First Impressions of Dark Souls 3

That first death really brought me back
That first death really brought me back

The time has come. I’ve finally gotten may hands on Dark Souls 3 and now have just over 10 hours in the game. Here’s what I think of the experience so far.

Dark Souls 3 Offers Tremendously Variety

I started out rolling with a thief class character. I usually go for lighter, faster characters in games and especially in Dark Souls. It makes the experience more fun for me, and that’s one of the reasons I loved Bloodborne enough to buy a PS4 just for it. I have limited the amount that I’ve read about Dark Souls 3 keep myself somewhat in the dark. I’ve already played all of the previous games except Demon’s Souls, so I knew what to expect.

One idea that I did catch from the pre-release coverage though is the idea that it’s more Dark Souls, but cast in a negative light. I’m happy about that, it’s exactly what I wanted and the reason this is the first game I’ve pre-ordered in years. I find it a little weird that so many people didn’t go in expecting that. From Software took a ton of risks with Demon’s Souls and then again with Dark Souls after Demon’s Souls limited financial success. They staked out new turf and almost a new genre of “Souls-like” games and have influenced a ton of games since the release of Demon’s Souls. Why would they venture too far with Dark Souls 3, the promised last game of the Dark Souls series when they defined exactly what their fan base wanted with Dark Souls? Now that I’ve said that, onto my experience with the actual game.

Dark Souls 3 viewpoint
The first of many epic vantages in Dark Souls 3

Dark Souls 3 Looks and Runs Great (For Me)

As I said, I’m about 10 hours into the game and I am having a thoroughly good time with it. The first thing that stuck out to me was the beauty of this game. They went out of their way to offer players awesome vantages from the start, possibly to hint at the vastness of this game. Where Souls games have never been fawned over for their beauty, Bloodborne was a nice step in art direction and DS3 is a great combination of the two. The mountains and castles in the distance add a sense of beauty and wonder to a bleak world full of danger and encourages a few moments of rest to take in the view.

Other than the graphical prowess, it seems Hidetaka Miyazaki brought a little bit of his vision from Bloodborne to the final entry in the Souls trilogy. While the setting is purely dark, gothic fantasy, I have seen quite a few monsters and enemies that would be right at home in Yharnam. Along with the enemies looking like they could’ve come over from Bloodborne, some fight like it as well. Dark Souls 3 has the largest number of fast and nimble enemies of any of the officially Souls games. This adds a ton of variety to gameplay with players never knowing what to expect from unknown enemies, of which there are a lot. With enemies being faster, developers gave players the potential of some very quick and responsive builds to compete. I’m still early on with my character, but he plays so much faster than my speedy build from the original Dark Souls. While Bloodborne forced players to embrace a fast a furious pace to combat, it seems developers have left it up to players in this game by giving them the most potential for build diversity in any of the games.

It is Definitely More Dark Souls, In a Great Way

One criticism that is striking home with me is that this is a more linear game than the first of the trilogy. In my first few hours, I have only needed to wonder where to go every once in a while and have found the path quickly every time. This is not to say that I’m seeing everything though, I know of at least 2 areas that I need to go back and explore more and there could definitely be more. Items also seem easier to come by as you cannot venture too far off the beaten path,  making them much easier to stumble on. This wasn’t the case in the first game where paths ofter went on for a long time before dead ending and items were tucked in nooks and crannies that were easily missed. I found the Chloranthy Ring in Dark Souls 2 and it became a big part of my play-style, where I had no idea until after a few full play throughs of the original that it was even featured in that game. Items being easier to stumble upon takes away from the wonder and mystery of the game, but it also makes it easier to develop your own unique loadout after finding a variety of treasure without going online to see what’s best.

Now for the weirdly biggest part of the game to some people, the difficulty. First, I don’t play these games for the difficulty, but I do throughly enjoy it, as well as the way it brings the games together and makes them stand out from the crowd. The difficulty is a big part of the awesome mix of features that make these games the amazing experience that they are though, which is only possible because of the perfectly executed “tough but fair” approach.

At first, I was struck that maybe this game would be easier than the rest. I struggled in the first area of Bloodborne for hours before getting the hang of it, and I cruised through the beginning areas and bosses of DS3 with only moderate setbacks along the way. This could easily be because I just played through the first Dark Souls again and have been playing these games for years now. I’m a decently seasoned Souls player. Along with the difficulty, bonfires seemed much closer than I expected them to be. I would feel like i just visited one fire and then stumble on another shortly after having used only one swig of my estus flask. It didn’t feel like I was struggling and working to progress, it felt almost a little like a typical game where progress is a given with time. I was still enjoying myself, but the progress wasn’t as fulfilling. I beat a boss while talking to my fiancée, that wasn’t supposed to be what these games are like.

It’s a Great Place to Jump Into the Series

While, now I’m chalking up my earlier success to the boot camp I just ran where I manged to beat Gwyn, the original Lord of Cinder, on my first try. The area I’m now in is tough as nails and I’m back to struggling and learning enemy placements and patterns in order to eek out a little more progress with each run where I inevitably fail until I don’t.

Dark Souls 3 Badass
Badass

None of this soured my experience though, I already knew that I was going to keep going and finish the game. It seems like, given the newly mass market appeal of the series, the developers have instated a boot camp of their own into the beginning of this game for players that are prepared to die for the first time. Have you heard of the tremendously difficult Dark Souls series of games and finally want to jump in? Dark Souls 3 is where to do it.

I’m now 10 hours in and I’m not sure how long it will take to to finish the game, but I don’t think that my opinion will change. Dark Souls 3 is a great way to introduce yourself to the series if you’re open to it and an awesome finish to the trilogy if you’re a veteran of the series. I’ve already seen some great references to previous games and I love the attention to existing fans.

It may not be as mysterious as the first game of the trilogy that established the genre, but that just makes it different, not worse. I’m sure I’ll find myself wondering about plenty of areas, characters, items, and lore throughout my time adventuring in Lothric.

 

Images captured in my play through, courtesy of From Software

Buying a PS4 to Play Exclusives in the Most Efficient Way Possible, Then Getting Out of It

I bought a PS4 not too long ago off Craig’s List from a guy who turned out to live just down the street. I had one prime reason motivating me to pick it up. As you saw from my last post, I’m into the Dark Souls series and it was worth it for me just to check out Bloodborne. I absolutely loved Bloodborne and it in itself made the system worth it, but I also got  ton more value out of the system while I had it.

My main motivation for getting a PS4 was to play Bloodborne, yes, but I had also heard that a huge amount of Xbox 360 owners had swapped them for PS4s this console generation. I’m a hug fan of the 360, as a lot of you probably are, and I was curious about what the draw was for so many people to move away from Microsoft and th Xbox one and embrace the Sony side. I started looking on Craig’s List or PS4s that were for sale in my area. I did get a little more antsy than I prefer on this search once I budgeted the money, but I found a good deal on a PS4 in excellent condition with all the starting gear, an extra controller and 5 somewhat appealing games for $330. In the brief time I was looking, this was the best deal and ended up only being about a half mile from my apartment.

I took some of the games that came with the system for a brief spin , specifically Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag, and had a pretty good time, but I  had to get my hands on a copy of Bloodborne ASAP. Aside from Bloodborne, I got some other perks with my new system, namely a free 14 day PS Plus membership and a week of free Playstation Now. I love these trial because, coming from Xbox 360, I was curious what these services would offer in comparison.

I waited a few days to activate my free 2 weeks with Playstation PLus in order to get the free games of 2 separate months, boy did I get lucky with that timing.  I immediately got a copy of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros, and extended demo of the Fox Engine that I had been very curious about but didn’t want to try out on the last generation, and then I hit the jackpot and scored about 10 days with Rocket League. Metal Gear Solid was great, if a little short lived, but rocket League is a boatload of fun and a huge thing missing from my current Xbox One experience. I managed to get hooked on Rocket League enough during the remainder of my 2 week trial of PS Plus that I now still google “Rocket League Xbox one” every few days.

With my other trial perk, Playstation Now, I waited until after finishing Bloodorne to activate it so there would be no distractions. I have heard for years that “The Last of Us” is a prime example of an argument for video games as art for mainstream consumers and I was excited t give it a spin. The games relatively short length also made it a prime candidate for a game that I could start and finish during a 7 day trial of PS Now. I’ll get to my deeper thoughts about “The Last of Us” in another post, but it was a perfect use of the subscription and an incredible experience by the ed of it, to say the least.

After sucking all of that value out of my Soy PS4 over the course of about a month, I sold it on Craig’s List and made $20 more than I had invested in the PS4 bunde and my copy of Bloodborne, nt a significant profit but still nice given how I did everything that I wanted with a PS4. Anyone can give something a trial period by searching for a deal on Craig’s List and being open to selling it if it doesn’t pan out. Most of the time you can at least break even with electronics if you do your research and sometimes you can make a decent profit, like I did when I bought a Nintendo 3DS bundle for $45 and then sold it for $120.

If you’re curious about a product, give it a quick search on Craig’s List or eBay, figure out the average sale price and try to find something in  good condition for less than that. That way, if you decide t keep it you got a good deal and if you want  to sell it, odds are you can get your money back. I’ve done this time and time again to check out products, mostly electronics. Electronics remain pretty liquid if you’re in an area that embraces them, most of which do currently.

I  bought my PS4 bundle for $330 and then spent another $30 on Bloodborne, $360 total spend. I sold it within a few days of listing it for $380, so I got everything I anted out of it an still made $20 off the experience. That may not be too significant, but it’s a pretty good deal in my book.

A Love Letter to the Grossness of Bloodborne on the PS4

bloodborne cover image post

Bloodborne is a Hell of a Video Game

So, I just beat Bloodborne, like a just a few minutes ago. My heart rate is still up from the “final” boss fight, in a way that no other video game experiences produce. That might sound ridiculous to anyone who is not familiar with the Souls series of games, but they are games unlike many others in today’s market. No hand-holding, a high learning curve, and the fact that every single enemy can kill you if you’re not on your toes makes all of the entries of the Souls series the polar opposite of a relaxing game to throw on the decompress after work. These games are work. That is what I think makes them so appealing to their highly devoted fan base of players like myself, you have to work to get through these.

 A Quick overview of Bloodborne for the PS4

 In a world where most games just take a commitment of time and attention to finish, Bloodborne and the like separate themselves by making players actually develop throughout the experience. There are levels so that your character can be upgraded and scale somewhat like your enemies do as you progress, but they not nearly as critical to the gameplay. Every Souls game implies the challenge of beating it without leveling your character or weapon, it’s completely possible in a game that is this focused on player skill above all else.
 

What Makes Souls Games so Appealing to Me and its Audience

I am a goal oriented person, I love setting a list of objectives and seeing them through to completion. A ton of games offer a similar idea: here’s a list of tasks, do them to get rewards. But no other game scratches that itch for me like a Souls game, every boss beaten or bonfire/lamp lit is a genuine accomplishment and gives you that sense of accomplishment, that’s probably why I bought a used PS4 off Craig’s List just to play a single game.
 
Bloodborne has the core values of every Souls game (full disclosure I have not yet played Demon Souls), tight controls force the player to master his chosen weapon and style in order to combat a cornucopia of intimidating and challenging (and horrifying in Bloodborne’s case) monsters. There’s no directed narrative and very little dialog to tell you exactly what’s going on, like everything else in a Souls game, you have to work to uncover the story. The story is vaguely hinted at and formed by item descriptions, brief conversations, and notes found throughout the region of Yharnam, the progressively more and more terrifying setting of the game. But where the core values of Bloodborne are more or less identical to the other games in the Souls series, the execution is very different.
 

What Makes Bloodborne Different from Other Souls Games

Where Dark Souls games offer so many potential weapons and armor variations that it can be overwhelming, Bloodborne has streamlined that entire system as a way to tell players how they should play the game. There are about a dozen melee weapons and a handful of firearms for your off hand that replace the shields of previous games. Each individual melee weapon seems to have more mechanical depth than weapons in the previous games and each is a “trick weapon” with 2 forms you can switch between on the fly. They’re all absolutely insane, like a sword with a gigantic hammer as its sheath and a long handled saw sword that flicks out into a halberd cleaver. They’re all a lot of fun too. Handguns have been introduced in lieu of shields to give players a way to interrupt enemies and perform awesome visceral attacks in the gap. The guns themselves do very little damage for the most part, the are simple a way to parry attacks without giving players the option to completely block an attack.
 
Combat is fast an furious in Bloodborne as every piece of armor offered up is light and flowing, encouraging dashing and dodging over cowering behind a shield and fat rolling. Armor scales as you do, I used the same set for the entire game and there’s no way to upgrade it, I just chose one I liked the look of and ran with it. In some situations, you can use a set that offers higher specialized resistance against poison or frenzy, etc. but the game never forces you to compare numbers ad choose which item is better, they’re all pretty even and this gets players back into the action sooner. 
 
As comes along with the fact that there’s little to no direction given and a huge world to explore in Bloodborne, it’s fairly easy to miss items and even large amounts of content in areas that you’re not expressly forced to go through. If you’re not following along with a guide online, which you shouldn’t, this is a definite possibility. I missed a large optional area and then stumbled back upon it later when I was too high leveled to experience it as intended. This only happened once with a fairly small area and it’s a valuable offering in itself. When I found an area with a boss that I had completely missed, it added to the sense of wonder that this terrifying world offered. How many times can you play through these games and find new areas, items, and characters that you missed before? These world offer players so much, they challenge players to discover their worth on their own with no guide to speak of. 
 
Not many games will hide content from players like that in an age where every publisher’s top concern is justifying their price tag with a huge amount of content, but From Software basically has a captive audience. Like I said, there’s so little out there that offers an experience like a Souls game that I bought a PS4 just to experience the latest entry, and I don’t regret it in the slightest. I just beat it today and there’s still so much more potential to explore that I’m chomping at the bit to get back into in and find a new weapon that I’ve never used and fight bosses in a different order. That’s not even bring up Chalice Dungeons, randomly generated dungeons for players to explore akin to Diablo, which I sorely neglected on my first play through. But that’s just the way the Souls games are, everywhere you read about them online, someone will say that your real first play through is your second one on new game plus. You’ve got the fundamentals down, and now you can start having fun and exploring properly.
 
What do you think of the Souls series of games by From Software (almost said from From)? Have you taken them out for a spin yet or what? Let me know in the comments below!