10 Hours With Dark Souls III

The last time I checked my Dark Souls 3 save file said 9 hours and 50 minutes.

That means that I’ve spent almost exactly 10 hours in Lothric. I’ve killed things. A lot of things. I’ve been lost. I’ve been confused. I’ve been underwhelmed and amazed in equal measure.

And yes. I have died. Many times. But perhaps a little less than you might expect.

This is not a review; that will come later. This isn’t anything in particular really. Consider it a series of observations from the frontlines.

Alright, let's start with this...


Veterans Will Find Dark Souls III Easy. In The Beginning

Bloodborne’s difficulty felt much more consistent. The Cleric Beast was as difficult a first boss as I’ve ever seen in a From Software game. Father Gascoigne, the second boss, was a complete and utter bastard.

Dark Souls III is a little different.

First boss –- took him down first go.

Second boss –- took him down first go with absolute ease.

Third boss –- alright, this guy was a little trickier…

Fourth boss –- took him out second go.

I am by no means a skilled Souls player. I have experience, don’t get me wrong -- I was able to take my knowledge of previous bosses in the series and apply them to brand new scenarios – but I kinda suck at video games. If you’ve been knee-deep in NG+ in any From Software game you’ll most likely find Dark Souls III a little on the easy side.

In the beginning.

Later there’s a nice little difficult spike. Just a heads up. Then it’s business as usual.


Lothric Looks Like It’s Covered In Ash

I am loving the aesthetic of this video game.

Much of the lore of Dark Souls III is centred around ‘ash’ – the idea of flames burnt out and whatnot.

As such the entire world of Dark Souls III has this feel about it – like someone has coated the entire universe in a subtle film of ash. It’s sort of gorgeous.

It also makes the game look a little different than previous Dark Souls games. It has its own unique ‘look’.


Dark Souls III Has A Number Of ‘Anor Londo Moments’

Arriving in Anor Londo is a definitive talking point for many Dark Souls players. It represents a moment where you emerge from the doldrums of dungeons and dirge into a glorious universe of sun, space and golden light.

Dark Souls III is packed with moments like this. It paces environments beautifully. It will exhaust you with sustained claustrophobic spaces, grim textures, darkness and squalor. Then, all of a sudden, provide you with these moments of WHOAH. Look at this place, look at that view...

Within minutes Dark Souls III will oscillate between deliberate ugly and the sublime. The contrast can be bewildering at times. I love it.


Weapon Nerds Are In For A Good Time

My enjoyment From Software games come from its raw, core mechanics – from the pace of its combat, its atmosphere. I’m less enamoured with the RPG elements of creating different builds, or messing around with weapon upgrades.

So I was one of the few that didn’t really miss the reduced weapon count in Bloodborne.

But if that was something that did disappoint you, by god is Dark Souls III the game for you. Dark Souls III is the perfect balance. It doesn’t feature an obnoxious amount of weapons like Dark Souls II, but doesn’t limit you like Bloodborne either.

Instead it provides you with a substantial amount of weapons, and gives you far more options with which to tweak and personalise those weapons. It’s hard to explain how without going into an obnoxious amount of detail – but players can infuse almost every type of weapon in a number of different ways, and use this to tailor builds to different playstyles. It’s a great compromise.


Dark Souls III Is A Little Linear For My Liking

I enjoyed the endlessly intertwined universe of Dark Souls. Dark Souls II disappointed me by being far more linear and careless in its world building. Dark Souls III occupies something of a middle ground. There are individual areas that sprawl and demand exploration but, for the most part, you are constantly moving forward.

I’d prefer to see more ‘oh my god I’ve circled back’ moments, but that’s just me.


Dark Souls III Rewards Exploration

Dark Souls III is linear, but holy hell does it reward players that take time to explore every alternate route.

I’m constantly having conversations with other players: “did you find this boss?” NOPE. “Did you find this weapon?” THAT’S ANOTHER NOPE.

I suspect it’ll take a long time before the community has found every little intricate detail in Dark Souls III. It’s a game that often subverts your expectations – almost as though Miyazaki and co know precisely how you’re going to react to specific cues. They recognise the instincts of their player-base and deliberately mess with that. It’s a beautiful thing.

I can’t wait for NG+ is what I’m basically saying.


The Boss Fights Are Nice And Varied

Perhaps the most varied in the series, actually.

Dark Souls II has a lot of boss fights, but many of them blended into the other. That isn't the case with Dark Souls III. This is a game that takes far more risks with its enemy design. There are some flat out weird boss fights in Dark Souls III, but it always keeps you guessing.

I've made up names for them: 'that tree fucker', 'the big skull guy', 'the fire dude'.

But something worth noting: some of my favourite encounters so far haven't been bosses at all. Watch out for a pair of burly motherfuckers in a swamp that came close to absolutely ruining my day. Good times were had.


In fact, good times are being had in general.

Something I've thinking about, courtesy of this Reddit thread -- I'm not going to get my original 'Souls' experience back. I'm never going to be able to play this series for the first time again. In that respect the Dark Souls III experience might never replicate that feeling. Nor should you expect it too.

But this is -- so far -- a very, very good Dark Souls game.

Finally, a rumour I haven't been able to confirm: Dark Souls III features more mimics than chests.

Those bastards...


Comments

    oh man, i've put about 20 hours into Dark Souls 1 and refuse to look up guides. this also means i have not gotten very far at all. and i suck at it. i rage-quit a while ago and now I'm thinking of giving it another crack. Is it recommended to persist without looking up guides and finish it even if I suck at it???

      Over leveling yourself is always a valid way to force progression, heck Dark Souls 1 has a particular lucrative spot early on however you might not want to hear about it.

      In terms of what your asking, no one except yourself knows how important your parameters are, just give it some more thought and make a decision. why involve strangers? the game is definitely worth playing til the end if you want my two cents.

      I found that it took me a year and a half and two false starts before it clicked. The keys to initial progression for me were, yes, over-levelling, but mainly getting somebody to coach me. My brother had already finished it, so he watched me through a boss fight and the surrounding areas. Only took a couple of hours to point out how I was playing wrong, then I was set to play it all the way through by myself.

      If you do get back into it, level your weapons, you need to be able to kill things quickly.

      I recommend no hand holding guides. My slight tip about weapons is all you need.

      Praise the sun \[T]/

      Dude, unless u don't play a lot of games or don't have a backlog etc. then I recommend getting a bit of help at least. I often looked where to go next and other things down the line. There was one part near the gargoyles where I had no idea a blacksmith was just around the corner and was not exploring to find it. My friend walked me thru a few things at that point and literally re stoked my love for the game, which held for the duration. I found enough awe and surprises just in the new locations and found knowing a few things didn't ruin the game for me but I dunno it depends if you're a purist or not I guess.

      I started the game then stopped for about a month myself. But I picked it back up and never put it back down. My first successful play through took 60 hours

    Been playing DKS3 put in 30 hours so far and am finding it nice and hard. Playing a pure mage build, and whilst there a heaps of places where you can nerf normal mobs, fighting the bosses this was is so much of a legendary challenge its amazing.

    They have demon/dark souls style system for gear again. Which means you can make some items go up to A scaling in your required discipline if you do the "right" thing. Figuring this out was amazing.

    @markserrels,
    This is a good non spoiler article, you speak the good words. I try to contain the excitement but my nose bleeds like a pervy otaku.

    I maintain that Dark Souls games and their weapons are best treated like Pokemon.

    You'll experiment with a bunch but settle on a chosen few and you'll love those beautiful little pointy bastards like your own children soon enough.

    Dark Souls 3 *sounds* like Demon's Souls. Did you ever play that Mark? They did the World-Level sequence thing there and it was sound.

    I'm disappointed about the Let's Play situation, breaking embargoes and flat-out streaming the entire game before most people are even allowed to buy it. That will no doubt steal sales. But I also have an issue with it from a technical perspective as well.

    From Software are perfectionists. Therefore, early player population data is absolutely vital for the on-going maintenance of an already well-crafted and auteur-ish experience.

    What I am getting at here is this - Dark Souls 2 (say) was released and everybody started playing it. On the back-end the information that could be collected could show a particular environment is bugged, glitchy (think Blightown) or perhaps a certain enemy or boss is TOO difficult or unfairly programmed. Weapon values, hell, even PvP data - veterans of the series understand these games change considerably in minute ways after release. You risk stuffing up this process if the LP'ers all show the game 'as intended' when it might not be in all instances.

    If we all pick up Dark Souls 3 today and instantly hit a road block in the shape of tree man or fire bloke, the first thing we will do is watch a Let's Play. I'm going to see that this skull fucker or whoever can be exploited, and then that is something set in stone. If the game (rightly) patches out the glitch, people are going to argue about it.

    So I think early playthroughs that the playerbase can already view - that aren't beholden to/flat-out ignore embargo rules and review guides that probably mention the game is still subject to a hell of a lot of patching - muddy the waters here and the player population can't be seen as it has been in the past, a sort of late beta test of some of From's more esoteric design choices.

    Data that From/Namco would have been able to use in the past is now skewed, but it looks like the Japanese player base getting the game first means they are still able to take a 'fresh demographic' of first-time players and tweak the game if need be based off of that.

    I might be over-reacting a tad :)

      Dark Souls II already has this issue. Have just completed Black Gulch and original guides on YT were completely unhelpful now that in SotFS you get invaded by to Cleaver wielding NPC's and one NPC you can summon in the original is nowhere to be found in the level.

    I'll probably give this a try.

    I keep hoping to have that fabled 'first time' experience with one of these games despite not being able to get into the first two.

    Bloodborne I fared better at but eventually got sick of the difficulty and general dark and gloomy atmosphere and gave up. I just can't enjoy being sent back 20 mins every time I die.

    I'm still trying to muster up enthusiasm about Dark Souls III. On the one hand the visuals, atmosphere and just the general idea of the game are hugely appealing and exciting, but the gameplay and overall game design hasn't changed greatly since Demon Souls and it's starting to become tiresome. It's what comes after Dark Souls III that has me more excited. Both Bloodborne and Salt and Sanctuary have shown that a fast paced action game in the style of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta would really work with a Souls style difficulty and weapon system. Hopefully From notices, especially since it feels like that's where they've been trying to go with the past couple of games (ie. Bloodborne and DaSo III).

    Im looking to get into dark souls 3 because, well dont judge me but it doesnt look like ass! and the gameplay is very punishing.
    i couldnt get into dark souls 2 because of the learning curve ( constant rape is a little too brutal for me) so im really looking forward to trying this!

      I can't comment on DS3 as I haven't played it, but DS2 is by far the easiest Souls game so you better git gud real quick or you're gonna have a bad time in DS3.

      Praise the sun \o/

    Arrrrrhg, all those tale about Dark Souls 3 make me want to play Dark Souls again! But then I remembered blighttown *shudders*

      Blighttown is never as bad as its remembered, lost izalith is the worst

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