First, I went platinum in both Scholar of the First Sin and Dark Souls 3. Well, that last part is a lie. I still need Master of Miracles for Dark Souls 3 (taking out the Concord Kepts from the Silver Knights in Anor Londo …) But still, I’ve been through both games more times than I can count.
So how difficult is it? Average. Dark Souls has a reputation for being difficult, but I don’t think it is. Yes, enemies hit hard. But you too.
There are no “bullet sponges” here. Did you get hit for half your health bar? Guess what, you can hit them back for almost the same thing. You will die a lot, and unlike many other games, there is not a very generous checkpoint system.
But keep this in mind: my son (with some help from SunBro) beat Dark Souls 2, including the DLC, when he was 11 years old. He just finished Dark Souls 3 last weekend. He is 13.
With that said, after hundreds of hours poured into Dark Souls 3, here is my short review.
Let’s start with the negatives first:
Poise system is poorly designed (last time I checked, there is a belief among the community that the Poise system does not actually work at all. Supposedly there is code in the game that would allow for a functional Poise system, but it was removed or ‘disabled’ before release. The developers that I know of deny this, which is fine. But then it means they handled the mechanics really, really bad).
“It is working as planned.” So you intended it to malfunction …
What is Poise and why is it important?
Every time you hit an enemy, you have the opportunity, depending on their balance and your weapon, to interrupt their movement (preventing them from dodging, running, rolling, and most importantly, attacking).
This is called wonder. The movement is interrupted and they are beaten. A stunned enemy is a defenseless enemy. A dead enemy.
This system applies to both you and the enemies in the game.
How Poise Used to Work: In previous Dark Souls games, you could wear armor that increased your balance, making it harder to stagger and interrupt your attacks.
How it works now: it doesn’t. Any enemy can interrupt almost any attack with whatever weapon you use.
At first, it might not seem that bad, until you get to Dark Souls 3’s second bug, and possibly my biggest complaint with the game.
Absolutely all enemies attack faster than you can (and have a longer range), no matter what weapon you are using. Do you have a great sword the size of a house? You can start an attack with it faster than you can stab with a dagger. His dagger? He will hit you while your great sword sniffs the air in front of his face.
So if you are the type of gamer who likes to trade blows with enemies … you will ALWAYS be in awe.
Your only option now is to dodge all the time, all the time. And that’s okay. If that’s the style of play you want to choose. People have been doing it that way since Demon Souls. But there was always a choice.
I like being a fast ninja. But there are also times when I get sick and tired of this game’s crap and want to put on heavy armor, pull out a flaming ultra great sword, and go to town!
In the past, you could choose heavy armor and a great sword and trade blows with an enemy. Yes, it would hurt you, but you would hurt them more. A totally viable playstyle that no longer works.
And good. This is how this game is supposedly designed. But the claim that Dark Souls has such a deep combat system? I don’t think that’s true with this installment.
For a game that relies heavily on combat … That’s a huge step back.
One more complaint:
The system of pacts. This is no big deal if you are not a trophy hunter. It is completely possible to play the game all the time and enjoy it without having to play with most conventions.
But what if you are looking for the Platinum trophy? Get ready to grind. A lot of. Because while the multiplayer system has been improved over the games of the past, there are still a couple of broken conventions that will require A LOT of sitting around waiting to be summoned or grinding. Wait an average of 6 hours killing the same enemies over and over and over and over and over again …
(I’m looking at you Blades of the Darkmoon …)
OK, so what is good?
Pretty much everything else.
The environments are beautiful and fun to explore. I can’t think of a single area where I came in and said “UGH. This again.” (In the first Dark Souls, I found that pretty much everything after Sen’s Fortress was cheap and tedious.)
The weapons and armor, everything really, looks amazing.
There are a wide variety of enemies and they make sense for the environments they are in.
Multiplayer is always open to opinions. I think it’s pretty balanced if you play smart. Others will not agree. If you’re a crybaby and don’t like being outnumbered when you invade, you won’t be thrilled with the way Dark Souls 3 handles things.
Matchmaking has improved a lot. This time you can cooperate with your friends easily thanks to password matching.
Finally, one of my favorite improvements: For the first time, all armor sets are useful! It is no longer necessary to update them. AND ALL are functional. Most of the weapons are also workable.
The developers have given you an incredible arsenal to choose from, and it all works. Even the poorest weapons are adequate to handle the enemies of the game.
Bottom line: is it fun? Yes. It’s frustrating? Something often. Is it worth buying? Yes. Are there other similar games that are better? Not.
Do I resent the developers? A bit!
If I were to write it down, I’d start with a 10 for all the amazing things this game does well. Then I would take 3 points for the broken match and get a 7. Yes, this game has a lot to offer. But you will have to endure unnecessary frustration (in my opinion) to enjoy it.
Fix the Poise boys!