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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Dark Souls III

Dark Souls III

I know, I know, Dark Souls III came out over a year ago. I didn't play it at the time, but I picked it up not too long afterwards and started slowly working my way through it, with fairly frequent help from two friends, one of which is a regular guest contributor for my job. I picked up the Pyromancer class (after trying and failing to beat Iudex Gundyr with a few others), found it fit me like a glove, and before long had specced my character into a spellblade type thing, wielding a frost-enchanted straightsword in one hand, and both pyromancies and sorceries in the other.

Everything was going fine until I reached Upper Lothric, and then my enthusiasm just died.

It wasn't a sudden affair prompted by anything in particular, but a confluence of issues: The length of the game; how repetitive it can be to do an area, die, come back, and die again; how oddly long Upper Lothric was in particular, and how suddenly the difficulty spiked once I got there; and the fact that the relentless grimness of it all just wasn't the funnest thing. Compare and contrast with Bloodborne, where I easily had enough momentum to see me through to the end of the game, including all optional sections, and through a significantly sized story DLC -- and while I might not have had much momentum to play the game for any longer than that, as I felt myself beginning to flag somewhere around the Nightmare of Mensis, I would certainly eagerly play a sequel if it came out (whereas I still have no desire to play either of the earlier two Dark Souls games).

A good boy.

Set an undisclosed (but long) time after Dark Souls II, the third game in the series of unforgiving hack-and-slash RPGs sees you put in the shoes of the Ashen One, an Unkindled -- one who failed to link the First Flame in times past -- who has been raised in order to corral four Lords of Cinder back to their thrones, so that they can link the Flame once more. Setting out across the lands of the Lords, brought together by the dying of the flame, the Ashen One's journey will take them to Faron, where they must face the Abyss Watchers; to the Profaned Capital, where they must face Yhorm the Giant, to Anor Londo to face St. Aldrich, Devourer of Gods; and to Lothric, to face Prince Lothric. But at the end of it all, the Ashen One will be faced with a choice: To prolong the Age of Fire, to let it end, or to take the world in an entirely new direction.

So, in gameplay terms, this game is not tremendously different from Dark Souls II -- or, really, Bloodborne, and it could even be said to combine the two systems some. You have a diverse range of weapons, magics, and shields, and can combine them in various interesting ways to hack your way through the monsters that populate Lothric and its surrounding lands. With monsters invariably dealing heavy damage, and sometimes being wickedly fast, there's an emphasis on either blocking or dodging, seizing momentary openings to jump in and get a few hits in. The more monsters you defeat, the more souls you get, which can be used to buy items or level up your character.

The Dancer, who is terrible.

The game offers a pretty staggering array of builds, to the point where, having summoned dozens of people over the course of my time with the game, I never saw anyone with the same build as me (even though I was using a weapon you get fairly early, and the most easily accessible kinds of magic), or even with each other. When I invited my frequent friends to play, we all had vastly different means of dealing with enemies, even though we all had a rough focus on dexterity. While we're not talking about the DLCs in this review, those add even more weapons and spells, mixing things up even more.

While the game did eventually exhaust me in large part due to how its difficulty could sometimes make getting through areas a trudge, until I reached Upper Lothric it never really felt unfair -- indeed, once I got through an area, the bosses were usually easy, with neither Yhorm nor Aldrich giving me any trouble. The Dancer and the Abyss Watchers were about the only bosses that really presented any kind of significant issue for me.

A dragon.

As far as the story goes, it's a Soulsborne game, which means it uses just the right combination of interesting information, vagueness, and imagery to turn you into an amateur historian, picking apart everything you find to try to find links between it all. The actual story in-game, though, is not that dissimilar from the first two games: You must link the First Flame by collecting a certain amount of things from bosses, and when you do so, you're faced with a choice as to the world's future.

Dark Souls III is a lot of fun on a good day, and one day I will almost certainly return and finish it off, but for now, it just has me somewhat exhausted with it. Still, it gets a hearty recommendation from me -- perhaps not as much as Bloodborne, but it's close. Ish.

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