The hype was up for this game ever since the DS3 trailer was shown in the last year’s E3 conference, although it was overshadowed by the Bethesda’s Fallout 4 announcement then. But for the Dark Souls veterans, the release of the latest installment from From Software was one of the most anticipated games of the year. So, does the game match up to the hype it generated?

Well, yes and no. Just kidding, I meant yes AND MORE. Dark Souls 3 improves on its predecessors in many ways, and also incorporates some novel ideas, which transforms DS3 into what is not only the most polished game of the franchise, but is also one of the most unique.

Now the plot : the Age of Fire is definitely coming to an end now, though embers still remain. The protagonist is possibly the last one to come to the kingdom of Lothric to Link the Fire, so that the Age of Fire can last for a few years more. Slowly but surely though, everything is coming to a definite end. The protagonist is now referred to as the Ashen One, a testament to the fact that all the flames are dying out, with only ashes to show for their existence.

Or at least, that was my interpretation of the game’s story from whatever lore I found and experiences I encountered. The game delights in making the plot deliberately vague, so that each player can live (and die countless times) in his own story. Small tidbits are thrown to the player which explain about the lore of the Lothric kingdom. The lore is fed to the player in small pieces through item descriptions and conversations with NPCs, same as the previous games. This alone has led to the creation of countless Reddit pages and groups which try to explore the world of Dark Souls to the fullest, and give a most complete account of the worlds of Lordran, Drangelic and the latest addition, Lothric, combined.

The environments in Dark Souls 3 look gorgeous, way better than DS2 was. I can attest to this with the simple fact that I’m playing Scholar of the First Sin now, even though I’ve played DS2 before[because Fume Knight and the Scholar]. The way the light reflects off the ground during rainfall, the way the eclipsed sun illuminates the whole place with red light, or just the sheer magnificence of the structures, everything is sheer artistry. No other words for it.

The first time the player gets a glimpse of the Lothric Castle from the Cemetery of Ash area[the first area of the game] is an unforgettable feeling. That one look confirms you of the epicness in scope of DS3. I’ve always hated dungeon sections in all of the Dark Souls games[dunno if it was because of those rats or just a general aversion], but in DS3, this was not the case. I won’t say I actually liked them this time round, but at the very least I didn’t hate the experience.

Firelink Shrine is back to being the hub of all inter-bonfire travel again. But this time, a bunch of changes have been made. Firelink Shrine is now akin to being a stronghold of some type, all the main NPCs stay here. Andre the blacksmith is back, and now he’ll take care of all the reinforcements and weapon infusions you need, and all this without needing to go out of Firelink; just get him those Embers. Also, as the game progresses, another NPC, Ludleth the Exiled, will show up at Firelink; he is the guy you visit for making boss weapons. And of course our favorite person, the Firekeeper, hangs out at Firelink Shrine, so visits here will be all too regular for the players whenever they wish to level up. So basically, the player will not need to venture outside Firelink to upgrade their character in whatever way.

But we all know that combat is the main reason why we’re fans of the series, don’t we? So how’s combat this time? I’m delighted to say the combat is way, way better than in the previous games. Combat is now closer to the first DS game[diving dodges are back!], and is much faster this iteration. Not Bloodborne-level fast, but faster than the previous DS games. Most importantly for us boss-fight lovers, the transitions from dodges to attacks is now near-seamless. As opposed to DS2 where there was a definite lag between giving the input, and the character actually executing the command; a source of frustration for all of us who died during boss encounters due to lag rather than our own mistakes. Also, while consuming them Estus Flasks, the character will no longer stand still, but instead walk in the direction of our inputs, which makes a whole lot of difference to the risk-benefit factor of using an Estus during a fight.

The introduction of the all-new Weapon Arts revolutionizes combat like never before. Most of the weapons you equip will have some special attacks attributed to them; you get into a Stance, then when you use an attack, the character will perform an empowered attack after some wind-up. Also, when you equip twin-weapons and use two-handed grip, you’ll equip a weapon in each hand; you’ll now have access to special attack combos which cause a bunch of damage and besides, look super-cool in action. For the best showcase of Weapon Arts, get to the Dancer of the Boreal Valley boss-fight, and get the Dancer to her second phase. It’s so very beautiful and deadly.

For those who haven’t played any of the DS games but like challenges, do yourself a favor and start playing them games, but in sequence. The story is hard to get into if DS3 is your first foray into the DS world, because the story-telling style is very much different from the regular, mainstream games we’re all so accustomed to. In fact, I think the only game that comes close to this kind of story-telling would be Divinity : Original Sin. But for those who want to start with DS3 and know how the main items work, and the concept of Souls, please refer to my Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 reviews.

Of course, a game as massive as DS3 will have some flaws; it’s only natural, if undesirable. Occasional frame-rate dips happen, and sometimes I experienced movement-related glitches, which can prove fatal depending on the situation. Other than that, DS3 is a stellar game.

Dark Souls 3 is not as large as its previous iterations, with the playthrough time for DS3 being about 35-40 hours, compared to the 60 hour-odd play time each for both the previous iterations. However, this is no cause for concern, as the gameplay is much tighter here in DS3. The boss-fights are much tougher now, and each boss has his own unique style. DS3 has less than 20 bosses now, but each of them is a pain in his/her own way. This game is more about quality than quantity. All these features combine to make this the most fast-paced and the toughest Dark Souls yet.

RATING : 9.8/10

PROS :
– plot progression
– faster combat
– all-new Weapon Arts
– beautifully rendered environments
– bosses are awesome

CONS :
– rare frame-rate dips
– occasional movement glitches

 

 

 

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