Dark Souls III Review – You’re Prepared To Die Again, Right?

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With Dark Souls II two years behind us, we’ve finally been given the third installment in the Souls series in Dark Souls III. With the time I’ve put into the game, there are a number of things that I can say that I firmly believe about it. However, none are quite as important as this: I believe that Dark Souls III is absolutely a worthy successor to the series, and is absolutely worth playing if you’re a fan of the series.

With that said, I also know many, many, many fans of the series will want to go into the game completely blind. If that’s the case, consider stopping here and avoid anything said about it. For those of you who aren’t looking to avoid everything about the game, I will try to keep spoilers to an absolute minimum so you should be safe to read through this pretty spoiler-free.

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With that out of the way, let’s talk Dark Souls III.

Let’s begin with what is arguably the most important aspect – gameplay. Despite being fundamentally the same as previous Souls games for combat, Dark Souls III has made some pretty big overhauls to the system’s intricacies.

First off is the inclusion of a mana system called Focus Points. Rather than continuing the trend of having a certain number of casts for each spell you have attuned, you’ll now be able to cast spells you have attuned freely, as long as you have FP remaining. So, if you want to use all of your FP casting Soul Arrow to clear out enemies as you progress through an area that’s fine. If you need to spend them all casting Soul Greatsword during a PvP encounter, you can do that too.

Focus Points are also attached to the other big overhaul in combat – Weapon Skills. Each weapon will have a different skill available that can be used to certain effects. Some may give you an attack buff, while others can be a flashy attack or a shield-piercing attack. Skills are pretty widely varied and will definitely play a big role in selecting a weapon this time around. Skills require FP to use, and will vary in FP cost from skill to skill. This means that FP isn’t only useful for spell-casters, which is a great balance for both magic and melee focused players.

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Many of the combat and gameplay changes are related to this system in some way. You’ll now be given two types of Estus Flasks – traditional Estus and Ashen Estus. Estus Flasks replenish HP as always, and Ashen Estus Flasks replenish FP. You’ll be given the ability to allot your total number of Estus Flasks between the two types. So, if you have 6 total, for example, you can carry 4 Estus and 2 Ashen, or 6 of one and none of the other, or however you decide to divvy it up. This allows for a lot of customization on the part of the player. You can throw all of your Estus at Ashen flasks if you carry healing spells with you, or put them all as regular Estus if you rarely use FP. It’s totally up to the player.

Another change is in the form of button assignments with shields. Weapon skills for main hand weapons have been assigned to L2, which is where the shield’s parry or secondary action has always been. And that’s unchanged for the most part. Shields now carry one more secondary ability – the use of a main hand weapon skill. So while some shields retain the parry ability, others will allow you to use your main hand ability without needing to switch to a two-handed stance (which is how you go about using it if you have a parry shield).

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Another big change comes in the form of some special dual-wielded weapons. A few weapons, like the Legion Scimitars, have a dual-wield component built in that will give people that enjoy dual-wielding a few weapon choices that are specifically designed with that purpose in mind.

In fact, many of the big, and even smaller, design choices for this installment feel like they are catering more and more toward player choice and agency in how they want to engage combat. Weapons feel more varied than ever before with the addition of skills, the FP system used with magic allows players more freedom to fit the situation, and even niche playstyles like dual-wielding are getting love. I think a lot of the system changes added a lot to the gameplay overall.

As for the feel of the game itself, I would say it’s gotten faster. It doesn’t feel quite like the speed of Bloodborne, but combat is certainly faster paced than ever before for Dark Souls. It feels a bit tighter, and you’ll find that your mistakes get punished more efficiently too. If your guard is ever broken? Prepare for some follow-up attacks to your face before you’re able to react. The higher pace and quicker punishment makes combat feel more responsive and high risk, which will really keep players engaged.

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Enemies have also been given a bit of an upgrade. Aside from the ability to use weapon skills from their weapons, many have unique movesets and varied attacks and patterns that are harder to read than before. Not a few hours into the game, and you’ll see typical knight enemies with attacks designed to punish back-stab fishing and turtling alike, which will be eye-opening for many newcomers early on.

Bosses, too, have gotten overhauls. Very few (if any) bosses are single phase fights anymore. Most transition to new patterns and attacks at least once, if not twice, throughout a fight. And even better for the atmosphere, the music will change with them. It makes the fights far more memorable and exciting than ever before for Dark Souls.

The last thing I have to say about the gameplay is a negative, however. While the game does run smoothly most of the time, I’ve definitely noticed that frame rate drops and slow-downs run rampant. I’m reviewing based on a PS4 copy, so while this may not be an issue in all cases, it certainly was noticeable. Especially transitioning between areas when not warping.

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While on the topic of frame rate, let’s touch on graphics. The game has impressed me on more than one occasion with its locations and designs. In particular, the movement in cloth has gotten a massive upgrade, and cloaks / capes look great. However, there are definitely some vistas in the game that will cause a momentary lapse in judgement where you stare off into space to admire the architecture.

You’ll also find yourself occasionally admiring weapons and their designs. While the transforming weapons of Bloodborne certainly had a bit of a “wow” factor, Dark Souls III returns to traditional weaponry again with a number of exceptions. Of course Ultra Greatswords still exist and they are far from realistic, but the designs on many traditional weapons look great, and some are definitely beautifully crafted.

The variety of weaponry is back as well. One thing I loved about the game was looking at my inventory a couple hours in and already seeing a list of weapon options twice the size of Bloodborne’s total weapon list. And not only that, but plenty of fan favorite weapons make a return; Artorias’ Greatsword, the Dragonslayer Spear, the Black Knight Glaive, and more are all available in the game again. It’s great to see the list of weapons and magic as expansive as ever.

And if we’re on the topic of returning items from previous games…well, without spoiling too much, be prepared to see some familiar faces, and maybe even places. Dark Souls III hearkens back to Dark Souls more than Dark Souls II, though, so be prepared to see some old friends you probably didn’t even realize you missed.

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This time, similar to Demon’s Souls and to a lesser degree, Bloodborne, you’ll be operating out of a hub. You’ll be given the ability to freely warp between bonfires from the get-go, and you’ll be given a Firelink Shrine to operate from. Characters you meet along the way will come and go from the shrine, and many stories will progress through actions there rather than in the world itself. While it’s hard to say this is a positive or bad change is tough, I will say that many character stories felt better put together this time, and maybe even more involved.

The last big topic to discuss is online and multiplayer. I didn’t get to engage in much multiplayer in my time reviewing the game, so I can’t speak much to balance and things like that. However, I can talk briefly on covenants. Rather than one at a time, covenants can now be switched out on the fly and controlled by equipping an item in a specific slot to essentially mark your allegiance. Some of the old covenants make a return like the Warriors of Sunlight, Way of the Blue, Blue Sentinels, and the Blades of the Darkmoon in addition to new covenants as well.

The switching on the fly mechanic will hopefully make multiplayer a more fun and flexible part of the game while adding to the longevity overall. But, it certainly seems like there is plenty offered in the way of multiplayer, co-op, and PvP.

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And finally is a quick roundup of smaller details, both positive and negative, that didn’t quite fit elsewhere.

First is the world. Individual areas in Dark Souls III are much bigger than before, with a lot more verticality. However, there are less overall. While the game is probably not any shorter, it feels smaller somewhat, due to the smaller number of areas. Even if you can more or less tell that the amount of actual space is comparable.

A number of deeper mechanics have been added or altered. Adaptability was removed as a stat, while Luck was put back in. Also, Attunement has become the stat that governs your max Focus Points. Hollowing hasn’t been removed, but rather drastically altered – and I still haven’t quite figured out how it works – but it isn’t only related to deaths anymore. It’s more than that.

Overall, I think that Dark Souls III could easily be the best the series has had to offer yet. While it’ll be a while before the internet has truly had its way with the game to uncover the secrets and intricacies of the game, as it stands, Dark Souls III is a fantastic RPG and another great Souls game from FromSoftware.

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Dark Souls III was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a retail copy provided by Bandai Namco. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.

The Verdict: 9

The Good:

  • Updated gameplay and tighter combat
  • Works for more and better varied gameplay strategies and options for players
  • Great boss fights, including music
  • Average enemies have more intricate movesets and behaviors
  • Multiplayer elements (Covenants, etc.) appear to have been changed for the better
  • Other systems have been altered or made more intricate.

The Bad:

  • Plagued by frame rate issues. Again.
  • Fewer number of overall locations means less variation in locale.
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I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.

  1. Annie T. Mood
    Annie T. Mood
    April 4, 2016 at 3:04 am

    Nice of ’em to give you a review copy of a big game.

  2. GonzoLewd
    April 4, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Yeah, Dark Souls II was a poop from a butt.

  3. LinKurosawa
    April 4, 2016 at 3:34 am

    ur a poop from a butt

  4. Madbrainbox
    April 4, 2016 at 3:35 am

    DS 2 wasn’t a bad game.It was a weak Souls game that’s for sure but it wasn’t a bad game.

  5. Dammage
    April 4, 2016 at 3:37 am

    Glad I cancelled my PS4 preorder, really wanted a physical copy but I’d much rather not have to deal with the typical souls framerate issues.

  6. Tyrannikos
    April 4, 2016 at 3:42 am

    I’m actually really interested in the fewer areas. Hopefully that means the areas they do have are more fleshed out and we don’t get any that feel obviously half-baked.

    Thanks for the review, Chris. The wait is killing me.

  7. Zaku
    April 4, 2016 at 3:45 am

    Loved Demon’s and Dark Souls 1. I haven’t played Dark Souls II. Considering playing that before I try Dark Souls III. Great review though. Will definitely check this out eventually.

  8. Dammage
    April 4, 2016 at 3:52 am

    The fewer area seem like a good idea considering how poorly executed they were in Dark Souls II. The scene changes never made any fucking sense

  9. Softclocks
    April 4, 2016 at 4:07 am

    Looks great.

    I was never a fan of early bonfire-warping, but that’s just a minor niggle and nothing more.

  10. Tyrannikos
    April 4, 2016 at 4:12 am

    Agreed. The world design in Dark Souls II absolutely fucked over whatever small amount of good atmosphere the game built up.

  11. Stilzkin
    April 4, 2016 at 4:40 am

    dat elevator ride to Iron Keep

  12. Tyrannikos
    April 4, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Someone honestly tried to convince me that elevator takes you through a tear in time and space. They said the same thing for getting to Heide’s from Majula. The shit Fromdrones will spew.

  13. Mr0303
    April 4, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Good on Bandai for giving you a review copy of a prominent game.

  14. Immahnoob
    April 4, 2016 at 9:15 am

    I’m probably going for the PC version anyway.

    To be fair, I enjoyed DS2 more than DS1. Then again, it’s not as if I care much, it’s a Souls game so I’ll play it anyway.

  15. Master Bating
    Master Bating
    April 4, 2016 at 9:45 am

    DS2 was garbage man, what the hell.

  16. Immahnoob
    April 4, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I don’t know what you’re talking about.

  17. ReaperX30
    April 4, 2016 at 10:24 am

    Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough!

  18. Malcolm_Ecks
    April 4, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Agreed. People who say that seem to be butthurt about level design (which is stupid because fast travel eliminates having to go back to Firelink Shrine over and over) and PvP not being catered to when its not a real feature of the game.


  19. Immahnoob
    April 4, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Well, PvP is indeed shitty from what I’ve seen. But I don’t play PvP, and the level design is fine for me.

    I get that people don’t like the mistakes with the level designs though. That doesn’t really make the game shitty now. The PvM is good, except maybe the Dragonrider boss, that one was too easy and too stupid.

    I’m more inclined to believe that they didn’t want us to travel a whole continent in real time, which is why they made the “level design” so weird.

    Besides maybe, it being part of the story, as some fans theorize.

  20. Stilzkin
    April 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Level design adds a lot to the atmosphere.

    Nobody can defend that damn elevator ride to Iron Keep.

    Also, the fucking hitboxes

  21. Stilzkin
    April 4, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Fanboys are the worst. Shibuya completely butchered the game and they had to restart in the middle of development. Tanimura (the guy who did the DLCs) made it playable at least.

    They even removed Shibuyas name from the credits in SotFS

  22. Obbliglol
    April 4, 2016 at 11:40 am

    I don’t mind a few harkbacks, but as long as the game has it’s own identity and lore (DaS2 had neither imo) I’ll be happy. I’ll admit though, I’m a little worried about this “going back to see old places”. Hopefully it’ll be done well. Bloodborne was pretty much one of the best games I’ve ever played, so if it’s build on that, can’t go much wrong.

  23. Kainevil Rc
    Kainevil Rc
    April 4, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Plagued with framerate issues: SHIT

  24. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    April 4, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Part of the lore in this game seems to be about bringing the series story together, so you’ll see a bit of mixing that tries to unify the games a bit better than before.

    It does have it’s own identity though, so no worries there.

  25. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    April 4, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    In this case, I feel like it was handled well. Because you’re constantly hopping back to Firelink it gives the characters there more chances to progress story-line wise. Keeps individual character arcs moving at a good pace.

  26. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    April 4, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Hey guys!

    The smaller number of areas definitely helps the game feel better knit together – that’s absolutely true. And while I’m not defending DkSII’s patchwork blanket of a map, it was nice to see some variation in areas.

    Personally I think they missed the ability to explore that a bit more this time around. Because of the way Lothric is set up in that it’s a smatttering of other lands coming together, they definitely could’ve expanded this idea through warping between different areas, or being carried to different spots by gargoyles (which does already happen in the game).

  27. Chris Gregoria
    Chris Gregoria
    April 4, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    It’s unfortunately a hallmark of the series at this point! XD

  28. Matthew Hage
    Matthew Hage
    April 4, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Having a Souls without framerate issues is like having a Metal Gear Solid without nanomachines.

  29. Stilzkin
    April 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    Aye, lorewise it would have made sense in this game due to the whole “lands of the lords converging”

  30. GonzoLewd
    April 4, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Yeah, no. I barely remember any of the areas and most of the bosses were a joke.

  31. Obbliglol
    April 4, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Sounds good. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very hyped but DaS2 was quite a disappointment for me. Thank you for the fair review too :)

  32. Galbador
    April 4, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Okay, what’s going on? Why does people have this game already while they said that the game will come on April 12th?

  33. fnd
    April 4, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    “Nobody can defend that damn elevator ride to Iron Keep.”
    Disliking a game because of an elevator ride makes you autistic.

  34. Stilzkin
    April 4, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    The elevator ride is just the most famous example

  35. Zanthos
    April 4, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Japanese release was 2 weeks ago, most peeps imported!

  36. Galbador
    April 4, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    That teaches me to buy a local version… especially when I NOW read that the japanese edition has english sub.

  37. Kainevil Rc
    Kainevil Rc
    April 4, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I heard it’s freaking Blighttown all over again

  38. LurkerJK
    April 4, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    Did they say anything about pulling out another Scholar of the first sin ?

    Are they going to release Dark Souls 3 v1.1 for full price and sever the player base again in a year ?

  39. drVaughn
    April 5, 2016 at 12:27 am

    You guys are nuts. Dark Souls 2 was perfectly fine. I liked it better than Dark Souls 1. DkS1 was full of endless pointless boring walks and the entire second half of the game was either weak or trash.

  40. Kainevil Rc
    Kainevil Rc
    April 5, 2016 at 6:50 am

    The Dark Souls I OFFICIAL ( unmodded ) pc port was fucking horrible. And still stutters up to this day. Dark Souls II was miles better on the performance/optimization department.

  41. fnd
    April 5, 2016 at 7:37 am

    lorefags gonna lorefag

  42. Stilzkin
    April 5, 2016 at 7:45 am

    That hasn’t anything to do with lore. Just shit world design.

  43. fnd
    April 5, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Geografags gonna Geografag?

  44. Stilzkin
    April 5, 2016 at 8:26 am

    nice meme

  45. Galbador
    April 12, 2016 at 7:32 am

    I just played some minutes before I went to work. It feel like demons’s souls and dark souls had sex and this is the child. I’ so happy and sad at the same time, because this is the end of the souls serie ?

  46. Galbador
    April 12, 2016 at 7:35 am

    I agree that DS2 was better than DS1in certain ways, but I hated the fact that enemies would vanish after you killed them a certain number. This made the game even harder as it was already.

  47. Galbador
    April 12, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Nah… we had worse.

  48. Galbador
    April 12, 2016 at 7:42 am

    Eh… what’s about the MSX Metal Gesr games?

  49. Fear Me I Am Free
    Fear Me I Am Free
    April 12, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    I’m behind. I still need to get Bloodborne. It sucks being broke.

  50. Guin
    April 13, 2016 at 2:47 am

    Wish they make a more anime-ish version with Souls gameplay. I don’t particularly care for the whole Western medieval aesthetic.

  51. Great Ghost Bear
    Great Ghost Bear
    April 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    this game has all the problems of the old ones fps drop lag bad hit detection good to know they hammered out all the bug s going back to dark souls 1

  52. sanic
    April 14, 2016 at 3:08 am

    “It’s like dark souls”

  53. DavidGX
    April 21, 2016 at 1:13 am

    Bought it, loaded it up, selected my resolution (2560×1080) and… black bars on either side. Bullshit. Stardew Valley has proper 21:9 support there’s no reason this one shouldn’t.

    Currently waiting on my refund to be approved.

  54. Uncle Slick
    Uncle Slick
    April 22, 2016 at 11:12 pm

    Frame rate issues? Not here!

  55. bgrunge
    May 12, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Ive been playing through DS1 here for the first time; with DSFix it runs smooth as butter, 60fps, 1080p