I like to think I’m fairly decent at the Souls series. I managed to conquer the original Dark Souls on PC, powered through the seemingly impossible nightmare of Demon’s Souls, and played Dark Souls II until newer games left it stagnating in the backlog. Every time I play a Souls game, I have the same experience for the first few hours. I die, I fail, and it’s overall a punishing experience. Dark Souls III isn’t any different in this regard.
The setup will be familiar to anyone who’s played one of the previous Souls games – you are a player-created undead warrior cast into the dark and nightmarish world of Lothric, and must stab, slash, and cast your way through a gauntlet of twisted monstrosities. Oh, and it goes without saying, but you’ll die a couple dozen times as well.
Lothric’s an interesting setting, as Souls fans will be able to find a couple of obvious – and a few more subtle – parallels to the world of the first Dark Souls. If you’re familiar with phrases such as ‘Lord of Cinder’, ‘Firelink Shrine’, or ‘Undead’ you’ll probably feel right at home here. Thankfully, a few new elements introduced (such as low-level enemies transforming into strange black masses) keep you on your toes, changing the dynamic of how you should approach certain encounters.
Admittedly, my adventure through Lothric hasn’t been the longest, as the accursed demon known to mortal tongue as ‘Crashing to Desktop’ has constantly thwarted my progress. Approaching certain bonfires constantly made my game crash, and I haven’t found a way to fix it at the time of this writing. It is a known issue among early adopters and reviewers, and I hope that these problems are looked into with additional patches as I continue my full review. A real shame, because what I have experienced has been an absolute blast.
In my short time with Dark Souls III I’ve fought off all manner of Souls mainstays, from burly knights in sleek armor to lightning-fast dogs that can wipe you out before you know what hit you, every moment spent with Dark Souls III feels very recognizable as a Dark Souls game. You still drink an Estus Flask to recharge health, you still lose your only currency upon death, and you absolutely will still see the words YOU DIED at every corner.
Of course, not everything is the same. This was made clear when I brought the first boss – the standard ‘dude in armor’ enemies Souls fans have become quite familiar with – and he transformed into an eldritch mass of writhing tentacles right before my eyes. It may still be Dark Souls, but it feels fresh enough in certain key aspects like bosses and creature design to stand out from its predecessors.
Sadly, it does lack a bit of the progress made in Bloodborne, a Souls game in everything but name. You won’t be doing any sidesteps here, weapon movesets are back to just four options, and the unique gothic horror setting is back to the tried and true dark medieval fantasy. That last bit isn’t necessarily a downside, but it helps add to the sense that Dark Souls III is just retreading old ground.
However, that doesn’t make Dark Souls III a bad game. Despite the familiarity, I’ve enjoyed my time in Lothric, from the moment my cursed knight rose from his grave to the last few steps I’ve taken through the undead settlement. While the task ahead may be daunting, I am ready to welcome the challenge with open arms. First the Undead Settlement.
Then the world.
Dark Souls III is being reviewed on Steam with a code provided by the developer.