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Dark Souls 3

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Dark Souls 3

Platforms: Playstation 4, PC and XBOX-One

Release Date: April 12, 2016 US/EU/AU, March 24 JAPAN

Prices: 60USD, 55EUR, 80AUD

 

Review Roundup

 

The Guardian – Review Score = 5 Stars

In the first Dark Souls, Lordran was a place buffered and ruined by time as much as by violence. At once ethereal and vividly tangible, with its rain-slicked cobblestones, and moss-covered pillars, its history was partially obscured by nature’s reclaiming work. As such, you had to unpick the story of the place like an archaeologist digging at ruins, or by reading the abstruse descriptions on items plundered from crisp-dry corpses, or rust-stuck chests. In Dark Souls 3, the setting is Lothric, though we do return to certain areas of Lordran which have been further disrupted by decay. You meet old friends, enemies and acquaintances, but each has been changed in mysterious ways; you visit places that seem familiar but for a few new architectural arrangements, as if encountered in a recurring yet warping dream.

 

Firelink Shrine is one such place. Once positioned on a cliff surrounded by crumbling pillars, it was a dear place of refuge in the first game, a spiritual centre where the elemental warmth of its health-restoring firelight could be enjoyed without fear of attack. In Dark Souls 3, Firelink Shrine performs the same function, but here it’s found in a grand, throne-room like structure, with stratospheric ceilings and a warren of tunnels and stairwells. You may heal your character, level up their abilities, meet with a benevolent blacksmith who can fortify your weapons, and trade with other various salespeople. In this location, the weird and colourful characters whom you meet in your travels congregate, with their freakish sniffles, bent backs, and glinting masks. Firelink becomes, as one character puts it late in the game, a “cesspool of doddering old-folk and degenerates.” It’s an unfair judgement. Besides, you must take every friend you can get in a place like this.

 

There have been several concessions to the series’ renowned difficulty, which has surely caused injury to many a controller, smushed into the carpet while the refrain ‘You Died’ drips onto the screen. There is, for example, a more generous spattering of bonfires throughout the world, those life-giving warp points which offer you shortcuts into the mystery as, scene by scene, you clear the fog of war. Those glittering bugs which carry essential crafting material on their backs no longer vanish after a few seconds, meaning you’ll only need to chase them into a corner to catch and harvest them. Years of muscle memory build-up will enable veterans of the series to blitz through many of its boss fights, those spectacular encounters that demand players first observe and learn the enemy’s patterns before launching their own assaults. In some areas foes of different stripes will even turn on one another (a particularly memorable battle uses this idea to disorientating effect), further easing the sense that you are the only opposing force in this opposing world.

 

 

The Telegraph – Review Score = 5 Stars

Your role within the world now serves a different purpose, the map design has your character initially descending into the depths of the world instead of ascending higher. Non-player character (NPC) roles are subverted with initially kind, friendly characters not quite what they seem. From the start, Dark Souls 3 is all about lulling you into a false sense of security.

This is carried through in the way the maps are designed throughout. Initial areas are fairly straightforward to walk through, and the game kicks off relatively linear, with your character warping from a Demon’s Souls-like hub. However, once you venture from the simplicity and ease of the first few areas, the game starts to branch out with unprecedented depth and complexity.

 

Irithyll of the Boreal Valley is one such notable area, with winding pathways spidering in different directions. There’s a grounded sense of place not only to Irithyll but to many of the areas in Dark Souls 3. With this increased complexity comes a significant difficulty spike.

Difficulty can be a dirty word when talking about Dark Souls. With its ‘Prepare to Die’ slogan, the games are often marketed on their ferocious challenge. But Dark Souls is more methodical than ‘hard’, with you having to break down the strategies and patterns of enemies and bosses while mentally looking out for openings. This makes each encounter incredibly intense, giving you that sense of relief and catharsis when you finally defeat a tough enemy or boss.

 

 

IGN – Review Score = 9.5/10

It isn’t like Dark Souls 3 has a shortage of awesome boss designs, though – ranging from majestic to frightful, some even made me gasp in shock over the lore implications of their look, or music, or circumstances, and most did have an exciting and tough battle to match. Those framerate dips made an unwelcome return during some of these fights, however, rendering all the excitement occasionally hard to look at.

But most of the bosses are a fun challenge for good reasons, and some of those battles made me feel outmatched enough that I was compelled to use another of Dark Souls 3’s new mechanics. Embers, the Dark Souls 3 equivalent of Dark Souls 1’s Humanity, elevate you from Unkindled to Kindled form, which gives you access to online features and adds a cool, burning effect to your armor. Similar to Demon’s Souls’ Body/Soul Form system, being Kindled also grants a boost in HP that is lost on death, but the extra HP is more of a reward for being Kindled (which is automatic when you defeat a boss) than a penalty for being Unkindled. The HP boost was nice insurance to have during a particularly tough boss, but not necessary for all of them.

 

 

Game Informer – Review Score = 93/100

Hundreds of weapons, armors, accessories, and spells are available, so you have the tools to get the job done regardless of your playstyle. You can be an archer, caster, shielded tank, two-handed brute, dual-wielding mercenary, speedy Bloodborne-style hunter (complete with items tailored to and referencing the archetype), and more. Respeccing your stat points is available from one of the NPCs you meet about a quarter through the game, so don’t worry too much about making a mistake. This is a great boon if you accidentally mess up a few stat points or completely change your loadout after finding heavy armor or that perfect weapon you always wanted later on in the game.

Keeping your eyes peeled for every possible hidden wall, elevator drop, and NPC questline is great fun, and the content is incredibly dense in terms of the secrets and shortcuts to be found inside each area, possibly the densest of any Souls title. Discovering something small that leads to something so huge later on feels great, and you become addicted to this meticulous curiosity/reward loop.

Edited by Pervy

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