Some people just want to watch the world burn. However, consider that if the world doesn’t burn, everybody who is already dead will be gone forever, replaced by the dark beings of destruction that corrupt the already dark powers of the undead. So yeah, watching the world burn or actively burning it doesn’t seem like it’s that bad of an alternative. Dark Souls 3 finishes off From Software’s masterful trilogy of games revolving around zombies consistently kicking your ass.
I know, I know, “he complains about mainstream games and yet he’s about to say Dark Souls is the best game ever.” First of all, Dark Souls is not the best game ever, Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door is. Secondly, Dark Souls is as mainstream as it gets when it comes to medieval-themed games, which there are quite a lot of, by the way.
Frankly, Dark Souls does everything it wants to, and it does it right. Playing a video game gives you a million tries to beat a level, and in this same way, you are an undead soldier who can die unlimited times. Upon starting the game the plot is loosely explained in a cutscene, after which cutscenes and anything resembling a plot is far and few between. Dark Souls doesn’t shove the plot down your throat, nor does it thrust its soundtrack up your nether regions, reserving songs only for boss battles and the hub world.
The whole object of the game is to beat enemies to get to checkpoints/bonfires, gradually making your way to the boss and lighting their bonfire. The game gives you a clear idea of what to do in the beginning, getting you used to responsive controls and limited health and stamina. Littered throughout the area are traps, but there are also secret areas, illusionary walls, and a butt-ton of items. Dark Souls makes you feel like you’re on an adventure, where you call the shots and you take the risks; the only thing between victory and death is your sound judgment.
At the same time, I’ve never seen a game carefully tutor a player through an environment and then immediately drop an anvil on them like a demented Loonytoon. In Cathedral of the Deep, you are made to fight a skeleton in a controlled environment that requires you to kill it twice, teaching you about the enemies in the area. Seconds later, you are fighting a warping giant skeleton on a narrow bridge holding a massive machete. Not everyone learns the hard way, and not everyone is going to respond positively to being assaulted again and again and, guess what, again. You will die constantly. Other than the first area, the only way to become an expert (which is a requirement to beat the game) is to memorize the exact layout of each area and what every enemy’s attack is. It’s a chore, and the controls, while tight, are complicated and unrewarding unless you understand exactly what each move does.
The game tells you nothing, and that is one of its many “charms,” yet this is not conducive to its flaws. Ignoring the clearly leviathan difficulty level, the game doesn’t clearly explain what you put your souls into, simply giving you a complex matrix of numbers, nor does it tell you that leveling up is a huge waste of time. Armor, estus flasks, and weapons, especially weapons, are what help you win the game, leveling simply becomes a soul-bank after the first 60 levels. Next, the lock-on mechanic is terrible at times, unlocking without warning when enemies move quickly behind the player; you know, when you need it the most. Finally, for those who want a challenge, new game plus doesn’t offer anything different other than a chance to collect upgraded rings, as the damage scaling by enemies and bosses are barely noticeable.
This being said, if you are willing to have the living crap beaten out of you for 20 hours straight, what’s waiting for you at the end of the tunnel is worth it. You have to work hard and earn everything you do in the game, and while that might sound silly considering it’s a freaking video game, the sense of satisfaction you feel when rewarded is much different in comparison to other games. Each area is a surprise that could kill you at any turn, to the point that a lack of danger fills you with unease. New game plus will leave you feeling proud of yourself, yet gives a bittersweet conclusion when faced with the reality that there won’t be any more surprises. Dark Souls 3 is the pinnacle of the series graphically and continues the legend of a series that stands out from the rest. Die as many times in you like in this fantastic game, but for God’s sake, if you’re going to take anything away from this article, remember the most important advice of all: Git Gud.