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

Tales From the Borderlands Won Me Over in the End

Tales From the Borderlands
The Bro-Fist comes up a few times in Tales From the Borderlands

I started playing Tales from the Borderlands after I heard on several podcasts and read on a few sites that it was in their game of the year discussions for 2015. I haven’t played a Telltale game yet, other than a quick demo of the original Walking Dead release, which I remember vaguely, but favorably. I also loved Borderlands 1 and 2 and will start playing the Pre-Sequel whenever I get the chance, so the idea of a well done story in the Borderlands universe was intriguing to me. The core games in the series have lacked a deep story to go along with the amazing gameplay.

I kind of knew what to expect going into the game. You watch the story and make choices along the way that change the course of the game to fit your prior decisions. I remember making several decisions in a small slice of the first Walking Dead game that ended up costing characters their lives or making characters hate me. Tales From the Borderlands is definitely more chill than that and goes from a sort of buddy comedy to a hilarious and thrilling heist toward the end.

The choices don’t feel like they have nearly as much weight as they did during the Walking Dead. Only a few characters die along the way, which is a nice change, and I’ll have to play through a second time before I definitively know how much of an impact my decisions had on the story’s progress. Telltale seemed to be poking fun at their system along the way. Where in the Walking Dead, I would cringe when the message of so and so will remember that you let their kid die somehow, Borderlands takes itself much less seriously. Messages would pop up at certain points in the story about a character remembering something, or never forgetting you if you really make an impact on them, but less serious messages showed up a ton to underscore the action. I remember having some unfortunate luck and getting hit in the face a few time by a few characters and a message popping up in the corner adding insult to injury, something about me getting hit in the face so often. Not relevant to the direction the story was going I imagine, but it was a funny touch in the moment.

Where I remember the Walking Dead game being pretty stressful at decision times, Borderlands is nothing like that. Most of the decision moments are light hearted and fun with very limited consequences for your crew. There were quite a few quick time events to accent action scenes and keep players engaged, but I rarely felt that my input was crucial to the story other than adding my own personal accent to scenes.

I’m glad I stuck with it after a long gap between playing the second and third episodes, it was a tremendous experience in the end. Waiting for the whole thing to be out before jumping in was the perfect way for me to experience it, I can see myself losing track in between episodes and dropping out of the story. I can definitely see other players struggling with it as well as I remember hearing people complain about a lack of a set release schedule for the episodes and long gaps in between.

The story ended up great but took a little bit to really sink into me, the time investment was worth it in the end though. The story and characters develop into something amazing and add some desirable depth to the Borderlands universe, which I hope will continue to develop. Even if you aren’t into the Borderlands games, I can see this as a great sci-fi hiest story featuring great characters and a fun way to be introduced to the games. We’ll see who I can get to join me on my next trip through Tales From the Boderlands…

8/10