In Dark Souls, we were told to Prepare to Die. In Dark Souls 2 we were told to Go Beyond Death. Now in Dark Souls 3, Only Embers remain. The rather ominous slogan marks the progression of the souls games and their themes, as well as slapping us in the face to remind us that this is the last souls game. As a massive fan of the series, it was hard to hear that there would be an end to my Jolly undead adventures. That being said, Dark Souls 3 acts a near perfect send off to the dedicated fans who have died and died again.
Thematically, Dark Souls 3 is not too dissimilar to the previous two games. Our playable character has found himself in charge of hunting 4 incredible souls in order to link the fire and save the world, for the time being. However, this time we are searching for the Lords of Cinder, who need returned to their thrones, willingly or otherwise. Saying that, the game shows it’s similarities to the original Dark Souls, and even Demon Souls. Don’t let that put you off though, this isn’t Dark Souls 2 where the old ones were re-imagined versions of their Dark Souls 1 counterparts, The Lords of Cinder are their own unique beasts to conquer, and conquer you shall.
“Ash seeketh Embers”
A massive part of the Souls games are the enemies and the bosses. It’s safe to say that Dark Souls 3 has the most grotesque and downright bizarre enemies so far, some that even put Bloodborne’s mobs to shame. There’s still a healthy number of Knight type enemies for those who love the more medieval side of the souls games, opposed to the mythical. The game has it’s fair share of Mini Bosses should you require the extra challenge in between the Heirs of Fire.
The bosses however are somewhat of a mixed bag in this game. Each of them is visually stunning, but some are a little too easy for their position in the game – I imagined to kill the fourth Lord of Cinder (The second last mandatory boss in the game) on my first try. There’s also one or two too many “Gimmicky” bosses for my liking. Think of the Dragon God from Demon Souls or Ceaseless Discharge from Dark Souls. Out of the 19 bosses in the game (A record base low for the series), 6 are gimmicky – Having specific weak spots or needing to employ a certain weapon or tactic. Two of which are Lords of Cinder (One is less of a gimmick than the other, but long time fans of the games will appreciate the nod too much to care). That being said, the games final boss is no pushover, and there’s no gimmick. Just you vs the boss, and skill will prevail. At the time of writing this review, I have one optional boss left, and they are considered the hardest in the game, and in my opinion, the series so far. If the easier bosses had you worried, just you wait.
“The Lords’ Kingdom’s Converge”
If you had to split the Souls games into their two main selling points, bosses are one and the interconnected world is the other. The game is not connected in the way Dark Souls was, but in all honesty, the size of that world allowed it to connect. The kingdom of Lothric for the most part is Linear. There are times where the paths diverge, times you’ll have to return for a key and times where you can choose which Lord to slay. To clarify, don’t expect Dark Souls 1 levels of interconnected world, but don’t expect the questionable level design of Dark Souls 2. This is From at their best, and it shows. Every location is masterfully crafted, and everything has a purpose.
The world itself is varied as always. We have our mandatory swamp area (Which has very cool lore for those who are observant) There are beautiful snow filled cities and winding catacombs. Souls players will feel right at home. The game’s optional area’s all house the games optional bosses, and are all well worth the find. One area is accessed by a gesture and is quite possibly the most hidden area in a From Soft ‘Soulsborne’ game to date. Those who choose to explore are in for a treat.
“Jolly Undead Outcasts”
Luckily our Unkindled hero is not alone on his journey to retrieve the Lords. Throughout the lands, you will find NPC’S who will serve you. There are Sorcerer’s, Clerics, Pyromancer’s and Thieves all ready to supply you with everything you need, for a cost of course. There’s even the return of everyone’s favorite Onion Knights, and the inevitable return of Patches. Can’t keep a bad guy down. Dark Souls 3 has plenty of NPC’s, but they may not all be around by the end of the journey. In this game, the quests are harder than ever, and many crossover, making you choose who you are loyal to. Joining a covenant or not talking to a certain NPC could be the end of any number of quests. There’s even a quest that dictates the third ending of the game, but I’ll allow you to discover that yourself.
It probably goes without saying that there’s no NPC’s that talk about the games mechanics, so there’s o quote. The most important change is the removal of the “Power Stance” from Dark Souls 2. Instead it is replaced by Focus Points, a new blue meter underneath your health bar. Focus points can be restocked with an Ashen Estus Flask, at the risk of of having as many healing estus, so use of this mechanic is not for everyone. If you choose to take the the gamble, you will find that spell usages now comes under FP’s, as well as the new ‘Skills’ – Each weapon has a special move that can be utilized with FP. Honestly I didn’t make use of this mechanic until it was required for one of the Gimmicky bosses mentioned earlier, but perhaps as a player you will make great use of it. It may just be the crux of your PVP build (I will detail PVP in another review).
Dark Souls 3 doesn’t reinvent the wheel, and it doesn’t have to. From has delivered a satisfying ending to a truly incredible trilogy. The bosses may be a little easy and some of the bosses may be a little on gimmicky side, and the world may be a little linear, but it doesn’t stain the incredible world design, the engaging quest line and the satisfying gameplay. With two DLC’s on the way, there’s still some content left to go before we all put down our longsword’s and Crest shields. In the meantime, I have worlds to invade and NG+ to enter. After all, Ash seeketh embers.