Dark Souls III: From Software, do they really need an introduction?! The developers of the excellent Kings Field series on the PS1 (Think Arx Fatalis-type of game, first-person-console RPG), not forgetting their Armoured Core series of games and a little known game outside of Japan, during 2009, called Demon’s Souls, exclusively for the PS3. This little-known gem of a game started getting imported thanks to word of mouth and a fair bit of critical acclaim so they decided to localise it and release it in Europe and North America.
Demon’s Souls hit the gaming world by storm – tough as nails but has that ‘one more try’ mentality to it. It’s not going to get me again, there, and you learnt from mistakes. Thanks to this soaring success, From Software’s next project, Dark Souls, launched worldwide late 2011, again to critical acclaim. Then Dark Souls II (with a different director), launched 2014, again to the same reception. Their next project saw a return to exclusivity on the Playstation – Bloodborne – with the epic Gothic Victorian locations, and the original souls director at the helm made it another must buy.
Now it is time for the third and final story in the Dark Souls story arc. This is what I believe reading comments from the developer interviews etc. stating that it will not be the last ‘Souls’ game.
The story this time around, granted vague as last time saw you, the player, risen from ash to deliver the Lords of Cinder and link the fires. Of course, the Lords of Cinder do not want to relinquish what they have been given so returning them to their thrones involves a long journey through numerous locations, ranging from European style castles to towns, forests, catacombs, cathedrals and dungeons. Whilst travelling through these locations, you have different enemy types and usually a crescendo with a boss battle which will give the player something they will need, to get a bit further in their quest.
Of course, the bosses in the ‘Souls’ series are what most folks talk about – huge behemoth, beast-like creatures that can take a while to take down. Huge in size and attitude, and if you just go running in, they can kill you in one or two hits! From Software, again, have excelled themselves in their creations. After 20 hours in, I have taken out seven bosses, one of which has been a Lord of Cinder. So far I have fought a giant cursed tree (imagine a mandrake from the Harry Potter movies crossed with the Whomping Willow from the same movies), a group of undead clerics that played hot potato with who was next in line to be smited!, a large mage that teleported around the area and started cloning himself and a giant skeletal king after examining a skull goblet. Each boss required different tactics and having a few different sets of armour with different defences came in handy!
Gameplay is similar to the previous games in the series, except the magic system has been changed back to Demon’s Souls-style with a mana bar instead of a set number of times something can be used between bonfire visits. You work your way through each area, taking out enemies and go from bonfire to bonfire. You die (and you will a lot), you leave a bloodstain with a green orb, make it back and collect said orb and you retrieve however many souls you were carrying. Die before reaching them and they are gone for good. The combat is the same as the previous games in the series – parry, block & attack with back stabs aplenty when you manage to get behind an enemy. You learn each enemy type and their attacks; you can then time your counter attack and so on. You still have to manage your stamina as using that last bit to try and take an enemy down could leave you open for a killing blow if you time it wrong. The magic sees the various schools from the previous games returning so you have Pyromancy (fire), Sorcery (general type magic with soul spears etc) and Miracles (lightning spears and healing etc). Like I just said, you are not limited to set uses between bonfire visits, you have a mana bar and once that is gone you can’t use any more spells till you rest at a bonfire.
This is where From Software have made a better design decision. Gone are things like herbs that replenish mana and health, as are life gems from Darks Souls II (bar a green plant that makes stamina replenish faster and you still have your various moss for resistances to poison etc.). You have your Estus Flask which increases if you give the blacksmith shards in Firelink Shrine and you can make them stronger by burning undead bones in the Firelink Bonfire. There is also a Blue Estus Flask now – swig on this and it replenishes your mana. You can allot how many of the flasks you carry, so if you are using more magical attacks instead of sword/magic combo then you could say have three health flasks and allot the rest to mana replenishment. This is an option available as soon as you speak to the Blacksmith.
There are plenty of weapons available that will suit everyone’s play style. There is a long bow and crossbow which is ideal for luring a single enemy from a mob. You then have your various swords going from daggers, long swords and up to great swords that have to be wielded two-handed. There’s also various spears and halberds available if you like to keep your distance. All weapons can be upgraded and imbued with elements etc. at the blacksmith, as can the numerous shields you will find. One thing I have noticed is that you cannot upgrade your armour this time round. I should imagine that after 20 hours of play that you will have unlocked that ability if it was available at the Blacksmith. I did find some special coal which I gave him allowing him to imbue more types of weapon stone but that has been it, so far.
Now Firelink Shrine (not the same Firelink from Dark Souls) very much reminds me of The Nexus from Demon’s Souls. You will find people in the areas you explore. After talking to them, they will then go to the shrine and then they provide different services. There’s also a few obscure items ro find in the locations and if you give them to the people you have at the shrine, more items become available for sale. As an example, if you find ashes on your travels, give them to the maiden and she will stock extra items.
Go to page 3 for more thoughts on the game, while page 2 features pictures of the sumptuous Dark Souls III wooden box in which the game arrived, complete with scrolls and more!
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!