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.