Hello, peeps. Take a wild guess why this popped up in your screen again…
Correct! It’s that day of the week – time for The Weekly Dracus! I’m so hyped. Especially because in this issue, I’ll be discussing a matter of great interest to me: Dark Souls 3
Sheesh, what a fanboy–
NOPE! It’s all a matter of praising an objectively good game that has exceeded any and all human expectations as to the maximum quality a game can possess. Of course.
Ahem. Okay, let’s be serious for a bit. You may be wondering (reasonably) why I am taking the time and even devoting an entire issue of TWD for a single game – even more so, to a triple-A title, which is supposedly widespread and already “figured out” pretty much by a large part of the gaming community, with a bazillion reviews by “professionally certified” journalists and other individuals.
The reason is that most aspects of this game, while not perfect for everyone, are unconventionally functional, detailed, and overall well-designed.
In addition, there are additional “layers” to this game, which deal with deep meanings, teachings, and allegories to real life.
Let’s begin with the technical part, that is the gameplay.
Combat has always been the core aspect of the Souls games (as well as Bloodborne, which is considered a spinoff to the original Souls series).
Despite being classified as “RPG” games, they do not display the typical RPG characteristics and game mechanics: They do not have many quests, they do not offer excessive NPC interaction, and the world and level design is rather linear.
Instead, they mainly focus on combat (such as majestic boss battles). In fact, they take quite an arcade-like approach to the matter.
This is what puts them into the “action-RPG” (ARPG) category.
The “Souls” games were praised for their difficulty – difficulty which, compared to their contemporary games, was rather uncustomary and even unparalleled.
Most games back in the Demon’s Souls era (Demon’s Souls is considered the predecessor to the Dark Souls series) offered an easily digestible, visually attractive but usually not functionally enticing gameplay.
Playthroughs were easy, content and story were discernibly uncomplicated and straightforward for players to grasp.
The content quality of a game relied on visuals, and an engaging multiplayer experience which usually compensated for the lack in other aspects.
Demon’s Souls arrived like an earthquake to dethrone this paradigm, offering brutal, relentless, merciless gameplay – and the tradition continues through to the latest installment to the Souls franchise: DARK SOULS III.
In Dark Souls 3, just as in previous Souls games, each wrong turn and uncoordinated attack would lead to the player’s demise.
Again, and again, and again.
The player has to design and utilize strategies and learn the movesets and combat phases of each enemy, miniboss and boss.
At the same time, they are tasked with properly equipping and levelling their character’s stats, in order to present a proper challenge to their AI adversaries…
The level of depth to each playstyle and build, is rather unusual for an RPG game that has been at times criticized as being too linear and monotonous.
The player can choose may choose among many typical RPG builds, such as melee, mage, ranged, etc and hybrids thereof.
There is no noticeable class distinction, since most classes differ only in starting stats and equipment (the equipment difference is not vast either – you can obtain the starting items of each class early in the game).
As players play through the game, they move from location to location, in a somewhat linear fashion, combating enemies until they reach the so-called “bonfires” – checkpoints – and activate them.
Every time a player “rests” at a bonfire, their progress is saved and their Health Points and other stats are replenished. Resting at Bonfires also resets the enemies in the level – which means the player gets to fight them again (either for item drops or for “Souls” – the in-game currency).
Every few levels, players encounter their primary source of distress and suffering: the Bosses.
Bosses in Dark Souls 3, as with previous Souls games, are especially powerful, and possess unique moves and attacks which can easily catch a player off-guard, outmaneuver the players and deal great damage, or even execute them outright – no apologies or goodbyes.
With experience, practice, strategies, and optimal character building, players can eventually master boss fights – a very rewarding feeling.
Aside from typical Players versus Enemy (PvE) combat, there is also online Player versus Player (PvP) combat, as well as a co-operative mode.
Players can either battle each other in arenas or “invade” other people’s worlds, with the purpose of fighting them.
As a co-operative mode, players can be “summoned” to help with boss fights or aid the player in their playthrough in general.
The Dark Souls story contains some of the most cryptic lore ever in the history of gaming.
We will not even mention any plot details for the plot’s sake, but rather delve into how the lore is structured and to which life problems/lessons it is pertinent.
As we said above, Dark Souls 3 is not an easily digestible gaming experience. The players are not taken by the hand and guided through the game.
They have to make it through, through effort, patience and persistence.
The same thing applies to discovering the story of the game.
Players are normally only given a mere glimpse of the story, of their origin, of the origin of their world, and of their purpose, mainly through the cinematics and the NPC dialogue.
Other than that, in order to piece things about the story together, players need to investigate the item descriptions, explore their world and ponder on the design of certain artifacts and locations, as well as speculate by making their own theories as to the course the events in the game have taken.
Immersion: Visuals and Audio
As far as graphical quality is concerned, Dark Souls 3 doesn’t take a step back, without being overly demanding of capable hardware at the same time.
An RX 480 or a GTX 1060 can run the game at a minimum 60fps at 1080p, at maximum settings, and the visual result is not too far from astonishing.
Excellent textures as well as superb item, enemy and level design makes this game quite eye candy, and often times I found myself lost just admiring the details of the models and the environment.
The atmosphere of the game is genuinely grim and dark, but also gives off a nostalgic feeling of a glorious, bright past…
The visuals and animations of weapons are especially majestic, and one can find very great satisfaction in swinging that halberd or launching that sunlight spear.
Even the lowest tier armors and items look just as good as some of the higher tier items.
The sounds in the game are very detailed, and the voice acting is top notch. You can feel and extract various emotions imprinted in the voice features of every NPC.
Ambient sounds as well as sound effects are are quite delicious and fitting to their respective weapons or spells.
The soundtrack is, needless to say, a work of art, and it conveys emotions totally different from what you would expect from each setting.
In some boss fights, for example, the soundtrack resonates with regret and reluctance, as if the battles and the bloodshed is unnecessary, but inevitable…
You might have caught me saying that “Dark Souls 3 is quite linear of a game”. From that you could infer that you could play through it a couple of times, beat the bosses, and perhaps do some achievements, and then be done with the game.
That is, if you’re up for something more.
Firstly, you can replay through the game, with the same character, in order to be able to get new droppable items from the bosses and enemies, as well as unlock new items in NPCs. Playing through the game with the same character is called playing a “New Game Plus” or, officially, a “NG+” (third playthrough would be “NG++”, fourth “NG3+”, and so on).
In every new playthrough, aside from the new items that become obtainable, enemies are also stronger than the previous playthrough. (enemy difficulty virtually stops increasing at around NG9+).
Secondly, while the enemies and the level design across playthroughs remain virtually the same, your character doesn’t have to: You can experiment with the tens of possible builds that you can base your character on, and it is very much feasible for you to create an entirely personalized one – one that works just for you.
Aside from that, you can always replay the game setting different challenges for yourself: From beating bosses in a limited number of deaths, to finish the games in a certain time period, or crazy ones like beating the final boss with your fists. Yes, such challenges are not too uncommon or impossible. It takes patience to perform such feats, though. Patience and practice.
Finally, there are some mods for enhance your experience in the game (NOTE: IN SINGLEPLAYER/OFFLINE MODE ONLY. USING MODS IN ONLINE PLAY MAY TRIGGER SOFTBANS OR PERMABANS.).
Some shader mods, for example, improve the visuals and the ambience of the game, thus increasing the level of immersion of players in the game.
Functional mods, such as 1st person view mods, aim to offer a different approach to playing the game, and can provide you with a whole different experience.
That concludes this week’s TWD. Boy, do I need to lay off of Dark Souls 3 for a while.
Anyway, I’ll see you all in the next issue!
Stay tuned, and stay safe!