Die, Die, and Die Again

I bought Dark Souls III when it came out on Tuesday and have managed to put in around 20 hours so far. Note, this is not a full review (that’s coming next week); rather these are my early impressions of the game.

1. Wow This Game Is Hard

I guess FromSoftware must’ve have listened to the many complaints about the “easiness” of Dark Souls II compared to the first Dark Souls because Dark Souls III is incredibly difficult. The first tutorial boss would be a nightmare to newcomers to the series or players who’ve never tried Bloodborne. All enemies are faster and stronger than you. Like Bloodborne, enemies hide around corners and drop from ceilings when you’re least prepared for it. Several times I’ve walked into a room with only one enemy, only to be ambushed by two or more hidden enemies.

2. Dark Souls III Is Heavily Influenced By Bloodborne

If you haven’t had the joy of playing the PS4 exclusive Bloodborne, then you’re not only missing out on an excellent game, but you’re not going to be as prepared for Dark Souls IIIDark Souls III has borrowed both the lightning quick enemy attack animations, enemy transformations, and bosses with multiple stages. In fact, I thought I was playing Bloodborne when the tutorial boss turned into a giant snake.

3. It’s a Mixture Of The First and Second Game

Some of the features from Dark Souls II have been kept, while others hit the curb. Like in Dark Souls II, you can be come human (it’s called enkindled now) anywhere you want with an item. Also, you can warp from a bonfire to any other bonfire in the world. You level up at a hub world, and the hub world gradually fills with NPCs you encounter throughout the game.

4. Boss Battles Are As Epic As Ever

Every single boss battle (I’ve fought 6 so far) has been extremely memorable. From a lumbering gigantic Greatwood tree, an armored leaping boar with a mace, to a gladiator style fight against a group of powerful knights, every fight has lingered in my memory (and been extremely difficult). It’s a great throwback to why I loved Dark Souls so much. Whenever I would (finally) defeat a boss, I would have such a fantastic feeling of catharsis. That feeling was absent from Dark Souls II, and it hurt the game as a whole. Dark Souls III is a return to form, with it’s excellent boss design and battles.

5. The Game Feels Surprisingly Linear

One of my favorite Dark Souls features was the inter-connectivity of the world. All the levels seamlessly looped together and always led back to Firelink Shrine, your hub and safe haven from all the death and decay that surrounds you. Dark Souls II lost that connectivity, and Dark Souls III doesn’t have it either. There’s not too many extra paths to explore, just a main one that takes you from bonfire, to bonfire, to boss. Also, the bonfire placement seems random. Some areas are filled with bonfires, while other areas only have one, and you have to make long treks to find bosses or advance in the area.

6. The Graphics And Sound Are Amazing…

Dark Souls III builds on Bloodborne‘s incredible sound design. The slice of a blade against an enemy makes a satisfying slice sound, while greatswords and hammers make an awesome crunch. Enemy screeches put your hair on edge, while the roars of a thunderous wyvern or giant make you tremble as you approach. The soundtrack is as beautiful as always. But it’s also useful, as a music change indicates a new danger or a new stage for the boss. The graphics are gorgeous, and I’ve had zero bugs or frame rate issues so far.

7. …But The Areas Themselves All Feel The Same

Everything is gray, dark, and ashy. I understand this matches the plot and overall tone of the game, but it all starts to blur together after a while. There’s only so many times you can traverse a castle without starting to get a feeling of dèjá vu. Plus, all the areas are areas we’ve seen in past Souls games. There’s the catacombs, a poison swamp, cathedral, and two castles so far. I don’t have a sense of awe as I explore these areas like I did when I entered The Duke’s Archives in Dark Souls or the same sense of fear when I encountered the pitch black Tomb of Giants

So far I am loving Dark Souls III. It’s significantly improved over Dark Souls II, and I’m still trying to decide if it’s more difficult than Dark Souls. My review will be up next week (hopefully I’ll be able to complete the game, I’m about halfway there now), and you can watch me suffer here. Stay tuned for more Dark Souls III themed articles and features. Stay grossly incandescent!