*Disclaimer: This review is written from the point of view of a beginner who has no prior experience with the Dark Souls series.
Dark Souls III is a highly anticipated game created by Hidetaka Miyazaki and is the fourth game in the Souls series. Developed by FromSoftware and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment, Dark Souls III is a third person, action RPG (role playing game), playable across PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.
In Dark Souls III, players take on the role of the Ashen One, an undead warrior in the Kingdom of Lothric, who is tasked to prevent an approaching apocalypse by destroying the Lords of Cinder. This essentially is the main plot and narrative of the game. Having not played previous iterations of the games in the Souls series, I found myself rather confused and a little lost as to the tasks I needed to complete in order to finish the game.
The narrative and lore of Dark Souls is certainly expansive and having spoken with experienced Dark Souls gamers, I was advised to not be too bothered about the game’s story and instead focus on its challenges. Having been slightly overwhelmed with the breakdown of the series’ plot, I thought it best to take the advice given to me and enjoy the game as is.
Dark Souls III is tough. In fact, it is by far one of the most difficult games I’ve ever played. This isn’t due to the game’s mechanics; Instead this is more due to my unfamiliarity with the game as a whole and with the controls not doing what I wanted it to. For example, in most games, I am able to jump by pressing the ‘A’ button on the Xbox One controller, or ‘X’ on the PlayStation 4 controller. There is no such button in Dark Souls III and one can’t simply press ‘jump’ and make it safe and sound. Rather, it takes a good deal of coordination and effective timing in order to do certain moves. This game certainly does not treat players as newbie gamers.
To lessen the difficulty for newbies, there are fiery messages engraved into the ground. Often these messages reveal tips or warnings of what is up ahead. Other times, these messages are there to trick players into making the wrong move or go in the wrong direction. It is up to the player to decide on whether to trust these messages or not.
Wielding weapons requires some getting used to. Players of Dark Souls III are equipped with weapons such as battle axes, dual-wielding swords and fire bombs in order to defeat enemies, as well as defensive equipment such as a variety of shields in order to deflect enemy attacks and sustain less damage. Utilising these weapons and interchanging between attacking and deflecting is important so as to maintain health while defeating enemies. The main purpose of defeating enemies in Dark Souls III is to collect enemies’ souls, which in this game acts as currency. The more souls collected, the more upgrades players are able to make to their inventory and/or weaponry.
Whilst the main plot of Dark Souls III indicate the player’s goals as defeating the Lords of Cinder, there are several major enemies, or rather, bosses, to destroy prior to facing the Lords. These bosses, no matter how small they appear, are difficult to beat, at least they were for me. Attacking head on certainly does not work. Instead, Dark Souls III compels players to watch an enemy’s tactics, learn from their behaviour and attack accordingly. Once again, timing is everything and is crucial to staying alive (though aspects of magic within the game, such as special potions in your inventory, allow players to heal and regain health too, which greatly helps).
One thing that I found the most difficult is that there is no pause button. To save progress or effectively pause, players must find their way to the closest bonfire (Dark Souls III‘s version of check/save points) or all progress will be lost. Resting at a bonfire allows players to heal and take a break, however, this does not necessarily mean that enemies will cease their attacks. Resting at a bonfire also means that all enemies defeated prior to reaching the bonfire will re-spawn. Having to re-defeat enemies is no walk in the park and involves a good deal of strategy.
I have to admit though, the soundtrack of Dark Souls III is spine tingling and the graphics are top notch. The scenery in the game is so visually beautiful that I found myself forgetting that I was playing a video game and it helped curtail my desire to ‘rage quit’. Together with the concept behind the game’s narrative, Dark Souls III provides a mystical aura of being back in the dark ages, a period in history that is rather fascinating.
The possibilities in Dark Souls III appear endless as there is much to discover, a variety of enemies to defeat and a rather large learning curve. Whilst challenging for those new to the game, Dark Souls III is the perfect game for those who enjoy the feeling of great satisfaction upon completing hard tasks. The added benefit in this game is the ability to summon other players to assist in defeating bosses or difficult enemies, which, like the messages embedded to the ground, helps to ease the difficulty of the game.
If you enjoy medieval lore, magical creatures and a game that requires thought, strategy and skill, then Dark Souls III is the game for you. If you are like me and get frustrated easily after dying multiple times (and that is putting it lightly), then I would highly recommend giving the first Dark Souls game a try and have a feel for it before advancing further into the series.