Dark Souls III Review: Dying Has Never been So Enjoyable

*Header image courtesy of FromSoftware*

The grotesque monster approaches, each footstep shaking the very ground beneath its deformed feet. With only a sliver of health left, my knight stands ready-raising his shield to not only protect his body, but also to calm his nerves. Yet, his efforts are pointless. Within seconds, the knight falls to the ground, his armor clashing, while the message “You Died” appears on the screen. Welcome to “Dark Souls III,” where death is only the beginning.

FromSoftware’s critically acclaimed series is back for a fourth installment, bringing with it more pain and suffering for players. Being a “Souls” title, “Dark Souls III” pushes the boundaries even further, by ramping up the difficulty from its predecessors. Each battle, whether it be with a small minion, or a gargantuan, was filled with intense moments. This game rarely ceased to be exciting.

Thankfully, “Dark Souls III” offers a plethora of beautifully designed areas which will lessen the pains of having to die over-and-over-again. One of the first destinations, “Undead Settlement,” features decrepit farmhouses which are complimented by an eerily lit skyline. As undead villagers stumble on the dirt roads, gamers will notice the striking similarities between this landscape, and FromSoftware’s Playstation exclusive game, “Bloodborne.” The Victorian era-styled buildings are nearly identical to those found within “Bloodborne’s” “Old Yharnam.” Throughout my adventures in the game, I would constantly pause, just so I could stare at the gorgeous views.

Unlike the previous iterations, the world map in “Dark Souls III” is vastly expanded upon, offering non-linear sections which contain numerous secrets. Powerful weapons, items explaining the lore or terrifying monstrosities hide within off-the-beaten paths, waiting to be discovered by heroic adventures. Often times, a fork in the road will add an additional 45 minutes to an otherwise short zone.

Players who appreciated the combat mechanisms of the first “Dark Souls” will find comfort knowing that the animations and speed are comparable to the original title. Backstabs can be executed at a much quicker rate, bosses continuously maintain pressure on gamers and spells have a longer casting period.

While notoriously overpowered in the previous two games, spell-casters have now been reduced to a shell of their former selves. Certain enemies and bosses attack at such a quick rate, that sorcerers and clerics are unable to effectively produce the magic necessary to defeat the foes. As someone who regularly played spell-slinging characters, I was sorely disappointed that my favorite type of play style was essentially useless. In fact, I found that I had to consistently equip a melee weapon, just to be able to proceed through the game.

Online capabilities also make a return, with some much needed improvements. Friends will be able to join each other’s sessions easier, thanks to password matching, a feature originally introduced in “Bloodborne.” Simply enter a unique password in the options menu, and those with the same input can quickly connect. Also, the limit for online partners has been increased from three to four. By equipping a special item, players can invite an additional friend, but can also be invaded by two enemy players, as well as have their invasion rates significantly increased.

“Dark Souls III” is the ultimate test of willpower. This game punishes you for making mistakes, forces you to constantly be on alert and requires an excruciating amount of patience. Despite the difficulties that players will likely encounter, “Dark Souls III” is one of the most rewarding games to date. The thrill of slaying an impossible foe, or clearing a hazardous zone will entice Ashen Ones to continually push onward.

FINAL VERDICT: This game is not for everyone. The difficulty at times can be absurd. That being said, the environments and gameplay make this title worth the pain. If you’ve been wanting a challenge, “Dark Souls III” is here to please.

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