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Monday, April 11, 2016

Dark Souls 3 PC Review - 9/10

Let me start off by saying I have a... past with the Dark Souls series. I started with the first game after I heard so much praise about it but quickly scrapped it after the experience and difficulty was so jarring from the other games I had previously played. I picked it up again when I felt I didn't give it much of a chance after I saw a bunch of devoted YouTubers who dug into the game's code and found some interesting cut content or stories I had never bothered to even try to grasp... and then got rid of it again after many many deaths.. Where I truly picked up on the series was the second game and really loved it. Which I felt was a shame since most everyone else felt it wasn't a good sequel... which I can admittedly see why in some respects. Though personally I felt the atmosphere of the first game was superior yet the gameplay of the second was better. So while neither game gave me what I felt was the perfect experience, I had high hopes for the sequel. While I wasn't one of those lucky YouTubers that got to play the game early or those who got the Japanese version, getting the game with everyone else is still a treat.

The Good:
Absolutely gorgeous. Just about any screenshot will show you that the game looks amazing. Not only are the levels and environments diverse, but the sky boxes are just a treat in and of itself. Kind of like getting to Anor Londo from the first game. Not only do these sky boxes look amazing but they are also giving you a preview of what is to come. While the world isn't super interconnected like the previous games, these sights alleviate this some by giving you something to look forward to. I haven't been through most of the game as I've been playing it from launch so I have this ice place to look forward to like the DLC from Dark Souls 2.
Being more of a fan of the second game is definitely something not everyone shares with me. A lot of the mechanics were weird or at least different from the previous title and it all around felt like a different game. This game seems like the proper sequel to the first game blended with the graphics (albeit amped up) and weapons from the second. A good sequel should elevate the previous, building upon ideas and mechanics that were introduced previously.  Dark Souls 2 may have been a good game in my opinion, but it falls short of being a good or otherwise faithful sequel. Dark Souls 3 really looks and feels like a merger of the two. The visuals better than the second, weapons of both the first and second, being a sort of spiritual successor to the Demon's Souls franchise as I believe it was always meant to be. Add in new mechanics like weapon arts, new items a long with some returning, interesting story filled with varied enemies and bosses, building upon the lore of the game's and giving a unique perspective on the world by adding in new ideas that also pull into the gameplay perspective. A lot of the items expand upon the new mechanics, offering varying gameplay styles that could pop up later in PvP or just items good for PvE use.
I'm a person who doesn't like PvP... like at all in any game. Though Dark Souls has always been... decent about it. What I mean is there's always avenues to get out of it, use the game's mechanics to your advantage or the ability to get others on your side. The previous games have been halfway decent about this. One funny story I have is that I was in the forest area for the first game exploring when I was cut off by a fog wall, meaning I was about to be invaded. I'm a pretty bad player so I knew I would just end up dead. Fortunately I was in a pretty secluded place so I opened up the chat and started spamming, "The legend never dies!" After a while they got annoyed and left. Time was all you could do to avoid PvP was be in the right covenant or turn off your internet. With the second game, they allowed you to have the chance for help against a Red invader by Blues (Blues attack Red invaders because Red invaders kill other players who are just trying to get through the game). Ultimately this left you very limited in what you wanted to do. Say you wanted to be in the Sunlight Covenant so you could get the rewards from killing bosses but you were afraid of a Red attacking you. In this game you're able to switch covenants on the fly. While I don't know if this has any repercussions, you're given a whole lot more options on how to play the game. And since the universally criticized Soul Level mechanic is gone you can farm areas at your leisure and get all the items for your covenant without having to leave an area you're particularly good at.
There's been a serious overhaul to PvP and other player interactions. Dark Souls' PvP has always been a bit lack luster for me. You're either the invader and having fun or you're not. Dark Souls 2 tried to alleviate this a bit with the covenants and how they operated but it just never really clicked for me. You had more options for healing but that was about it. Scholar of the First Sin added in more players that could PvP at a time which seemed like a great idea but adding more doesn't necessarily make it better. This game seems to be the culmination of all of that. The game actually rewards proactive players, both invader, hosts and co-op buddies. Not only did they add in different variations for covenants but the fights themselves. If you kill a phantom, invader or otherwise, everyone gains an Estus charge. Every person can chug that good old Sunny D free unless you use a Lloyd's Talisman, making fights more interesting. There wasn't really any sensible need for an invader to kill another invader instead of the host, apart from a few souls, but the game rewards that kind of behavior. Sure, its stupid but you might be able to get a better chance at the host with that extra Estus charge. A lot of the covenants have remained the same, apart from a few name changes, but with a little extra. Now a brother of the Sunlight covenant can invade another world and gain a Sun Medal. Previous games only allowed you to get these from helping a host and that was spotty at times where the first game made it so you had to kill the boss with the host and the second game added a timer but Soul Level screwed everything up royally. I never used Cracked Red Eye Orbs or just the Red Eye Orb before, but now I can actually get a use out of it.
I wasn't entirely sure I would like the almost complete lack of fog gates that they introduced into Bloodborne but I've gotten used to it. In fact its actually a really nice addition. Before it would be just, "Don't go there yet". Now you actually have to be wary and watchful. The game makes sure you know not to run around like a maniac, rather take in the surroundings. If you don't like it, every time you die to that particular boss the fog gate appears when you respawn so you won't easily make the same mistake again.
The game has what I would like to call 'The Mega-Man Tutorial'. If you're not familiar with the term, the original Mega-Man games did this really novel and cool idea of not immediately telling you everything at once. If you want a further analysis of this, check out Egoraptor's video on Mega-Man, but basically what it means is the difficultly goes up in spikes. You get shown a particular enemy or a new mechanic head on. You usually encounter a new enemy in a great position. Further in they introduce an enemy that sets itself on fire and lunges at you. However, the game designers put the enemy a decent way away. Unless you rush in or use a ranged means of killing it, the enemy will notice you from pretty far off and will ignite itself. It will then run at you at a far off distance, giving you enough time to prepare for what to do. Roll, backstep, sprint, mad dash, attack it or turtle up, you as a player are able to make your informed decision early on without having to listen to a tutorial. As an added bonus, after the suicider enemy is a bonfire so any damage you take can be negated and then reinforced to make you remember that enemy type and look out for it in this and other areas. Previous games didn't do this so well. The first and second both had their own things you could read to get the information. You could completely ignore them but they never prepared you for it. The first one just sets you down a long hallway and then throws the area's boss at you and the second just gave you punching bags to test out the methods on. Point is, this game teaches you mechanics about the enemies without having to stop the game and give you a guide on what was going to happen, ruining the surprise, but rather did it in a natural setting.
The game is relatively quiet which I feel is actually a positive. You'll be hearing nothing more than the sounds of battle or even the subtle breaths and movements of nearby enemies which makes the game feel a lot more alive. That isn't to say there isn't any. Once you're in a boss fight, get ready to hear some of the most amazing soundtracks since John Williams in Star Wars. Bombastic, rising, demented. When the sound needs to illicit a feeling of "Shit just got real" it knows exactly how to. It also gives a greater feel. Rather than having music all the time or constant ambient sounds, you start to notice the small things that can lead you to interesting secrets like the slight tug at chains or even softly weeping, a rushing of wind or a snarl in the distance. The music turns to a fever pitch in boss fights, giving you the epic climax you know you need to go with a properly tough fight. If I had to use one word, I'd say "Memorable".

The Bad:
This game may not be for you. What I mean is that every single game From Software has made, from Demon's Souls to Dark Souls 3, they are very niche games. Difficult as all hell, unforgiving and controller breaking frustration... and that's kind of the point. 2 tried to alleviate some of this with more healing items but even that faltered in it's own way, as fans were concerned, making the game a little bit easier. If you're reading this, it probably means you're a person who wants to pick it up and isn't a fan, and by all means you should. Its a great game. But I'd personally say you should play the other games, at least Dark Souls 1 and 2 in order to get in the right mood for this game. They're probably pretty cheap by now given that they came out X amount of years ago. Then again, if you did feel like picking it up immediately, don't let me stop you. Point is, not everyone is going to enjoy this game. Its difficult, unforgiving and a lot of the times doesn't make sense and you'll have to use a walkthrough at certain points. This may detract from the game for certain people.
If you haven't read one of my previous posts, this game came out about two or three weeks before in Japan and then everyone else got it. I'm not going to go into immense detail about how much I really really hate this, you can go on my previous post and see why this is so terrible. There I talk about how this detracts from the game in certain ways or at the very least how it takes away from the experience that players WOULD have had.
The game runs like syrup on my PC... WITH all of the settings turned to the lowest possible point. I don't mean the game was choppy in certain places, I mean that it was like I was running a high powered game on a low powered PC. I put this in the negative because, as far as I remember, it wasn't like that before. If you could play the first game on your PC, the second one could play just as well. While the graphical leap is nice it sucks when everyone isn't able to have the same experience gameplay wise. Looking nice is... well nice, but playing nice is amazing. A side note, the game will actually force you to play singleplayer mode if your FPS is too low, which I thought was a nice touch. I was clocking about 12 at best in the first area. Firelink Shrine was also pretty garbage considering it was around like 20. Windowed mode, lowest possible graphics settings and the lowest possible resolution barely got me anywhere.

The Meh:
This game is definitely harder. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Enemies are tough and varied. There's not a lot of humanoid enemies but a bunch of varied types from bestial, draconic and even a hybrid. Not only that but you're going to find a lot of other types of difficulty. In one area there will be and endless mob of slow enemies that can put a persistent bleed effect on you. Directly after that area is a lot of quick but squishy enemies along with some archers that you can't kill from where you are without ranged attacks. Bonfires get fewer and fewer the more you go on. Sometimes you won't even find one close to a boss room and have to fight through difficult enemies. This can be frustrating, but you can always go back to later areas to level up and upgrade your equipment if possible. Areas are very open and spaced out. Going through a place once will get you about 70% of all the items and you may need keys or find alternate ways to get to different places and finish side quests. Not everyone is going to like this and, while I don't like every single thing about this, there's a lot in this game so it should keep me fairly busy until the DLC comes out.

All in all a good game. I've got a few gripes but ultimately it might just be from my perspective. They really seemed to have pulled out all the stops for this new/last entry and it shows. I'd definitely recommend buying it.

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