherit the powers of the five previous Lords of Cinder, heroes who have linked the flame across eons and who have since gone insane from the pain of their endless burning.
You awake in an unknown place. It’s ominous, desolate, and darkness is looming right around the corner. This is the world of Dark Souls. A world of constant danger. You never know if your next move will be your last move. This is made even harder when you are a newcomer to the franchise.
Dark Souls III is a skill based game. Hardcore RPG is the best name for it. This game does not pander to the new player. You are thrown into the world and are expected to survive. If you don’t, you die, and then you start again from your last bonfire a little wiser. This style of game play gets repetitive quickly, but that is the entire point. After dying several times your reactions become muscle memory. You are fueling by the burning desire to be better than last time.
Stepping into the world of Dark Souls having played only a couple of minutes of Demon Souls is a interesting experience. I know enough about the world I’m in to know how to act but I still found myself taking stupid risk. On my first try I ran dead into the Ravenous Crystal Lizard. After claiming my life and my souls three times in a row I was finally able to over come the beast only to be beaten within an inch of my life by the actual boss in the next room over.
My Dark Souls III experience played out exactly like this. Overcome a challenge only to find something even harder and more ridiculous in the next room over. You should never underestimate anything in this world, it is a great way to end up somethings lunch. I didn’t find myself getting lost in this game like I do in other hardcore RPGS. Either I am finally getting better at this or this game has a great sense of direction.
Everything in Dark Souls III is beautiful. Ok, beautiful is an understatement. Environments manifest and burst into view before you as you traverse the deathtraps around you. Everything from the medieval architecture to the monstrous enemy designs will make you smile in amazement as you are dodging for your life. There was one time where I stood in front of a cliff and watched the sky in front on me in awe only to be knocked off of that very same cliff. It was a fitting death.
If you stare into the abyss too long you will be forced into it. I didn’t realize I was in Sparta. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This game likes to hide enemies in nooks and crannies, waiting to make you just another victim. This makes it quite painful to explore.
Speaking of painful, there are a lot of creatures that inhabit this world. Freaky cultist that hunt you down with broken blades. Knights with shields, bracing for your attack. Hell hounds that strike from everywhere at once. Demons and Skeletons. Lizards and Assassins. Everything in the game wants you good and dead. The trick is to learn their dance. Yes, dance.
Combat in Dark Souls III is a fluid action. If you got on the offensive with every threat that you meet you will soon learn new types of pain. Certain enemies have the ability to learn your fighting style and they will respond accordingly. It will do you a world of good to observe a threat before engaging it. There are threats that will mutate and change on the battlefield, Bloodborne style, and going into a fight swords blazing will get you killed. It is a good thing that the controls in this game are so solid. Being able to dodge the second you hit the button right as a sword swings inches about your body is a amazing feeling you never get used to. So much so that I have tried to do it in other gamed and have come out sadder when I realized it can’t be done. Adapting in combat is the key to success.
While playing the game on Steam it seemed to be stuck in controller mode. I tried to fix it so that the game gave me prompts with the keyboard buttons instead, but to no avail. Eventually I gave up and plugged in an old Xbox 360 controller. I don’t know if this was an isolated incident but it was slightly annoying. I was looking forward to the keyboard and mouse experience.
There were also times where I was 100% positive that the enemy missed me but it seemed to auto correct its attack in mid swing, Sword Art Online style, and hit me anyway. I thought that was weird but then it happened again a little later. For a game that is based on persuasion and precise movements a glitch like that is a little game breaking. The game also had heavy frame rate drops and lag the first time I ran it but those have all seemed to be resolved.
Dark Souls III is a fantastic ride into the depths of frustration. Although it does have a few weird glitches and graphical errors it is still an amazing experience. The best part about the hardcore RPG genre is that you learn more about yourself than you do about the game. You never know who a gamer truly is until you kill them seven times in a row on the same level. There is a reason that this game is known for breaking controllers. You must let the angry flow through you. You must praise the sun.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Live, Die, Repeat
Gameplay - 9/10
Visuals - 10/10
Controls - 8/10
+ Beautiful Visuals
+ Evolving Combat
+ Dangerous Terrain
+ Tight Controls
- Random Glitches