Embracing the Darkness – Dark Souls III Review

One noob’s journey through Dark Souls III

The Dark Souls series is one I came to rather late. Too late. I wish I could have experienced it all from the beginning, but instead I found myself jumping on the bandwagon when DSIII was released. I preordered and everything.

It began with IGN’s Prepare to Try series, which I implore you to check out. The premise of the show was basically, “can one ‘noob’ defeat Dark Souls before Dark Souls III is released?”. Not only was the show great to watch because of the guys involved, but the lore of game really captivated me and I found myself becoming attached to the storylines and characters of the game, despite not actually playing.

I had played Bloodborne, with little success and a great amount of frustration, and eventually I chickened out of it; so it was with trepidation that I preordered my copy of Dark Souls III. My journey began.

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Meet Llewyn

For anyone who isn’t well versed in gaming, Dark Souls is notoriously difficult and attracts a certain type of masochist. The game is difficult enough on its own, with challenging bosses that can destroy you in seconds and long periods of gameplay without a ‘checkpoint’. But there’s some people who find this isn’t enough, some people try to complete the game without being hit once, for example. It’s got a very special and unique following, almost its own culture.

As well as its challenging nature, gamers are drawn to Dark Souls because of its deep and rich lore and the gaps in the lore which encourages players to fill in with their own theories. Its almost Tolkien-esque in the detail. There’s thousands of years of history just waiting to be explored in-game. I can’t express how much I wish I’d been on-board since Dark Souls I.

Dark Souls III is a game that captivates you from the first second of the opening cinematic. It gives you some background on what has happened in the previous games and sets up your own journey with mystery and intrigue. You’re awoken as an Unkindled, unfit to be even be ash, and your job is to hunt down the Lords of Cinder. The game provides you with countless questions that you have to seek the answers to throughout the game by talking to the right people and reading the right item descriptions. Sure, you can just run through the game without paying attention to any of this but there’s something so rewarding about finding a link between two characters or discovering a piece of history about a boss you’ve just beaten. You take out what you put in. The story draws you in, fully immersing you in the world of Dark Souls. It almost teases you. Giving you snippets of information but never the full picture. 

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Old Friends

There’s a great number of references to the previous instalments too, most of which have probably passed me by, but many of them I found satisfying and nostalgic, thanks to Prepare to Try. I’ve now found myself going back through the game to follow different character quest lines and to uncover secrets I missed first time around. There’s not many games I’d immediately jump back into, but with this, I was back in Lothric in under 24 hours.

The game is beautiful to behold. From the High Wall of Lothric to Anor Londo, the visuals are spectacular. It’s a world thats expertly pieced together as you’re guided towards Lothric Castle on your quest to return the Lords of Cinder to their thrones. Every now and again, I found myself stopping just to take in the scenery around me, looking back at where I’d been and looking on, to what was yet to come. 

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The game play and combat style are unique to this game series (and Bloodborne) and this is where the challenge lies. As a beginner, it’s hard to get to grips with how you’re supposed to play this game. Unlike most main-stream video games, Souls requires you to tactically defeat your enemies. This requires studying your opponents moves and timing your parries, rolls and attacks accordingly. It’s such a rewarding system. When you finally figure out how to beat a boss and actually manage to implement that plan to perfection, theres a huge sense of achievement that I’ve never experienced in a game before. 

And there’s where the beauty lies. Dark Souls is so rewarding and that’s thanks to the immersive story that doesn’t spoon-feed players the lore and history of Souls, it rewards exploration and experimentation and it challenges you to defeat enemies that, at the beginning of my journey, I never thought possible. 

★★★★★

If you enjoyed this article, we have a special bonus podcast episode all about gaming. We cover games from our childhood and our current favourites, including (obviously) Dark Souls. 

 

8 comments on “Embracing the Darkness – Dark Souls III Review”

  1. the6millionpman

    I never got around to playing any of the Dark Souls franchise, though I did spend many an evening watching my then housemate die over and over and over in various fashion. I stumbled across the first one the other day and was temped to pick it up though don’t know where I’d find the time to fit in playing it….shall I add it to my shelf of “bought but not yet played”?

    • Rob (Reel Film)

      Have to admit I’ve never really been a massive gamer since my childhood and have only just got back into gaming in the last couple of years. So I guess I had the same thoughts as you. I didn’t know how I’d find the time or whether I’d actually want to play a tricky game after a long day’s work but it took me about 4 months to complete playing a couple of hours a night a few times a week. It was slow progress but I’d definitely recommend getting into it!

      • the6millionpman

        cool, it is on my list of games I want to play and am slowly finding time for. At the moment I’m working my way through the Italian Renaissance Assassins Creed’s in the same way.

        • Rob (Reel Film)

          I’ve got a massive list to do the same with! One of them is Dark Souls I, unfortunately, I’ve got nothing to play it on so might have to wait for a remaster. Really wish I’d started with 1, I think there’s a lot in 3 for players who’ve played the whole series.

  2. Paul Howsham

    Great read! I’m interested in how you built your character. What stats did you focus on, what equipment did you use? And what was your goal for making your character?

    A lot of people try to min max their character first time round to make the experience easier. I often limit myself by saying I won’t use certain types of weapons/armor/magic both to help make the game harder (cause I get off on that) and to add to a sense of role playing. You never meet any character in Dark Souls who can do everything after all (maybe with the exception of the very final boss).

    • Rob (Reel Film)

      Thanks! I’m going back through now on NG+ just to pick up extra bits and stuff and follow some quests I missed (I did Usurp the Fire ending).
      I mainly went for endurance and strength and vigor just to try and make myself a bit more robust. Also had a bit of pyromancy but mainly focused on sword and shield. I found using great swords and heavier weapons really difficult so I mainly used the uchigatana and the sunlight sword.
      I’d quite like to try a different build on my next play through, any recommendations?

      • Paul Howsham

        Sounds like a decent generic build. I suggest limiting yourself. Go 20 Vig and 20 End max. This helps you to get better because you can’t rely on loads of health and stamina to survive. From there decide if you want to be quick or a tank. I adore large weapons and heavy armour in any game so I often go for heavy builds. Since you said you didn’t like heavy weapons, maybe try a pure dex build. Again don’t go over 20 vigor or endurance. Add a little to vitality but only wear light armour so you roll quickly (must be below 70%) and get a good quick weapon (uchi is good but a love thrusting swords) and add a bow to benefit from lots of points in dex. I don’t think any build makes you get better at the games better. You’ll find you die in a couple hits but dodging becomes a lot more reliable.

        Did you beat every boss? I know I missed the big one on my first playthrough cause I don’t research games at all until I finish them once.

        • Rob (Reel Film)

          Cool, I’ll try that next play through. I’ve never really given heavy weapons any time so I might try and give that a go also.
          I missed out the Nameless King but that’s all.

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