Real Talk By: The Wizard
Being a huge Souls Fan since the good ol’ days of Demon’s Souls, and even King’s Field way back on PS1. I have been so eager to not only play DS III, but to do a write-up. I picked up Dark Souls III on release, and easily could of written up a quick review after only 10 hours a day of game-time, but that’s not legit. Here at Play Legit, we are about what is legit, and that means unbiased, gamer’s perspective reviews from someone who has invested a great deal of time into the game. A real review drops when someone has invested a serious amount of time in the game to learn the mechanics, and to make sure they completely understand the game, thus giving the game a fair scoring. Since I have now dumped over 70 hours into Dark Souls 3, and am nearing the end of my second play through, I feel the time has come. So let’s get this thing started. For those of you who have never played a souls game, I will briefly describe what the “Souls” games are all about in the next few paragraphs. For the veterans just looking to see what’s new, go ahead and skip the “review” paragraph.
Basically the Souls games are a series of dark fantasy action RPG’s, that rely on technical combat, rather than button mashing. I kind of hate the word RPG in action RPG, as I feel it is a bit misleading. Pretty much anything could be considered an RPG these days. Most games involve some sort of leveling system, and use of equipment and weapons. That is really where the RPG elements end with the Souls games. The emphasis here is action, and lots of it. Expect to battle it out with lots of demon’s, ghosts, dragons, dead knights, and all kinds of weird, unique, and sometimes disgusting creatures. Also, expect mandatory online co-op and PVP. You are going to get help, and you are going to get invaded in your game, but it is what it is. Embrace the PVP and just go with it.
The Souls games are known for being notoriously hard, but again I find this misleading. The games are hard, but they are not as bad as you might expect. What really makes these games tough is when you first start playing, you’ll play them like every other action game. This involves rushing in blindly, button mashing, and coming out alive. Things are not as easy in Dark Souls. You really have to calculate. Do I fight this enemy ranged? Do I pull one at a time? Do I run? Do I parry? Do I get help from another player? You really have to play cautious and size enemies up, and most importantly, use that brain. The Soul games difficulty consist of 80% using your brain, 10% skill, 10% choosing correct stats to pump levels into. There is a bit of learning curve in the leveling system. It will take a game or two before you can make a powerhouse character. Generally you want to have a vision of a character and stick with it. Like straight melee, straight magic, or a mix of both, as your build is what this game is all about. So have fun and play through the game once, then decide what you have done wrong, and how you will make a much more awesome character the next play through.
One of my favorite features in the Souls series is the lore. The story really isn’t thrown out there. A great deal of the story comes from paying close attention to details within the game, especially item descriptions. You really have to reach your own conclusions on a lot of things, and that truly makes it awesome. The story is like a giant puzzle, and the small bits of dialogue, and item descriptions are your pieces. The game just feels like a giant mystery for you to solve, and I think that’s pretty awesome.
To those of you who are new and interested in this series, I say do not be scared off by the terms RPG, and hard. Give the game a shot, use your brain, and enjoy the satisfaction you get from finally defeating that hard boss, or PVP invader. The satisfaction is there in these games, and it’s like nothing else in gaming now. Play the game, never give up, and give it time. It can be frustrating, but once you learn the mechanics, and learn how to think before you leap, there is a very good chance you will find a new rewarding, and addicting experience.
The story in Dark Souls 3 is something I am going to ignore in this review, since so much of it is speculation, and portrayed in such a cryptic way. There are entire websites dedicated to just Dark Souls Lore. So if you are interested seek some of those out.
The graphics in Dark Souls 3 are really good. I am currently playing on a PS4 and I have no complaints at all. I hear the PC version runs at a smooth constant 60FPS, but honestly I have zero complaints about the PS4 version. In no way do I feel that the graphics are not up to par, and sometimes I am pretty impressed by how good they are. I have never had a moment where I was like “this looks terrible”. I also have not noticed any slowdown. So yes, the graphics are good, and the game plays smooth.
The controls are the same as they always were, so there are no complaints there either. One really great feature is the choice to set jump to R3 or O, which is great because I am a circle man. Thousands of hours in Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls 1 have conditioned my brain to accept no other input, so this option is great. Other than that expect the game to control exactly the same as the other games in the series with only a one minor difference. You now have special moves when 2 handing a weapon, talisman, or staff. Basically you 2 hand the weapon, press L2, and can perform a special attack with a weapon by hitting R1 or R2, or if you are using a talisman or staff they can do different things. Some staffs buff your spells, some talismans heal you. You just have to read the descriptions and test them out. It’s a nice new system that adds just a little more to the game. So all in all, the controls are the same, and that’s good enough for me.
The music is a thing in the series I don’t notice too often. There is so much going on it’s really hard to pay attention to the music, but when I do hear it I do enjoy it. The soundtrack is still the same fare of dark gothic music that fits the mood of the game. There is also one point in the game where the music changes mid boss fight to a throwback from a previous Souls boss fight. Which I enjoyed thoroughly. Voice acting is top-notch. Actors do their job well, and you can feel the different personalities in the various characters. No complaints in the music department at all.
Environments in Dark Souls 3 is above average compared to other games released this year. I admit at first I was a bit disappointed, but they do get better as you progress further. You will see the typical castle, swamps, wooded areas, and they are starting to get old, but really, they still work well. I have to say though they are not on par with Demon’s Souls, or Dark Souls 1. I actually think the environment is probably the weakest part of the game, but it’s really hard to complain when the environment is still better than every other game released this year. So is it good? Yes it is, but it’s not on par with earlier Souls games.
Boss fights in Dark Souls 3 are a mixed bag. Some are really easy, some are really hard, some are in between, and some are possibly the most epic ever seen in the series. The bosses range from kind of boring, to oh my god how am I going to kill that. You also have your token puzzle boss fights, where you must figure out how to defeat the boss, and then it is incredibly simple. All-in-all I really like a lot of the boss fights, especially later into the game. On average I would say the battles are much harder than most of the fights in earlier Souls games. If you are a new comer to the series, or just an average player, this first play through will need serious level grinding, or cooperative help. I honestly at this point don’t see how some of these bosses could be defeated solo, without mass grinding, and I consider myself way above the average player skill level. Thankfully cooperative help is there, and plentiful now, so take advantage.
The weapons and armor in Dark Souls 3 are plentiful. I was really worried they would turn it into a system like Bloodborne, where there were only a few different named weapons, and thankfully that is not the case. There are a plethora of weapons, armor sets, and rings. The staves and chimes are still a bit lacking, but I’m OK with that. There are also some classic sets to be found for those of you that want to do a cosplay character. As for balancing, some weapons are obviously over-powered, and the boss weapons are still pretty lacking, but fun. You also have your token PVP weapons everyone and their brother are using, some of which have already been nerfed.
The upgrade system has been slightly tweaked compared to the previous games. Now you simply level a weapon, and can infuse it with an element at any time. So you could infuse say a rapier with poison, and upgrade with titanite, or upgrade with titanite and infuse it when you are ready. It’s a bit simpler compared to Dark Souls 1, and I like that. It’s also worth noting that there is only one blacksmith in the game, so no more running around searching for someone to upgrade you to a chaos weapon, it’s all done in Firelink Shrine. You do still however have to offer items to unlock certain upgrade paths.
The sorcery, faith, and pyromancy magic is something I am still not sure how I feel about it. Right now I can tell you having made a faith/strength, and a straight sorcery character, that sorcery is hard mode. The spells are pretty much horrible, and near useless in PVP except sword buffs. Also, in a few boss fights, sorcery is not going to help you. It can get pretty rough if you are solo. As for faith, it seems better, but there is a serious lack of good offensive spells. Wrath of the Gods, which was my favorite spell in Dark Souls 1 takes forever to cast, and is now basically useless. There are some good healing spells, and sword buff spells though. In PVP faith can be good if you focus on buffing a good weapon, and in PVE faith is great because you can heal your cooperative helpers. Pyromancy seems to be by far, the best magic in the game. If you want to breeze through the game, pyromancy will help to an extent. I would have to say at this point, Dark Souls III is the melee man’s game. Melee seems to be where the focus is, so I would highly suggest unless a veteran, if you want to go magic, you better put a strong focus in strength or dexterity as well. Now, I am really bummed that magic is so bad. Sorcery spells have to be so close to lock on, and against knights, and other hard enemies, you won’t have time to get the spell off before they hit you and cancel it. Plus the lack of a true offensive miracle is sad. I miss Wrath of God.
I am glad to announce that the summoning system in Dark Souls III is finally good. There have been a few changes for the good no doubt. The first is the new password system for summoning friends, and it works almost instantly every time. Also, you can send for a friend no matter what their level is. So if your pal is level 100 and you are only level 50, you can still bring him in, but he will be nerfed. This makes it great because it was so hard to keep summon range in previous games, especially when a friend can be on daily and you have work and school to contend with. So now I am loving the new summoning system.
Finally, I would like to talk about the covenants in Dark Souls III. Sadly they are still a broken mess. Some function well, but many have too many stipulations for getting summoned, and this makes it incredibly frustrating to get covenant items for leveling up. My main focus with my faith build my first play through was getting Darkmoon Blade, and then I found out it’s near impossible to get the covenant items needed due to a poorly designed summoning system. I have had the Darkmoon Covenant item equip for about 25 hours on my first character, and never got summoned a single time. I have read online of similar issues in other covenants. Of course the PVP invader covenants work great though. No surprise there. I have no idea why FROM designs these covenants with so many stipulations, that makes them useless. Right now I am hating, with a burning passion, the covenant system. It is in serious need of a patch. This should be a top priority of the developers.
In summary, Dark Souls III is a great game. Sure there are a few shortcomings, but nothing is perfect. Right now as it stands, I feel it is the strongest title released this year. I really wish they would fix the covenant system though, and give faith a few more offensive spells, or fix wrath of god at the very least. I also wish sorcery had just a little more range. Being a fragile mage makes life really hard when you have to get so close to lock on. I think for those who want something different, and are up to a challenge, you really can’t go wrong with Dark Souls III. For the veterans, it’s obviously worth the price of admission. If you despise anything difficult at all, and hate being forced into PVP, then Dark Souls III obviously is not for you. The game is good enough though, that if you went in with an open mind, it could grow on you. I would rank Dark Souls III the 3rd best in the series. Demon’s Souls, and Dark Souls 1 being tied for first.
Dark Souls III Gets
4.5 out of 5
+New summoning system
+Variety of weapons
+Epic boss fights
-Environments are not as good as previous games
-Sorcery spells have too short of range