Wot I Think: Dark Souls III

I'm avoiding gratuitous spoilers in the screenshots here. They're all from early in the game and there are no bosses pictured. Discovery is fun.

Dark Souls III [official site] is almost here so if you haven’t done so already, prepare to die. In this spoiler-free review, I’ll explain how From Software’s latest borrows almost as much from trilogy predecessor Demon’s Souls as from the previous two games, and why I might be ready to say goodbye to the series, even though I’ve loved almost every minute of my time in Lothric.

In the moments when I’m feeling generous toward Dark Souls III, I’m tempted to say it takes the best of series-opener (and only non-PC entry) Demon’s Souls and mixes it with the best of Dark Souls I. That’s an argument I reckon I could stitch together.

There have been plenty of those moments, scattered across the tens of hours I’ve already spent with From Software’s latest, but there have been plenty of drawn out moments when I’ve felt as if both I and the series are going through the motions to an extent. To explain why that is, I need to talk about the aspects of the Souls games that I love.

I don’t love difficult games. It’s important to get that out of the way. There are difficult games that I love but I don’t love them because they’re difficult – that’s a side effect of their design. In the case of the Souls series, the most important fact is not that you die but that you come back to life and try again. Keep that in mind.

What I do enjoy, somewhat on the masochistic side, is feeling lost and trapped. Dark Souls does dungeons better than any RPG I’ve ever played, making them both part of the landscape in a way that feels both natural and unnerving, and making them absolutely terrifying. They are shadow and despair, places that will literally sap the souls out of you and leave you alone in the dark without a hope in the world.

For the most part, Dark Souls III forgoes that feeling, opting for broader spaces.

I also enjoy the sense of being in a world made up of layers that can be peeled back and punctured, revealing unexpected connections and pathways. That aspect of the series hasn’t been lost here but it has been weirdly fragmented.

As much as any of the world-building and design, I love the combat. Thankfully, Dark Souls III might be the pinnacle of the series in that regard. The speed and weight of the player character feels just right and the new skills that are attached to weapon types lend extra style and variety to combat. I found most abilities more useful against crowds of normal enemies – and they come in greater numbers than ever before – than against bosses, but I expect the utility of the secondary skills will vary from class to class.

I’ve already expressed my dislike of some creature designs in the early stages of the game and I’m happy to say I found the latter stages the most enjoyable both from a challenge and an aesthetic perspective. It’s a beautiful game throughout though, despite some lapses, and the best looking in the series by far. Even though the level design feels like it flits between themes at times, rather than extending on the expression of a single theme or concept, each area has something to offer visually. The Souls games have always done scale well, with their imposing boss creatures and distant castles that pierce the earth and the sky, but there are larger arenas now.

More room to maneuver means more room for weird monsters to dash, roll and pounce. For the first time in a Souls game, I needed space to breathe mid-combat and was able to find it. Sometimes that involved fleeing from slow-moving but ferocious opponents outside a boss arena, and sometimes it involved exploiting the patterns of a boss’ behaviour to recover health and equilibrium at the far side of a vast space. In the former case, ‘activating’ enemies and then forging ahead without killing them led to some excellent moments of terror when creatures managed to stalk me through an entire level.

That didn’t happen often though because usually, I kill everything that moves. And I kill it over and over again. Repetition, frustration and eventual catharsis. That’s the heart of the game. You’ll see every area of a Dark Souls game so many times on your first playthrough that any weaknesses or inconsistencies have nowhere to hide. They’re games that demand scrutiny and attention in a way that makes everyone who plays them a critic. Flaws are exposed.

Dark Souls III’s flaws aren’t as obvious or as damaging as those in its immediate predecessor. Placement of enemies, level design and combat are all finely crafted, and even the portions that I’ve played again and again and again, through a combination of DYING and retrying early areas with various character builds, hold up to close examination.

The game hits you with combinations. Not in the sense that there are flurries of attacks from a single enemy, although that is true as well, but in the sense that the layout of an area and the placement of the enemies within it form a sequence of events. Many of these sequences are brilliant, pulling off Edge of Tomorrow/Live.Die.Repeat’s gimmick of placing the protagonist in the role of omniscient mastermind and empowering you in a way that plays against the series’ notoriety as a mechanism for misery and masochism.

In defiance of that reductive labelling – which plays into the idea that Dark Souls is interesting only for its difficulty and that it is in fact defined by its difficulty – I can confirm that I’ve felt like a complete badass for hours at a time while playing. Walking through a village, slashing, backstabbing and hurling bombs, knowing where your targets are before they’ve even had a chance to react to your presence – that’s the kind of power trip that the Souls recipe of perfection through repetition permits. It’s not for everyone but for those who have drank the Estus, it’s one of the most potent elixirs in gaming.

And while I’m hesitant to suggest this might be the Souls game to win over a few non-believers, particularly given that it’s the fifth in the series by some counts (PS4-exclusive Bloodborne is a very close sibling), there are aspects of III that might frustrate long-time fans while making the game slightly more palatable for those who have struggled to find a foothold in previous entries.

Most of my concerns relate to the bonfires. Central to both the lore and the mechanics of the series, bonfires allow you to cash in your winnings to upgrade equipment and stats, and in this entry they’re also used to teleport between areas and back to the Firelink Shrine, the central hub wherein you can buy equipment, upgrade gear and level up your character.

Having all expenditure of souls take place in a discrete part of the world, disconnected from events elsewhere, provides a sanctuary and I quite like the idea of this one safe place in a world gone to hell and ruin. But it also means extra loading screens whenever you want to take care of business (short loading screens, mind) and emphasises the fragmented nature of this world. There are wonderful places to explore in Dark Souls III and they’re all linked in imaginative and spectacular ways but those links are visual rather than physical. They are within the same continuous world and there is a logic to your progression through them, but the entire setting is not one wondrous physical labyrinth.

In short, Dark Souls III contains some superbly designed levels but Dark Souls I, as a whole, might be my favourite level of all time.

And that goes back to the bonfires. They’re entrances and exits as well as checkpoints, and they’re not particularly sparsely placed. All of that combines to eliminate one of my favourite aspects of Dark Souls I – and it’s a feature that the first sequel also lacked – and that’s the fear of becoming lost in some place that would have been best left forgotten. Even on the rare occasion you do descend into depths, they’re relatively shallow depths, and the game’s broader structure doesn’t allow for the possibility of becoming trapped, burning life after life in an attempt to escape some claustrophobic dead-end. You’re never far from safety.

That’s not to say Dark Souls III will wrap you in cotton wool, but I’ve found it the easiest in the series. The pinch of salt that you should take with that particular statement relates to the fact that I’ve played these games a lot so experience may have been a factor, but I think the slightly faster pace of combat and the presence of more but feebler enemies in many areas is a factor as well. On top of that, the character I’ve played with most – a mercenary with either dual-wielded super-powered swords or a single sword and shield – turned out to have the ideal skillset for many of the bosses. There’s a certain type of boss creature that crops up several times and I took the same approach in each instance. Worked every time.

It’s not as gruelling a game as the previous two – and gruelling would be a complimentary term here – but I do think it’s an improvement on the second. That’s partly because the combat is better than it’s ever been but it’s also down to the design of the individual areas. They’re more imaginative, in a structural sense, even if they’re sometimes a disappointment thematically and visually.

One of the better areas in the game, in terms of its twists and turns, looks like a missing chapter from The Evil Within. There’s a consistent crossing of the line between dark fantasy horror and giblets-and-goo horror, and the latter is never as interesting to me as the surreal jagged edges of the faded worlds in the previous games.

To be clear, the majority of everything worked for me but there is a lack of cohesion.

I’ve said before that Dark Souls II, without Miyazaki at the helm, felt like a cover version. Dark Souls III feels like a remix. There are areas that quote previous entries in the series, treating them as jazz standards to be reinterpreted and reshaped, and there are moments of deja vu. It’s an energetic remix but some of the flow and rhythm has been lost.

With all of that said, there have been few games over the last twelve months that I’ve enjoyed more, and I’m already planning my next playthrough. The lightness of the combat and the variety of weapons and abilities available make experimentation extremely tempting, and the changes to Estus use (flasks can be upgraded and Estus levels split between abilities and health) allow for more flexibility than ever. I want to try a ranged and spellcasting build next, mostly because those are skills I rarely explore at all.

There are so many joys still to discover, and I’ve been careful not to spoil the ones that I have discovered. Secret areas, puzzling connections between games, covenants to join and shrines to unearth. This is a very healthy and dense game.

It’s not a strange game though. Not anymore, with its predecessors casting such long shadows. While refined in some areas and oddly conservative in others, Dark Souls III is, above all, a Dark Souls game. I was often delighted but I was very rarely surprised.

Technically, I had some framerate drops when first entering an area with lots of foliage detail and expansive views, but they only lasted for a few seconds while my graphics card found its feet. There are no cursed areas, with consistently bad framerates, as in the port of the first game, and my biggest disappointment is that From didn’t make more use of lighting effects.

Having somewhat fluffed their lines with Dark Souls II, which was originally shown to have much greater contrasts between dark indoor areas and bright outdoor settings, there was a perfect chance to deliver the perfect soliloquy here. But, again, torches are useless because not even the dankest dungeons are ever all that dark. A shame.

Oh, and that’s another criticism, so let me reiterate that I’m extremely glad to have played Dark Souls III and will certainly be making time to play it again, but I’m not sure I’d be entirely keen on another similar adventure anytime soon. More of a good thing is always welcome but I think the law of diminishing returns may be kicking in, for me at least. I’d love to hear Miyazaki and From’s next big concept album rather than another set of remixes.

If this were to be the final Souls game, I’d be happy to say goodbye. It’s not quite the crowning achievement of the series but it’s a fantastically inventive and fluid interpretation of the formula. And perhaps that would make it a great first Souls game for somebody new to the series as well.

My complaints are minor, given the quality of the game as a whole, and some of them are directed toward elements that make this entry more approachable than its predecessors. Just remember, if you are going to play, not even the biggest and most brutal beasts are as tough as you imagine when you first see them, and the next bonfire is rarely more than a few minutes away.

Dark Souls III is available April 11th for Windows. We’ll have an in-depth look at multiplayer once we’ve had a chance to play on public servers, and other coverage to come.

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97 Comments

  1. golem09 says:

    My girlfriend really wants to play this, but I’m not super excited for it at the moment. Now, if we could actually play this in coop, I’d get it at launch as well.
    I remember the coop mechanic in DS1 being tied to the humanity mechanic, and constantly learning and dying, I basically never had any, and could never play multiplayer. Will this be different here?

    • vahnn says:

      The game will have some kind of code word or password system which players must enter to join your game. Looks like it can have up to 4 players coop at a time. Just make sure you’re both in the same area, make you all have the matching code set, the joiners set their White Soapstone to be summoned, the host summons the joiners, bingo bango.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong in the exact mechanics. But I believe that’s the gist of it.

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        keithzg says:

        So no right-clicking on the name on Steam and choosing to join the game? I’m honestly rather spoiled by that. And from all the troubles friends had trying to play 1 and 2 together, anything short of that has me extremely skeptical since in the past From Software has shown an inability to create reliable coop matchmaking. There was also some time limit or such to the joining in the last one, wasn’t there? I only barely remember this, but I was enthused to join friends only to have them explain both the difficulties they were having making things work right and the caveats imposed by the system, which convinced me this wasn’t the game for me.

        • darkwaterwrx says:

          Small soapstone was time-limited, the large was infinite. There’s a method to this madness, and some appreciate it, some do not. Souls series will always hold a special place in my heart.

    • kairel says:

      Run like S**t, my gpu isn’t the best but can run witcher 3, mg5 with medium high config and run very fine but ds3 is other history, low framerate constant crashes and etc…

      • Fnnoobee says:

        For those saying the game “runs like shit”, update the game patch to latest version (v1.03) and it will run much better and not crash. I am on GTX 960 and i3 with 8GB RAM and haven’t had a single crash or major frame dips below 50 FPS playing on high.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    How’s the plot and voice acting? I understand this series is gameplay before plot, and favors environmental storytelling and atmosphere. You get hints of history and backstory, but as your player the narrative is basically “kill everything until game is over”. Still true?

    • MrFinnishDude says:

      Souls games are known for having really obscure plots, and I’ve read long essays made by some dilligent fans trying to make sense of it.
      Most people that play Dark Souls games probably don’t even know there’s a plot, but I presume that with enough searching for cryptic hints you can make sense of the narrative, as it has always been with these games.

      • adwodon says:

        You’re confusing lore and plot. The plot of 1 was actually deceptively straight forward, the plot of 2 was a bit more convoluted.

        Remember the plot is whats happening now, the lore is what’s built up to that point. The plots to both games are basically just you are in a weird land, hollow and unsure of whats going on but being told to do things by creatures who’s motives you don’t know or understand. The details of the things change, and in 2 the details are bit more complex and confusing.

        The lore however is crazy obscure, deep and complex. If you understand the lore you will be able to lift the curtain behind the games plot to reveal the larger stakes and motivations at play, but the plot plays out and finds closure without the need to understand it.

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          basilisk says:

          Yes, “deceptively” being the key word there. The tension between the seemingly simple plot and very complex lore in DS1 is one of my favourite things about the entire game. It’s astonishingly clever, but the cleverness is deliberately very easy to miss. In fact, it’s hidden by design. The game, at least in my reading of it, is one of the smartest uses of the videogame medium for storytelling ever.

          The story/lore of DS2, on the other hand, is an unfinished mess that barely hangs together.

          So I really hope DS3 is more like the former, but if it is, it will take some time to reveal and connect all the dots.

          • SnowCrash says:

            Its kind of the cool kid thing to do to hate on DS2, and yes production wise it did have some problems. But people like VaatiVidya did make some excellent videos on lore and possible reasoning’s.

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            basilisk says:

            Oh, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed DS2 for what it was, but I did watch Vaati trying to make some sense of its messy lore and you could tell he was grasping at straws pretty desperately. Some bits and pieces make sense in isolation, but unlike DS1, it never coalesces into anything consistent.

            Even without knowing their development history, it’s really rather obvious that DS1 started with a story and then broke it to pieces and hid it all around the world while DS2 started with a lot of broken fragments and only then tried to tie them all together, with mixed success.

          • HotSoapyBeard says:

            Just throwing this out there. The BG music in Majula was awesome. Sent shivers up my spine for some reason.

          • Helmic says:

            Vaati actually came out pretty critical of vanilla DS2’s story as it was vague to the point of uselessness, he didn’t seem a fan at all. He had some choice words for a lot of the pointless questions the descriptions would ask of the player rather than doing their jobs and actually giving information. It wasn’t until the excellent DLC released that the story, both lore and plot, actually picked up.

        • Unsheep says:

          The plot is to kill the thing that wants to kill you first.

          • SnowCrash says:

            The funny thing is looked at from an angle, you could be considered one of the bad guys.

          • jonahcutter says:

            @Snowcrash

            Considering you can kill everything, including NPCs who pose no threat, and how you make the final choice in DS1, you can indeed cast yourself in the role of THE bad guy.

          • lordcooper says:

            Best case scenario, you’re the hero who turned up far too late.

    • GameCat says:

      DSIII is probably the most dialogue and NPC heavy title from series, at least judging from preview gameplays. There are many NPCs you can meet in levels and some of them are even giving you quests.
      And I think voice acting is really good.
      Watch this video, it shows the very beginning of the game, so it will not spoil too much if you’re worried about it.
      link to youtube.com
      I really love the fire keeper’s chanting when you’re leveling up (around 11:45).

      Praise!
      \[T]/

    • yogibbear says:

      The plot was driven through item descriptions. All you had to do to understand the awesome plot was read. Sadly, few people seem to do this.

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Or feed the items to Kingseeker Frampt to get a little more information.

    • SnowCrash says:

      There are channels devoted to dark souls lore, people like VaatiVidya and EpicNameBro who worked a lot on figuring out little details and pacing hints together. Vaati is probably the best known currently for his work on lore videos

    • Unsheep says:

      How the storylines are made (my impression):

      1. taking an epic Dark Fantasy book, a 1000-page tome
      2. remove every hundredth page
      3. tear each page into a handful of pieces
      4. scramble all of these pieces together in a big pile
      5. distribute half of them somewhat randomly across the game world, the other half in places of strong relevance to the story

      Miyazaki intended for the storyline in these games to be interactive with the gaming community, that people discuss what they find out and form different interpretations.

      If you are playing the game for yourself without the input of other gamer’s information, through walkthroughs or other, it would be very difficult to come up with a coherent storyline. It becomes very a much ‘kill everything in sight’ game with a simplistic Dark vs Light plot.

      Personally I found Demon’s Souls storyline to be much easier to follow than Dark Souls’, largely because the NPCs were close at hand, allowing me to extract new information quite easily after each boss fight.

      • SnowCrash says:

        What i would add is depending on the kind of person you are and how you view the experience as a while having those little moments when you conect the dots or think you found the hint can be a really good experience on its own.

      • typographie says:

        I think your impression is closer than you realize. I’ve heard (I think it was on VaatiVidya) that Hidetaka Miyazaki enjoyed western fantasy books as a child, but through his young age and/or limited knowledge of foreign languages, didn’t have the reading skills to get through them completely start to finish. He read them in pieces and had to put it all together for himself, which is basically what we have to do with Dark Souls.

  3. MrFinnishDude says:

    The aestethic really reminds me of Bloodborne more than previous Dark Souls games. I presume that the same designers were at play here.

  4. GameCat says:

    You forgot to write about music, which is excellent. Epic choirs and chants with character. And when in one track you hear sudden soft theme from DS1 kicking through choir it will unleash the wave of nostalgia.

    I want to play it right now.

  5. dfuse says:

    Still don’t know if I’m gonna play this or not. Played Demon Souls and Dark Souls and loved those but I have the feeling this is just more of the same… If only BloodBorne had come to pc..

    • jj2112 says:

      I agree. I finished the first two some months ago and I don’t think the combat will be a radical departure, the only thing that could make me go back to it would be level design on par with the first one.

  6. Unsheep says:

    Personally I prefer the slower combat of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I’m not a fan of the faster Bloodborne-inspired combat.

    I had hoped his next project after DS3 would be a King’s Field reboot or sequel, they are among my favourite Playstation exclusives. It seems highly unlikely though as Miyazaki wants to take a break from Dark Fantasy, from what I’ve read.

    I wouldn’t mind an Armored Core reboot, with a return to more single-player focused gameplay.

    • LuminosXI says:

      This. So fucking much.

      Their decision in V/Verdict Day to re-pace combat and shift focus to that pseudo mmo/arena gameplay made me die inside. To me AC4A felt like they hit that “golden” stride in terms of speed vs. responsiveness. I only hope that the success they’ve had with the Souls series wont mark an end to that IP or development style.

      Shitty though that mecha games arent big in the states, there will probably never be a port of the older titles in the series, and its probably 70/30 a new one will end up being like V…..I need my 10k parts list…and emblems, FRS, stabilizers…assembly screen music

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      AutonomyLost says:

      The announcement of an Armored Core reboot would bring a tear of joy to each of my eyes. Good call.

  7. GallonOfAlan says:

    I wish I wasn’t so monumentally shite at third-person combat, so I could play these.

  8. Laurentius says:

    So how is mouse and keyboeard controls? Is it playable ?

    • Monggerel says:

      I hope so too, Dark Souls 2 was pretty much fine with M+KB.
      DS 1, not so much… still played it that way. I may have some issues.

      • SnowCrash says:

        I really do hope they fired the retarded monkey who programmed DS1 M-KB

  9. Metalfish says:

    What I could do with is a spoiler-free/light discussion of any changes that are worth knowing from the beginning, i.e. the change to finding illusory walls from DSI to DSII. Or, perhaps, how the stats work.

    • Monggerel says:

      You hit illusory walls like in DS 1.

      Adaptability from Dark Souls II is gone, and with it they also took out Agility (thank fuck, you no longer need to upgrade your dodge roll).

      Dodging works… well, a bit like a combo from DS 1 and 2. Your equipment weight determines how far you roll, like in DS 2. The actual animation looks (and has invincibility frames) like the Dark Souls I version. There is no mid-roll. Above I think 60% weight you fat-roll.

      Estus works like in Dark Souls II, in that you have to upgrade the number through a special item (as opposed to upgrading the bonfires, like in Dark Souls 1).

      Poise is back, having been absent in Bloodborne. So if you got heavy armor you can tank a hit or two without getting staggered.

      Parrying is shitty and requires extreme timing, like in Dark Souls II, instead of the instant parry in DS I and Demon Sauce.

      Instead of Hollowing, you got Ember Form now, which you gain by using an Ember or defeating a boss. Gives you 50% more maximum health – works pretty much like Soul form and Human form in Demon Sauce.

      You got a total of 4 ring slots, and also got 3 equipment slots for each hand, like in DS II.

      Probably forgetting many things. That’s some of the obvious changes I guess.

      • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

        Since we’re at it, do you know if enemies stop spawning when killed enough times?

        The thing with bonfires being closer together sounds like it’s not as necessary, but it was still a feature I liked to have there (and you could always reset them). While mostly it wasn’t needed, I probably would have given up on the game during the run to the lost sinner (the “gauntlet of shit” as the crate & crowbar guys called it) without knowing that, eventually, I wouldn’t have to do this any more.

        • SnowCrash says:

          No it seems kind of like the infinite spawn is back, or it could be just extremely high. I was working on a deprived toon and farmed the 3 Knights in the first are for a long time and noting ever stopped spawning

          • Adam Smith says:

            Almost 100% certain there are no limits.

            Edit: I’m not 100% certain of anything yet but I’m as close to certainty on this as on just about anything else.

          • Geebs says:

            Speaking of Dark Souls 2, has 3 got rid of the “huge monster pirouettes on their heel in the middle of a swing” thing?

          • Harvey says:

            <Edit: I’m not….

            There is an Edit function? Why can’t the plebs have it?

          • Monggerel says:

            @Geebs:
            From what I seen (having watched the game being played through on stream), dodging seems more efficient than in DS II in that if you dodge an attack, you’re not gonna get hit by the bullshit hitbox that reaches behind a boss’ back and clips you with the little feathery bit at the non-business end of their weapon.
            They also don’t turn in the middle of an attack… but they wind up for attacks longer which makes judging when to dodge harder, and they do track your movement during the windup.
            So still complete 100% certified bullshit.
            I may not have seen all the bosses though.

          • Razumen says:

            If the windups are so long, it’d be pretty dumb (and ridiculously easy) if they didn’t track you during them imho.

          • SnowCrash says:

            The DLC of DS2 was actually really bad for the weapon swing hit boxes of “All every ware,…. no it just hits you, yes even there” really the DLC for DS2 is just a lot of “Ran all out of ideas”

      • Metalfish says:

        Ta. You’re a thoroughly decent individual.

        • Monggerel says:

          Thanks, but I’ve probably missed at least a couple significant mechanical changes, and on top of that I have only seen the game played and haven’t played it myself, so there might be other differences I simply wouldn’t have noticed.

          One thing I missed for instance, is that PVP seems even more outrageous than usual, because it would appear that there are 2-3 weapons that just trump everything else without requiring any significant skill (the Watcher Greatsword comes to mind, which does this insane jumping double slash and follows up with an attack that probably goes past the other guy and hits them from behind, and just seeing it was enough to make the bile rise in my throat – hopefully they feex soon). PVP balance was already a problem in previous games, so the fact that it seems even more broken this time around is not very heartening.

          Another other thing is that Magic appears to have been nerfed extremely hard, so much so that actually finishing the game with a sorcery-based build is kinda like getting through a brick wall by banging your head against it. You’ll make some progress but end up with brain damage before long.

  10. Geebs says:

    Making satisfying sequels to Dark Souls was always going to be difficult because when that game got its hooks into a player, they were basically sentenced to play it to death. I went back and finished DS1 a couple of times after playing 2, and over-familiarity does start to breed contempt.

    On the other, it’s more Dark Souls. I can’t wait.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      I think you’re very close to the mark here. When you make a game like Demon’s Souls and follow it up with a masterpiece like Dark Souls, you’re doomed to have your fans bitch about whatever you make. You either leave it the same, they claim the series is stagnant, or you make significant changes and half of them claim that you’ve broken the formula and it’s now literally unplayable.

      Personally, I LOVE DS for what it is, would like more of it, and never want the games to stop coming. I don’t mean a yearly release cycle, I’m just saying that if I’m still alive when DS14 comes out, I’m going to play it.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        This is the reason why HL3 will never be released.

  11. Hakkesshu says:

    isn’t this supposed to be the final souls game

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      I thought this. A bit of an assumption though, it comes from Miyazaki saying he’s had enough of dark fantasy for now. So plenty of scope for another non-Miyazaki helmed game, a return to DS at a later date, or the powers that be force him to carry on.

      Personally I hope it’s the last Souls game. Absolutely adore them but they do lose a lot of the mystery and exploration by being endlessly sequeled. Would love to see more standalone stuff like Bloodborne.

  12. TΛPETRVE says:

    Looks like DS3 will be a very divisive affair. A lot of people have quite the rose-tinted glasses towards the first game, giving it a lot of credit that isn’t really deserved anymore, especially in terms of level design.

    Likewise – and this is a spoiler, so I’ve stricken the following part out to make it less legible – a lot of folks will probably not care for the BioShock Infinite-esque multiverse story, and thus brush the callbacks to Demon’s Souls and particularly Bloodborne in the second third off as unnecessarily blatant and lazy fanservice. Can’t please everyone, and all that kaboodle :-D .

    • bptrav says:

      I’m replaying Dark Souls (and maybe SOTFS) before Dark Souls III comes out, and the level design still amazes me. Everything is just so interconnected with everything else, especially in the early parts of the game. The first time playing through there are so many “ohhhhh I remember THIS place” moments.

      That being said I agree there will inevitably be some rose-tinted gamers playing this. I actually think Dark Souls 2 got maligned too much as well for similar reasons. IMO the only reason it seemed “easier” was because people had played the first one already. Soul Memory matchmaking was pretty bad though.

    • derbefrier says:

      Don’t know what you consider good level design but the first Dark Souls deserves every bit of praise it gets in that regard. I would be curious to hear why you think it doesn’t.

      • TΛPETRVE says:

        I’m just gonna quote myself from another thread:

        Let’s be honest, Dark Souls is being romanticised to a ridiculous extent. People praise the world’s interconnectedness, but completely ignore how simplistic and incoherently cobbled together 50% of those areas were. Blighttown gets flak for its framerate, but at the same time it was the largest and most complex area in the game, whereas Anor Londo is an ugly and blocky mess that uses its inflated dimensions to mask how small it really is, but people are too busy wanking over Ornstein and Smough or raging at the archers to acknowledge the bland architecture. Dark Souls 3 is an overall more linear affair for sure, but the areas themselves are huge and complex, apart from the catacombs that are sadly more of a glorified transition area, and their counterpart in the demon ruins (which at least has an awesome setpiece connected to it). Most important though is that those areas are all sitting tightly atop each other. “If you can see it, you can get there” actually holds true, rather than being code for “What we actually meant is that you can reach all major landmarks, but that big IKEA-cardboard forest under the bridge you’re standing on is just a masked loading screen”.

        In short, while the Metroidvania structure of the first Dark Souls was and still is commendable, people seriously need to take their rose-tinted glasses off.

        • MidianGTX says:

          Rose-tinted glasses? I last played Dark Souls about a month ago. This isn’t some fuzzy memory of mine, the world layout in DS1 really was incredibly well done and the closest they came to matching it was Bloodborne, before taking a step back again with DS3.

  13. baozi says:

    Still haven’t played DaS 2’s DLC, will probably get DaS 3 in a year or 1 1/2 in the complete edition.

    • baozi says:

      Also, it’s interesting how the gaming sites I’ve checked (not a lot, granted) rate DaS 3 lower than DaS 2 even though the return of DaS 1’s director was thought to fix DaS 2’s shortcomings.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        This is not exactly the correct interpretation, it’s simply that DS2 was already deemed to be a failure because of Miyazaki’s departure even before it released.

        • baozi says:

          Yeah, that didn’t come across right, I meant to say not that he’d fix DaS 2, but that people thought his return would make for a DaS 3 much better than DaS 2

          • Doomraven047 says:

            The whole thing is though, Miyazaki was still providing input into the production of DS2, he just didn’t direct it so he wasn’t as involved.

      • SnowCrash says:

        In some way DS fanboys are the one that most misunderstand and miss recognize what they actually like in the game. Because you get all these monkeys who squeak “Difficulty”

  14. Caiman says:

    Adam’s observation that this might be the easiest Souls game has me interested. It’s clearly a very tough, challenging and unforgiving game, but I found DS1 to be just the wrong side of really effing frustrating. I’m just not that good at them, but I love playing them, so a teeny bit easier version of the concept has me very interested indeed.

    • Premium User Badge

      Syt says:

      I used to be that way. I’m by no means a twitch gamer, or even much of an action gamer. I play shooters on lowerst difficulty and often fail, nevertheless.

      But the game’s look and feel had me curious – I like the Berserk manga, and the game’s look is heavily influenced by it (armor and weapons, medieval castles, grotesque monsters, and utter bleakness).

      I started a few characters and always gave up after a few hours in what is the starting area after the (already very hard) tutorial level, before even beating the first major boss. I started watching let’s play series to experience the game instead, but whenever I started watching one I felt a strange tug to go back to the game.

      I started to “get it” when I came to the realization that death is not a problem in this game but a learning experience. You will die a lot, but it’s almost always because you did something wrong, and if you pay attention you will learn how to avoid death. Death is often a minor setback.

      You will become better, you will become more savvy about your exploration and how to deal with enemies. There’s countless ways of dealing with situations, and almost any build, weapon, or armor is feasible, because in the end learning and becoming intimately familiar with the game will be what gives you victory.

      And it’s exhilarating to finally beat an opponent who gave you much grief, or to emerge from an area that was an absolute pain to traverse (Blighttown, anyone?). It’s an almost meditative experience, IMHO.

      • LuminosXI says:

        Blighttown was a cake walk compared to tomb of the giants with no source of light and fatroll.

        I literally had to walk the entire time searching the darkness for eyes and using the difference of the terrain “black” to strafe the edges…I dont remember exactly how or why, but I had no lantern and no miracle/sorcery.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          All the while I was thinking this is a pit on the bottom of a pit…

  15. Underwhelmed says:

    Bloodborne was the true sequel to Dark Souls 1. It had the a lovely labyrinthine structure, a strange and interesting story, and outstanding combat. I think its biggest flaw was the lack of real character builds (it was quite easy to hit the soft caps on all the stats on a single playthrough)

    Additionally, while the weapons were really well designed, and all played very differently from one another, there were not very many of them, and few actual true “upgrades” fromn one type to another. For example I used my starting weapon through the entire game (although I spent a lot of resources upgrading it) with another early weapon find as my secondary.

    Still, it was the Souls game I most enjoyed, and I am little disappointed to hear that they didn’t embrace more of the changes they made in Bloodborne for Souls 3.

    I do agree that it may be time for From to move on to another franchise, or at the very least a new world. I would love to see a sci-fi souls game.

    • Vandelay says:

      Agree with your Bloodborne comments, both compliments and criticisms.

      For me, when DS1 clicked, it was a revelation. It sounds as if DS3, like DS2 before it, will just be a good continuation of more of the same. Bloodborne though felt exciting again, like the first time you took the lift down to appear back at the Fire Link Shrine. There was a completely new world to explore and history to uncover, one of the key strengths of Souls series, and the changes to combat made it feel unique again. Personally, Bloodborne is the strongest of the Souls games (that I have played, not played Demon,) and, although seriously excited to play DS3, I can’t see it usurping it.

      Adam, don’t know if you have played Bloodborne, but how would you say it compares to DS3? Did you feel the fatigue from that too?

      It makes me wonder if the Souls series should take a Bioshock Infinite approach, with a regularly changing setting.

      • immaletufinishbut says:

        This. ^

        I so wish that the PvP didn’t suck balls though. Been really looking for a reason to play BB again.

    • Premium User Badge

      Edski says:

      I… bought a ps4 just to play Bloodborne. I told myself it would be useful for other things, and for more than just one game, but that was all lies. I regret nothing. Such a fabulous Gothic confection of Lovecraftianess was worth every penny.

      • Grovester says:

        I *very* nearly did the same. The only thing that stopped me doing so during a period of unemployment was the thought that the missus would say “You’re playing that game instead of doing all the chores round the house that need doing?”

      • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

        And this. Finished it last weekend and absolutely no regrets. I’m probably more excited about NG+ Bloodborne than starting another Souls game.

      • Ubik2000 says:

        I…pretty much did the same. Except, even worse, I had already finished it on my roommate’s PS4. But he moved out, and I knew there was DLC coming. Sooo…

        The big question I now struggle with – DS3 on PS4 or PC? Heretical thought around here, I know.

    • A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

      This

  16. bptrav says:

    Regarding the minor framerate/performance drops, what are your system specs, especially CPU and GPU? Just wondering if that played any part. Thanks.

  17. fish99 says:

    I wonder if the PC review code was the same difficulty as the xbone version (which was 1.0, apparently an easier ‘press build’ version). I heard the PC version is supposed to get a patch on launch to bring it up to 1.1, the same as the harder PS version. I guess we’d need to know which version number Adam has.

    On the subject of difficulty, I think people forget that even in Dark Souls there were complaints the bosses were too easy, and I can remember From saying they were making the DLC bosses extra hard because of those complaints. I think the same thing happened with the DLCs for DaS2 and Bloodborne too.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      Real endgame is PvP. PvE tends to be pretty straightforward once you’ve played enough of (any one of) these games and understand the mechanics.

      That said, there are a fair few enemies and bosses that capitalize on that in this entry. Some attacks that are perfectly delayed to catch roll spammers, for example. :)

  18. Chaoslord AJ says:

    We still have the DLC and then I hope for a worthy “spiritual” successor like Bloodborne.
    The problem with masterpieces is they don’t really come in series. It will always feel like a cover or remix because the feeling of being new is gone.
    I hope the gaming industry still has enough potential to spawn new interesting games like DS was instead of COD/AC/FC part XIV -secure money.
    They could have likewise switched Denton out of Deus Ex and put it 100 years into the future.
    With the rise of VR eventually there will be room again for experiments out of the box.

    • FreshHands says:

      Don’t really care for VR yet (price), but I believe that video games will be/come like any other entertainment industry:

      There will always be Britney/Xtina/Rhianna/toooldtoknowothers but also >insert your favourite band here< now and then.

      We get Michael Bay, Turtles and glossyblack Robocop² but also Game of Thrones, Heath Joker (RIP) and, I don't know, Rubber?

      But Dark Souls? It's honestly one of the best series I ever played (since C64 times), totally surprised me and still makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      Holy cakes, I thought I was the only one with this mindset. ^^

  19. Banks says:

    I’ll pass on this. I hated DSII and this seems to be too by the numbers to, a bunch of linear levels glued together with nothing of the charm that made the first game so special.

    Maybe when It’s very cheap and all the DLC is out I’ll try it to see if I’m wrong, but at 90 bucks… hell no.

    • GameCat says:

      DLCs are very good and have some of the best levels in franchise.

    • immaletufinishbut says:

      As someone one mostly shares your opinion on the matter, it’s definitely not as incoherent as DkS2! Granted, having warping from the start and frequent bonfire placement throughout renders all the neat shortcuts you can unlock sort of pointless. But the levels are connected, for the most part. Also, heaps secret/optional areas. :)
      Boss progression is fairly linear though, nowhere near as free as DkS1 or even DeS.

      All in all I’m having a blast (getting hype for english release), but Adam sums the game up pretty good when he says that it feels like a remix – of DeS and DkS1 specifically.

  20. Gordon Shock says:

    I finally got around to play DS2 during last Xmas holiday and while I had a great time I found it to be overly long and soapstones were so ubiquitous that I found myself calling for an ally at every boss encounter.

    I had such DS fatigue that I haven’t pick it up again and I have yet to play the DLC’s

  21. suibhne says:

    Great review overall, but I’m disappointed to see almost no discussion of the PC-ness of the PC version. How’s the interface? Configurability? Scaleability? Mouse-and-keyboard support alongside gamepad support?

    • Murdock says:

      You can find a lot of information about it. There is “posts” everywhere about PC configurations menu, with photos and everything… try to look a little harder.

    • fish99 says:

      I notice this in too many RPS reviews – a failure to go into whether a game lacks PC-standard features.

  22. DJC00 says:

    Honestly, all I care about is that Artorias’ great sword is in this game.

  23. Doomraven047 says:

    For me, none of those negatives listed are downsides. I like Dark Souls 1 and Demon’s Souls but I absolutely loved Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne and III sounds more like those. Having bonfires to warp me around actually makes me feel MORE involved in the world because i’m not having to traverse the entire thing when I go back to explore zones. In DS1, I just felt like my time was being wasted so often by traversing that I didn’t get to play the game as much and that’s the main reason I love this series: the gameplay. Not the lore or the claustrophobia or the difficulty. Blood Souls games are exercises in pure gameplay in an age where cinematic games with horrible gameplay (cough *The Last of Us* cough)seem to reign king. Can’t wait for DSIII!

  24. immaletufinishbut says:

    Just gotta say this review is spot on, IMHO.

  25. BaconMage666 says:

    What kills me is that this might be the final Souls game, I hate it when studio’s get recognized for doing something really well and then are like “So lets do something totally different!”, WHY!? Stick to what your good at and what people love, do it more, do it more in depth, add too it, but dont just do something completely different like Bethesda, fugging wasting their time with Wolfenstein and Doom, GIVE US MORE ELDER SCROLLS AND FALLOUT TYPE GAMES!

    • Razumen says:

      Wolfenstein was a smash hit, and Doom looks like it might be a decent SP continuation of the series, I have no idea what you’re on about.

      If the developer doesn’t want to make any more Souls games, good, better to end when they’re good than suffer a series of mediocre to poor sequels.

      • BaconMage666 says:

        Wolfenstein was as basic a shooter could get and Doom from the very first preview had me rolling my eyes because I could tell how repetitive it’s going to be.

        • Razumen says:

          Sorry, but it doesn’t even sound like you played Wolfenstein, the game was a breath of fresh air for shooters.

          Doom is all about killing hordes of monsters, that’s what the series is good for and it looks like they’re on the ball for this one.

          You don’t like those games, that’s good, but there’s no sense in complaining about them in relation to Fallout or The Elder Scrolls because they have absolutely no relation or impact on them, nor are they developed by the same people.

    • Razumen says:

      Not to mention you’re talking about completely different developers…