‘Dark Souls 3’ delivers a killer conclusion to the ‘Souls’ series

Brian O'Kelly

The “Dark Souls” series has always told a pitiless story matched with ruthlessly difficult gameplay. “Dark Souls 3,” the final entry in the series, holds true to this core concept by maintaining the series’ complex yet rewarding combat system.

The previous entries in the series have depicted a crumbling world stuck in a cycle of chaos, but “Dark Souls 3” continues to paint a similar fantasy world that is devastated, beautiful and imaginative. Every area is full of breathtaking natural landscapes and architectural marvels dense with minute details. The environments tell a powerful story of the horribly tragic and destructive history of a failed kingdom. Encroaching vines, dead armies and venomous waters all depict a world that has imploded on itself many times.

This attention to detail when crafting the game’s many areas is reflective of the depth and complexity these landscapes offer. Each location is intricate, with branching paths, challenges and secrets filling the world. The game’s expansive yet tightly packed environment is built for exploration with every corner hiding
something worthwhile.

Non-player characters (NPCs) are more abundant compared to previous entries, with the protagonist quickly gathering an entourage of followers in the hub area of Firelink Shrine. The addition of multiple new NPCs with expanded roles add an extra layer of depth to character interactions and makes the game’s hub world
worth revisiting. 

Initially, many of these characters seem kind, but as the player progresses though the game, they will find themselves dying off at each other’s hands or growing hostile to the player. People who take the time to cautiously interact with these NPCs will be rewarded with lore that helps explain the cryptic events that goes on in the game. 

Combat remains largely similar to the previous two entries, but fighting in this game is noticeably faster-paced. The first iterations generally focused on a cautious approach to combat, but “Dark Souls 3” rewards players for aggressive attacks and nimble movement. It takes a moment to get used to after coming over from the previous titles, yet it slowly begins to feel more natural and rewarding.

Executing spells now use up focus points, removing the previous system of having a set limit of casts per spell. This makes it more forgiving to depend on spells as a new reusable item called the Ashen Estus refills the focus meter allowing the player to better allocate their spell usage. Sword arts are another addition to the series, focusing on expanding melee weapons and play styles. These weapon skills are a risk and reward system, forcing the player to make themselves more vulnerable for the chance to pull off a special attack 

In order to liven up encounters, bosses are tweaked to feature two phases so that the player must adapt to new patterns mid-fight. While the concept is fleshed out rather well, the games bosses were easy. Low health and forgiving mechanics means most of the games brilliantly designed boss fights go to waste, as they are quickly defeated.

“Dark Souls 3” is still difficult, though. The game follows the series’s tradition of brutally difficult combat even though the game generally feels easier than the previous two. While this might not be such a problem for casual or incoming players, veterans might be disappointed by the lack of a challenge.

As such, the final installation is likely to be considered the easiest one. Enemies seem to have little health and aggressive play styles can easily mow down hostiles before they get a chance to retaliate. However, that just may be the way it feels to veterans who have mastered the series’s methodology.

“Dark Souls 3” strongly hearkens back to previous titles, which comes off as a bit over-familiar. But the game refines the formula, creating a near-perfect blend of the many elements that has led to the series’s success while creating something that still feels distinct.

Title: “Dark Souls 3”

  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Rating: M
  • Score: 4/5 stars