As one of those gamers who first jumped on board the From Software train with the release of Bloodborne and worked their way back through Dark and Demon’s Souls over the course of this past year, Dark Souls III’s impending release has been a matter of considerable excitement for me.
As much as I mechanically and styalistically loved Bloodborne, the release of DS3 was going to be my first time being part of the Souls excitement train for a multiplatform release. This was going to be my first time seeing this all unfold from day one.
In spite of shenanigans regarding ability to share footage and spoilers of the game ahead of review embargo and release, I have to say Dark Souls III is my favourite From Software release to date mechanically. It has not only taken on board many of my favourite aspects of past releases and rolled them together, it has also vastly improved the accessability of its early game content.
So, what has changed compared to other past entries mechanically?
Lock on’s are a bit more robust than before, being more likely to remain in place following large or aggressive enemy attacks. Kicks are back. Rolls come in regular or heavy, no other states. Covenants are equipable items on your item layout, with a clearer idea what they do and how you can alter them. Life gems are gone, but there are more Estus Flask (healing item) upgrades around. The speed is also a considerable step up from past Souls games, which feels like a clear step to emulate the sucess of Bloodborne.
There’s also an arts system for imbuing your weapons with magical additional properties, but its effectiveness varied greatly across the game and I rarely felt it was vital to my experience.
If you come straight into Dark Souls III from Bloodborne, the first things you’ll notice are that while the combat maintains its fast pace, health is no longer recovered by swiftly attacking enemies after you take damage. this can take some getting used to. You’ll also need get used to shields being a viable part of play.
Also of considerable note, the difficulty curve in DS3 is vastly more gradual than it was in past entries. Early bosses, while likely to be a walk in the park for Souls veterans, are balanced well to teach new players the way to play a Souls game. The first boss of the game, acessable within two minutes sprint of the start of the game, exists purely to teach a single aspect of Souls boss design, a trend that is maintained for a number of the early boss fights.
Lastly, warping between locations is now vastly improved by the addition of preview images for each location. Thank god no more forgetting which area had which name and warping to the wrong point, warping back to the hub, warping out again.
So, how is Dark Souls 3 overall?
Simply put, Dark Souls 3 is the mechanically strongest entry in From Software’s history. From Software have another masterpiece on their hands.
One of Dark Souls III’s biggest accomplishments as an evolution of the series is the widened ability to take multiple aproaches to vialbly fighting through the game. Archery is more viable than ever a part of a build, magic is more varied in form and function than it was previously, melee combat is balanced for both shield and fully offensive builds, and overall the combat options available feel the most balanced they have ever felt.
I felt like I could go in with any class and build and have a chance at victory, which is a testament to well playtested design.
While boss fight and general overworld designs are superb, it is important to note that the overall colour pallete at times leaves a lot to be desired. As great as the lore on offer is, as are the nods to past games, it’s hard to ignore quite how many areas are very brown and beige looking castle ruins.
Honestly, all you need to know about this game is that, if you’re a Souls or Bloodborne fan, many of the late game bosses, environments, plot points and challenges are amongst the greatest the series has ever had. Sure it occassionally relies on nostalgia, but when the non nostalgia inducing content is this amazing, I’m willing to forgive that as a criticism.