If you want to catch up on my views on Dark Souls and Dark Souls II you can do, but to quickly summise; Dark Souls “Brilliant” and Dark Souls II “Meh”. Caught up? Good, now let’s get to headbutting those concrete walls into submission.
To plagarise somebody else’s words, Dark Souls 3 is an Action RPG for adults. There are limited cutscenes, no “Press X to not die”, and the way to beat the game is to
patiently learn the games mechanics and watch for patterns.
Or, get really really mad as you run face first into an impenetrable wall of difficult boss design and give up.
Now, there is a slight problem. Dark Souls as a series is known for being hard, but I found Dark Souls 3 to be way too easy. Yes, I have sank 200+ hours into the series since I was introduced to it but Dark Souls 1 took me about 70 hours to beat first time and Dark Souls II about 60. Dark Souls 3? Well I pretty much pissed through it in under 30 hours.
Now if you follow us on Twitter you may have spotted I spent a considerable amount of time stuck on the Dancer of the Boreal Valley with about 30 attempts and around 8 hours frustratedly smacking my face against a solid wall. That was a lot of tries for this game, but Ornstein and Smough took 50 attempts, and a fair few others needed 30+ attempts to down first time(fucking Capra Demon). But other than the Dancer I didn’t have a significant issue.
The only other time I got stuck was on Aldrich, Devourer of Gods, but that was because the first time I tried it was the NPC quest where if the summon dies you despawn out of the fight. And since the NPCs tactic was to charge the magic arrow barrage I failed that fight a lot.
I guess this all means I could have become *that* person with insane twitch reflexes, but I STILL can’t parry, so I am not THAT good. So overall I was a little disappointed in the lack of difficulty.
The main change is the bosses and how they evolve in battle. But the most significant change is That From Software removed a lot of the shit Dark Souls 2 introduced.
Gone are healing items, gone is the chipping away of your max health when you die, and while weapons still break they don’t break from a stiff breeze.
But for me, the best change is the amount of areas and bosses has been significantly reduced. Ignoring the DLC there are around 19 full bosses (plus some mini bosses) and 19 areas. There is no fat, everything is interconnected just like the first game (No Demon’s Souls doesn’t count).
In Dark Souls 3 you feel like every area has a purpose and they designed the lore first, then added a boss. Not what Dark Souls 2 felt like,which was they wanted a boss in a lava pit so they built a pointless castle to fit a lava boss. Yes there are a few too many churches or Cathedrals in Dark Souls 3 and they can feel a bit samey after a while. But these areas felt more natural, it felt more interconnected rather than insert area to get to another area ala The Gutter, or No Man’s Wharf, or the Shrine of Amana, or The Doors of Fucking Pharos. Seriously, Dark Souls 2 had too many shite areas and even more terrible bosses.
Storywise you are now “unkindled” instead of undead or whatever you were in the first 2, and it makes zero difference. Rather than using Humanity or Human Effigies you use Embers. That’s it.
You are tasked with relinking the first flame, and to be honest that is all I could really tell you. As like the previous entries the story and the lore is buried in item descriptions, and the wikis. To be honest, I like this feature. It means you can power through the entire game, and not have shit shoved down your throat, there is no exposition, no boss that monologues, just you walking into the room and sexually molesting a MASSIVE MONSTER’S face off. Or less likely, you having your face molested.
But you can delve deeper should you wish, and you are rewarded with items and secrets for your efforts.
I am not the only person to complain that Dark Souls 2 was a little heavy on the “Dudes in armour” style boss fight, so when you approach the first boss (about 3 minutes into the game) you are lulled into a “oh, more dudes in armour“. I’ll be honest I rolled my eyes, and had a good old whinge.
However… Dark Souls 3 has a new trick up it’s sleeve. Whomp a boss, and after a set amount of damage, the boss will change. In the first instance a giant blob monster jizzes it’s way out of the bosses face. But in other instances the boss will get a new weapon, and they certainly get more or new attacks. It means that you will need to relearn the battle, and fights aren’t as simple as learning 5 attack patterns.
It can be frustrating if you’re struggling on a boss only to discover he has a second health bar and comes back twice as hard. But it does mean that a boss fight isn’t “survive 30 seconds and you’ll win”. The only boss that has an Instadeath attack that overly punishes you is the Knife Dance from the bastard Dancer. It is hard to predict and if you’re hit once you’re going to be killed in the subsequent flurry.
The only boss I really hated was The Nameless King. It felt like poor boss design to me, as the biggest battle you face is the camera. Seemingly building a fight around your janky ass camera was simply too shitty for me, so I didn’t bother with the fight after the 3rd attempt.
This all said, I still found the boss design a little lacking. There are no trash fights like that shit Rat Fight, or the Trash Congregation, but there is nothing that comes as close to being as cool as the Vagina Dragon from the first game.
Bosses I loved
I honest to god loved the Old Demon King, when I read the name in a list of bosses I assumed it would be a reskin of the Old Iron King from 2, which was a reskin of Ceaseless Discharge from 1.
But it wasn’t. Dark Souls 3 really shines by the way it almost trolls the long term player. If you played DS1 then DS2 you could see the trends and it became predictable, Dark Souls 3 changes your expectations enough to make it feel fresh.
Craig has always told me I should play Dark Souls 3 because it is like a greatest hits of Dark Souls. And to a certain extent he is correct. (I have literally never been wrong, you clod – Craig) However, I will offer a variation on this theme.
Dark Souls 3 is the greatest hits tour with a live orchestra. Think KISS with the Melbourne Sympony Orchestra, or Metallica’s S&M. It is the greatest hits, but there are differences that build to a much more epic game.
No the ending isn’t as good, and the Soul of Cinder was blown out like a candle on a birthday cake on the 3rd attempt, and everything after the Dancer became a tad too easy. But Dark Souls 3 manages something 2 didn’t, and that was to be interesting. It used the same beats as Dark Souls 1 but changed the rhythm.
Pros: no fat, everything felt more natural
Cons: a bit too easy, perhaps too many cathedrals
Back in the Day:
Hardly counts as “Back in the Day” but Dark Souls 3 mostly scored between 85% and 95% at release.