Dark Souls 3 is the end of an era, both in game and for the series itself. Now, to answer what is probably your first question of “how hard is it?” Well, since I’ve been with the series since Demon’s Souls, I’d say I’m well equipped to discuss this. In terms of the moment to moment combat, it is just as challenging as it has ever been. The latest addition to the combat is the weapon arts, which use FP (mana) for special moves, with each weapon type having their own move and unique weapons having their own individual moves. It adds a nice extra flavour to the combat and enables more playstyles, however I used it sparingly, probably due to the reflexes I have built up through the traditional combat dynamics of the series. These moves are useful though, especially for faster playstyles, such as uchigatana, dagger or rapier users. Interestly, certain types of enemies, such as knights, incorporate these weapon arts into their move sets, making for some interesting duels. Some of the boss fights are also incredibly fast,almost as much as Bloodborne, which can be very exhilarating, especially against the Dancer of the Boreal Valley and the Prince Lothric, just to name a few.
The pace has changed to be more like Bloodborne: instead of holding your shield up and being cautious, the game pushes you to dodge or parry more, so it is a faster dynamic. The enemies are also faster as well. But structurally, the game is easier than Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls since you automatically have warp access and the game is much more linear overall. The bonfires are also somewhat more generous and weapon durability is a joke. In the entirety of my first playthrough, none of my weapons or armour broke, so the feature seems totally superfluous to me in this entry. In my playthrough, I was also unable to upgrade my armour like in previous games, which I found odd. Playing on the PC version enabled me to play the game at 60fps compared to playing the series on 30fps, which I am used to, creating a smoother and more responsive experience. Playing at settings close to maximum at 1440p, using a GTX970 kept up around 60fps almost all the time.
Some might get the feeling that this latest entry feels like a greatest hits entry. To some extent, this may feel like the case with familiar motifs at play: the dragon runs, the medieval gothic or almost victorian architecture, poisonous swamps, tombs, etc. But this feeling of familiarity fades and resurfaces as you try and consider where you are in relation to the locations of Dark Souls, as well as the level design being different. The level design works similarly to how the series has always worked, with the levels being very interconnected and having their own sets of shortcuts or connections to each other, although the latter is less so in relation to Dark Souls, since you have access to warping. The sound design is also incredible, with weapons sounding weighty and impactful, as well as the shrieks, howls and other sounds create a chilling and at times frightening effect. Visually, whilst the game isn’t the most technically impressive game out, it still looks incredible with it’s texture resolution and strong gothic horror fantasy aesthetic and lighting creating some beautiful and haunting locales, like the one pictured in this piece.
As far as the story is concerned, it is as it has always been: told primarily visually and through flavour texts and the occassional quick cutscene. It’s as cryptic and unobtrusive as ever, and I won’t burden you with my interpretation of the storyline because I don’t have one. I never really found it that important while playing this series for I found the purity of the mechanics and overall structure and challenge of them being enjoyable for their own sake. That said, if you are so inclined to engaging with the lore, there is plenty there.
Dark Souls 3 is great. While it has some issues insofar as some superfluous mechanics and a little too much linearity, it is still an addictive and enjoyable experience. It did feel a little easier than previous entries, but that is possibly because I have finally gotten good and with such familiarity with the mechanics, was able to manage resources more carefully and use summons more often when I needed to. My first playthrough, going to almost all areas of the game, took me about 24 hours of play time to do, so series veterans should expect their playthroughs to take between 20-30 hours on average, but newcomers will probably take longer to complete it. While not perfect, it is a great game in it’s own right and as what is probably the final entry in the series.