The cycle is finally complete, after four and a half long years From Software’s epic trilogy of action RPG’s is -most likely- coming to an end, and for some the journey has gone longer with the likes of Demon Souls. Its been about five years since the first time I picked up a From Software game, and video games have never been the same. I think its absolutely fair to put From Software in the pantheon of legendary game developers for their work on the Dark Souls franchise. I cant think of many of games that have gone from cult followings to major mainstream success, and From Software has facilitated the need for more accessible gameplay and storytelling. While a part of me misses the small community gatherings and the notoriously hardcore fanbase, I smile at the thought of possibly millions of new fans joining the fray with Bloodborne and Dark Souls 3. Part of being a fan is sharing the things you love with new people after all.
From Software has poured a lot of into their beloved franchise, and finally we’ve come to this grand conclusion. I have heard a lot of fans say that Dark Souls 3 is a greatest hits, or a “bangin mixtape” -no one said this, i’ll admit it was me- of everything we’ve loved about the passed souls games and its a very accurate description. The combat is aggressive but still retains the chess-like strategy of its predecessors. Its storytelling and all of its narrative components are more straightforward for the most part, but I assure you there are many many secrets and hidden gems to keep nosy fans, like me, satisfied. Its world shares a connected layout most akin to the original, but still manages to help guide you along a bit instead of mostly free reign you had in Dark Souls.
I’ll admit that the seemingly more straight edge approach to Dark Souls 3 had me worried before the games release, and even the first 10 or so hours had me feeling a bit let down. But at the start of the second act Dark Souls 3 really opens its massive western medieval doors and shows its true colors in a breathtaking fashion. I have no clue how FromSoft packed some of these gorgeous vistas in about 20 gigs of game, and I applaud them for managing to drop my jaw to the floor five games in a row.
Bloodborne was an incredibly pleasing to the eyes, its gothic, cosmic horror inspired world was so enticing and unique, and Dark Souls 3 is no different, especially for long time fans. Its only fitting that the grand finale is filled to the brim with mind blowing architecture and sometimes blatant connections to the original’s bleak beaten down Lordran. From grandiose set pieces to areas so far off the beaten path you’ll either turn your brain to soup trying to figure it out or resort to a wiki to get there, there are several moments in Lothric that will leave you standing still in awe, soaking in all of the masterfully design world.
But fear not ashen one Dark Souls 3 isn’t just a pretty face, its Dark Souls combat at its very best. FromSoft has no doubt learned a lot over the course of five games, and it really shows. As someone who was a bit underwhelmed by Bloodborne’s combat and lasting appeal, Dark Souls 3 quickly soothed my soul with fierce gripping combat, and an abundance of unique and brilliant weapons. New mechanics like Weapon Arts and the FP meter add an extra level of strategy to the already tedious Dark Souls format. And from the hilariously over the top, to the most bad ass looking set of gear, Dark Souls 3 also offers a wide array of outfits, which ill admit, collecting and mixing outfits has always been one of my favorite parts of these games.
Bosses are another key element to the Dark Souls experience. Manus, Artorias, and the ever popular Executioner Smough & Dragonslayer Ornstein sit atop the golden throne of Dark Souls boss battles, and overall Dark Souls 3 list of bosses is a good one, however there are a few disappointingly underwhelming candidates on the list. Some interesting mechanics are used this time around, and they add an extra level of depth to a fight, but they don’t always pay off. Several “find the weak spot and beat it to a pulp” fights can be found in Lothric, and while it may throw you for a loop initially, once uncovered they go from frantic puzzles to pushovers really quick.
It feels a bit odd to say that Dark Souls 3 has a feeling of finality to it. The series has mostly contained purposefully ambiguous or outright useless endings. I mean its part of the games narrative, Dark Souls and it’s universe exist in a perpetual cycle. Meaning most endings mean nothing because despite our best efforts the cycle persists, that’s just the way it is. And while this mostly remains true in Dark Souls 3 it still very much manages to feel like the end. Which is great, I am wholly satisfied knowing this is the last Dark Souls game. I’ve seen all three -four?- endings and each has an interesting conclusion and intriguing implications.
So you’ve seen all the endings, steamrolled your way through NG+7 and you think “This is it, I’ve done it all”, but before you go let me let you in on a secret. Dark Souls has some of the most intense and rewarding multiplayer around, and contrary to Bloodborne’s multiplayer at launch, this one actually works right now. I love Dark Souls multiplayer. It has its own mini saga wrapped up in a just a few characters and several warring factions, some of which have been around since the first game. Whether you’re helping out a struggling hollow getting whooped by their first boss or invading powerful players in the final area there’s some really unique experiences to be had. Granted the multiplayer does require some items so do some research if need be.
Despite some lackluster boss fights and somewhat retrained world, Dark Souls 3 is an overwhelmingly satisfying conclusion to the Dark Souls trilogy. Weapon arts, and a deep armory, allow for creative combat without cheapening its strategic swordplay. Lothric’s breathtaking design, and fiercely fun multiplayer make probably the best game From Software’s ever made. I can’t wait to see what Hidetaka Miyazaki comes up with next.