Dark Souls 3 – Xbox One Review

From Software has brought Dark Souls back with another amazing title in a growing series of amazing games. Full disclosure here people, I have not yet finished the game, but not from lack of trying, every waking moment that I’m either not at work, or helping with the baby, I am stealing game time with my favourite franchise and boy is Dark Souls 3 a good game to spend time with.

Dark Souls 3 - Skeleton dog things
POW! Right in the kisser

Dark Souls 3 sees the chosen undead back for another sip of the Lordvessel, this time in the ashen land of Lothric. This time it seems that the four Lords of Cinder who were supposed to be taking care of the land, have gone to the pub and it’s your job to bring them back home. If you have ever tried to drag a drunk friend out of the pub, you’ll know what you’re in for. Initial excitement, realisation that it’s not going to be as easy as you thought, failure after failure then eventual success. Depending on your friends you may need to throw in a few dodge rolls for good measure.

Right out of the gates Dark Souls 3 wastes no time in reminding players that this isn’t your average hack and slash. From Software does this by throwing you at a boss that may have some newcomers marching right back to the game store seeking a refund. If that is you, I’d like to say it gets easier friends but it really doesn’t. You are going to need to block, dodge roll, parry and backstab your way through more enemies than you know what to do with and if you are anything like me you are going to love every second of it.

Dark Souls 3 - Valley of Bort
Giant Frost Dogs with Maces, yep, that’s Dark Souls

There is a real finesse within each of the Souls games. It displays a gradual building of skills that doesn’t come from simply having better gear, it’s more tactical than that. A good Dark Souls player never plans on having enough armor or health to survive a strong hit, a good Dark Souls player never plans to GET hit. It’s the kind of thing that if it were a movie, would be in a montage set to the rocking background of Eye of the Tiger.

The level design in Dark Souls 3 is (as usual with Dark Souls games) 11/10 and no one builds a world gone to shit better than From Software. Meticulously detailed levels full of hidden nooks and crannies, shortcuts hidden behind illusionary walls and stacked boxes a plenty. Every discovery leads to something fruitful or a sneaky hidden enemy (come on it IS Dark Souls after all). There is no beating that sense of “If I walk around this corner, am I going to die?” feeling that you get from a fresh Dark Souls game (spoilers – you probably will).

Dark Souls 3 - Garders
Even the trees try and kill you.

The combat system in Dark Souls 3 is just as brutal as the previous games. If you try and play this game like your typical ARPG, you will quickly find yourself sitting at the last bonfire wondering what the hell just happened. For those new to the Dark Souls series here is a hot tip: if you think you have time to make another attack – you don’t – no really, you don’t. Most fights are a war of attrition and not something you can just waltz right through without a second thought. This is the type of combat that a lot of people have trouble with when it comes to From Software games, but remember what I said before about finesse and montages?

Like all good sequels, Dark Souls 3 improves upon its predecessor. Spells have been tweaked, items have additional uses and there is a new combat mechanic called Weapon Arts. Most weapons have a special use that will either increase damage for a small time or have a special attack that can break an enemy’s guard or the like.

Dark Souls 3 - You Died
The first boss in Dark Souls 3 doesn’t stuff around

Using spell and these new Weapon Arts uses the re-worked mana system called Focus. Focus can be recovered by using a new type Ashen Estus flask which like a traditional Estus Flask, refills when you sit at the bonfire. Another new addition to Dark Souls 3 is the ability to assign how many of your flasks are healing and how many are Focus restoring. This is done through the blacksmith, not something you can do on the fly, but it is something you can do when you when ever you are back at the main hub world.

Like all games, it’s more fun with friends and Dark Souls 3 is no exception. Jolly co-operation is as grossly incandescent as ever and can be done while either in Ember or Cinder form. Hosting co-op requires your character to be in Ember form, which is this game’s version of being Human. But it IS Dark Souls, so being in Ember form opens you up to be invaded by other players who wish to engage in… jolly.. Yeah, look they want to kill you.

Dark Souls 3 - Backstabbuu
Large enemies do not enjoy being stabbed in the back – Welcome to Dark Souls Large enemy!

If you are a fan of the Dark Souls series, there is a very good chance you have (like me) been playing the crap out of Dark Souls 3. It’s an amazing game chocked full of rich lore and lovingly detailed levels with combat so brutal it will take your breath away. There are ambushes so cheap it will have you squeezing your controller so hard that it will be begging for the sweet release of death and you will be loving every second of it, because there is nothing more satisfying than success in Dark Souls 3.

If you are new to the series then I’m not going to lie, there are going to be teething issues. You will question the game, you may very well question life itself but in the end like a phoenix rising from the ashes you will be converted over to one of the greatest game series of our time.

Rating: 9/10