One Game Down, Many More to Come
I finally finished my first play through of Dark Souls 3. It took me just under 55 hours and I feel like I got a relatively complete picture of the game, at least as much as you can on a single play through of a Dark Souls game. I read a few reviews during my game and I think that all 3 of them listed shorter times. I focused on taking my time and exploring with this first go and rarely used guidance. There’s still a ton that I don’t know about the game that I will be starting to research, but here’s my updated thoughts so far.
Like many others have said, Dark Souls 3 feels like a distillation of everything that’s great about the series. All of the core aspects that fans expect are well represented in their best form. The only lacking aspect could be seen as the world map, a point I’ll hit on later.
Everything You Loved About the Series is Back
The combat feels better than ever. There’s a huge variety of items presented offering more playstyle and build options than any other Souls game. The combat and movement feel faster as well, offering the ability to make a Bloodborne-esque brawler, a great feature for players who jumped into From’s games with Bloodborne. Armor is no longer upgradeable, so the upgrade elements can be focused on weapons, luckily there’s enough in game to go around. There’s some debate about the value of heavy armor with the seemingly nerfed poise stat, I can’t speak to that as I generally use light armor but I’ve seen a fair amount of players online with heavy armor equipped.
The lore is widely presented and might be a little more accessible than other Souls games as far as piecing it together, although that could be a result of my previous experience with the series. An interesting cast of characters is present, and they offer a good amount of storytelling through their speech alone. Some work to piece it together is still required though, as it should be. There are several NPC side quests as well, although they are pretty obscure to initiate and proceed through. The only quest line that I completed was the deserter’s story, no spoilers but you might be able to figure that one out. I initiated others, like a certain knight’s, but never came across him again to continue the story. I have also heard a little bit about another side story which is supposed to be great, unfortunately the keeper of that story died suddenly, and not because of me… I’ve spent 55 hours in the game and there is still a ton to uncover and explore, that’s a great sign for me.
On my next play through, I’m planning on referencing a guide more. I referred to a guide on two occasions for this run, one was to find the Chloranthony Ring, which I found long after I should have. I love the ring for my quick builds and I knew it had to be in the game somewhere. I’m also pretty sure that I would have never found it if I hadn’t looked to Google, it was well hidden and I’m looking forward to discovering other treasures that are far from the beaten path.
There’s No Shame in Using a Guide
This brings up an interesting part of this game’s nature, especially if it’s anyone’s first Dark Souls game. I played through the game, taking my time to explore, and was reluctant to reference a guide at all for this play through. I fully intended to play the entire game at least one more time though. If you’re playing and only anticipate doing so once, I think having a guide handy is a totally valid approach. There’s so much to the game that it’s very easy to miss out on a ton, so you’ll get a much fuller experience in one go with some guidance. Luckily, the web is jam packed with DS3 guides and information now.
One thing that I neglects throughout most of my game, until just before the final boss actually, was the multiplayer. I read a great piece over on Kotaku by Patrick Klepek about running around helping other players with bosses. I’d been invaded my fair share, but I had not engaged in co-op at all at that point, so I went and grabbed a soapstone and wrote my summon sign in front of a late game boss. It wasn’t long before I was backtracking through the games bosses and areas to give other players a hand with my badass washing pole. It was a really good time and the limited emotes provide for some entertaining interactions with others. I still need to look into finding a DS3 PvP fight club, but it’s so damn difficult because no one talks about them… (Bad Fight Club joke, but no one can talk in Dark Souls after all)
Like I referenced before, one design that I’ve heard major criticism of is the world map. Unlike the first Dark Souls, where the entire world was connected in tangible and interesting ways, Dark Souls 3 uses a hub and allows you to teleport to any of the bonfires you’ve lit in the world. While I can see where players are coming from, the world of Dark Souls was a joy to explore and immaculately laid out and assembled, Dark Souls 3’s map has a nicely connected feel as well.
Sure, there are several junctions where you are swept to a far off area and unable return by any means other than bonfire. There are also other places where I gazed at a landmark in the distance only to wind up there a few hours later. The broken bridge where you find Yoel specifically stands out to me, I could see a ton of detail on the other side, and about 6 hours later I stood on it looking up. I had adventured much deeper into the unknown world only to end up a few hundred feet from a vantage that I had held earlier. That moment was great and there were more exactly like it, that’s enough for me.
A Worthy Successor to the Throne
Since starting writing this, I’ve already started 2 new games, as well as a new game plus, to explore some different play styles. I’m trying out a magic user and an even lighter build where I won’t use a shield, which should provide some good fun. I’m obviously a huge fan of the series, but with the news that this is all but assured to be the last true Dark Souls game, I find this to be a worthy send off for a series I love.