Reviewed on: PC (Steam)
I’m a huge Dark Souls fan. It is easily one of my favorite games ever. I was immensely disappointed by Dark Souls 2. The subpar gameplay, worse than expected graphics, boring characters, and how they handled Scholar of the First Sin all left me unsatisfied and feeling used. So I had very mixed feelings about Dark Souls 3. A war of the hopefulness of what could be and bitterness of what happened last time pulled at my heart every time I thought about it. I wanted it to be good, but I wasn’t sure they could recreate the things I really loved about the first game in a way that made it seem familiar and new at the same time.
After it launched, I paid close attention to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of the events of Dark Souls 2. When Dark Souls 3 did the remarkable thing of being the same game they pitched, I broke down and got it. I bought new parts to upgrade my computer and paid full price for the game just a few weeks after launch.
It was worth every dollar.
It is very difficult finding a place to start talking about Dark Souls 3. I get flustered and overwhelmed by all of the other great points I want gab about. So let’s start with the basics: the plot.
You start the game returning from death and climbing out of your unearthed coffin. You’re told you are a special person who is destined to defeat the former kings of the land, who have all gone mad in some fashion, and use their souls to decide the fate of the world. The narrative has intricate details that tell a grander story about the world around you, but they are not easily spotted. The game requires things like remembering information you read about an item when talking to an NPC to get a connection. It’s not easy, but I found the intricately woven details throughout the game really made the experience even more enjoyable. The information serves to make characters more interesting, make monsters and creatures more unsettling, and give a sense of life and personal touch to a massive world with an equally massive backstory.
However, not everything should be taken as the truth. NPCs can lie to you or withhold information because of their own motives. Actions you take can end up causing NPCs to die or disappear from the narrative. Minor clues are sometimes the only hint you’ll get that a seemingly mundane action or choice will cause an unfavorable outcome sometime later. Missing an area or a path in a level could mean you never find and important, but not vital, item or character.
The questions the game creates often add to the world. Why was your coffin already unearthed when you woke up? Did someone reanimate you and feed you a prophecy to try and make you do their bidding? Why are the kings mad? There’s a level of constant wonder and uncertainty fueling every element of the game’s narrative.
Those elements of wonder and uncertainty work in other areas as well. There is a massive castle built into the side of a mountain, a settlement of undead people, deep catacombs and dungeons far below the earth, a grand library filled with arcane knowledge, and many more places that are incredible. However, they are all in various states of decay and each of them are filled with vile creatures, both in the form of crazed people and other-worldly horrors. With the lore stating these places have been around for thousands of years, how do they manage to sustain themselves? And how do the few sane people you meet manage to survive?
If you know anything about Dark Souls games, you know they’re brutal and unforgiving. There’s nothing keeping a small misstep from sending you off a cliff or dodging too early allowing an enemy to shuffle forward and hit you. But the mechanics are so tight any mistake is almost always the fault of the player, allowing the grand amount of deaths you’ll rack up to be a result of learning how to play better or defeat a specific enemy. Dedication and learning to adapt and change your style is necessary for beating the game.
One of the things I love about Dark Souls is the oppressive, crushing atmosphere. You feel like a small part of something so much larger than you are. However, a vast number of small victories makes you better, which leads you to doing larger and larger actions that truly do begin to shape the world. You look back at what you’ve done and feel a sense of accomplishment, like you really did go on a journey.
Another thing I loved about the original Dark Souls was the horror influences it has. There’s a sense of tension wherever you go. Monsters play on unsettling features and odd proportions to give them a creepy factor. Dark Souls 3 nails both of those and adds some new creatures that focus on body horror for an additional dimension of discomfort.
In the original Dark Souls, the esthetics and story reflected the fact that the gods and kings of the land had all gone mad. Everything from the environment to the enemies reinforced that concept and furthered that narrative element. In 3, the world is suffering in a different way. Everything from the enemies to the inanimate objects have a sense of organic decay. Growths from the earth and creatures often have a vine or branch-like aesthetic. The gods and kings of the original game are gone, and while the embers of their time still remain, their influences have faded. Their presence and the influence they had is gone. Now, the horrid clutch of something new chokes the world, and it does it in a way that shows the player that all must revert back to its primordial ways, to a time before man existed. We as players and we as the character in the game are trapped by the inescapable dread that all we try to accomplish or change will eventually rot and feed something new in the same way our bodies will.
The soundtrack is stellar, the gameplay is tight and responsive, the lore and story are interesting (though convoluted and elusive at times), and it gets my heart thudding with excitement. This is honestly what I wanted from a Dark Souls sequel. For the first time ever, I am excited about getting DLC for a game.
If you’re interested in Dark Souls 3 but you’re on a budget, I’d highly recommend getting the first Dark Souls when it goes on sale. On Steam, it will drop to as low as $5, but it is well worth the normal $20 price tag. If you get Dark Souls on PC, I recommend downloading the fan made DSfix mod. It helps the game run more smoothly and look better. If you can swing it financially, get Dark Souls 3 now while there are a lot of players to summon for help or invade you to try and ruin your day.
9/10 git gud or die trying