The world of Lothric is one filled with things of nightmares, creations that will fight you tooth-and-nail, epic sceneries, and even more epic boss battles. While Dark Souls 3 and its world are still polished gems, it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations of previous installments.
the World of Lothric
Continuing with the way storytelling is handled, Dark Souls 3 offers bits of lore through very few cutscenes and item descriptions. But, the story that is offered from the get-go is this: the Lords of Cinder, people who were supposed to watch over the Flame that protects and gives life to people, decided to abandon their posts. It is your job to continue to protect the flame and uphold its integrity by slaying the Lords throughout the land. From there on you’ll piece together what happened to all of the other characters, the world, and even yourself through everything you come across. It’s refreshing that a game doesn’t tell you exactly what’s happening, and often times it is still vague, but this isn’t new for a Souls game.
As you explore Lothric in all of its majestic glory, there are a few things to note. The first thing, much like the rest of the Souls games is the starting area. Where Dark Souls had you fight a gigantic boss, and Dark Souls 2 had an expansive opening area, Dark Souls 3 offers a bit of both. You explore a graveyard that eventually winds down a hill towards the first boss of the game. You pull a sword out of his body to initiate the fight, and the rest is history. It’s no easy task to slay this boss, especially for such an early encounter, but it sets a certain precedent for the rest of the game.
But, to fully capture the tone that Lothric provides would be almost impossible. There are many zones in the game that create different atmospheres in and of themselves. There is an area of the game that is at the base of a snowy mountain, caked in snow and ice. You’ll travel down to the pits of an inferno with a colossal worm trying to devour you. There is even a graveyard with a giant slinging massive spears at you from afar. Each area is tense, and you have to be on full-alert in order to master the different realms. Lothric is a place for no weak soul, so you better toughen up before the game does.
It’s also fair to compare Dark Souls 3 with the games that came before it, and the largest area of difference happens to be the organic flow of the world. Dark Souls created a fully explorable world that makes the saying, “All roads lead to Rome,” very true. Dark Souls 3, on the other hand, just feels like a bunch of areas tacked on in a very Super Mario World fashion. There are some small transitions from area to area that help with the adjustments, but overall the game seems scattered.
The only notable addition to the game that the others didn’t have is a special attack specific to each weapon. Some weapons will give you a shout that heightens your strength for a while, or some do powerful attacks themselves. These special attacks use up some of your mana, so it makes for melee builds going for attributes that mages normally require. It’s refreshing, but I found myself sticking to basic attacks instead.
It wouldn’t be a Souls game if it weren’t challenging to the point of breaking your controller into a million pieces. Dark Souls 3 is still a challenge for those who aren’t accustomed to the nature of the game, which is essentially managing your items and build while memorizing the patterns of enemies. There are a plethora of choices to make in terms of character builds, be it a fast and aggressive knight or a squishy mage, but the challenge never appropriates these choices. The bosses and most of the enemies are geared towards melee combat, and with spells that aren’t targetting, mages are left out of the game for a significant portion. That being said, having magic to assist melee builds is the definite way to go in order to get the edge over enemies.
The most surprising thing I noticed in my time in Lothric was that the overall challenge rating of the game was lower than all of the Souls games. Demon’s Souls, arguably the hardest in the series, crushed players’ dreams one-by-one. Dark Souls matched the challenge but also introduced a fluid world that felt like it could actually exist. The other games in the series haven’t been as difficult, but nothing has been as low as Dark Souls 3. I am unsure if the game actually is easier than the others due to the core mechanics of the game being faster (you attack, roll, walk/run faster), or if my experience with the other games has trained me well. If the latter happens to be true, it’s sad that FromSoftware didn’t take this into consideration seeing as the series has a large cult following.
The reason most people stay in the many worlds of the Souls games is for the epic boss fights that are the banes of anyone’s playthroughs. In Dark Souls 3 there are 19 bosses to encounter and defeat, and some of these bosses rank amongst the best the series has to offer. The very first boss, Iudex Gundyr, has you pulling a sword from his chest to start things off. During his second phase, he tears himself open to reveal a monstrous beast with tentacles hidden inside. One boss has you plunge a sword into the head of a dragon from a few stories high. Another, possibly the most memorable boss fight FromSoftware has created, is one with the boss flying in on a dragon during a storm. There is never a dull moment in these fights, and they are the driving force in marching forward through Lothric.
Again, my largest complaint with the game carries over to the bosses: they are easier than they should be. To be fair, by the time New Game +2 rolls around, the entire game is a nightmare fueled by smaller nightmares. It’s just a shame that the bosses aren’t as challenging as they are fun to fight.
I’m just going to mention this briefly because it deserves to be brought up: the multiplayer system in Dark Souls 3 is the last we’ll see from FromSoftware in a game such as this, but it manages to fix all the issues plaguing the other games. Players can easily join each other by configuring their settings so only friends can join, easily narrowing down their options of whose game they should be joining. Even entering another player’s world to either aid them or destroy them is simple now, and it doesn’t take forever to load into their world.
But, for those who were weary of the previous installments and their lag, that has been removed through further patches in Dark Souls 3. It took them a long time to perfect the multiplayer system, but now it is something that’s as enjoyable as the rest of the game.
Dark Souls 3 doesn’t offer much that’s new to the experience that so many gamers are used to, but it does stick to the formula that has always been solid. Returning fans will enjoy the last installment in a series that defined a genre, and new players will find a game that allows them to easily see what others have been raving about.
If you’re looking for something that expands on the Souls identity in refreshing ways, you won’t find that with this game. However, what you’ll find is that Dark Souls 3 is a game that understands the premise is getting stale, so it makes one final, safe push to send itself off.