After playing several weeks it's time to review Dark Souls 3, the last installment in From Software series. Is it as good as the previous ones or not, let's find out.
The plot to Dark Souls 3 works more as a sequel to DS1 than to DS2, the premise is simple the world is dying and you are brought back from the grave as the "Unkindled" with the hopes of finding the Lords of Cinder, those who saved the world in the past in an attempt to do it again. Compared to previous games the way the plot flow has improved a lot, it is still cryptic and not so direct in it's storytelling and you need to look at the items descriptions for some of the more fine details of the lore. But the main plot is much better laid in front of you by meeting several NPCs that will provide information and even some help. Where you have to go and why is more clear, even if the details of how and why some things are the way they are, are left as a mystery to you to find out.
An especially good improvement is the way now bosses tie into the story. In Dark Souls games usually you have minor bosses and mayor bosses, the former usually you just find them, you fight them and thats all, mayor bosses are more important to the story and have cutscenes when you find them and/or when you kill them and usually are more complex battles with different stages. DS1 have a good balance between this fights but still some battles felt a bit unnecessary. In DS2 there was focus on quantity over quality and a lot of boss fights simply didn't have the same impact.
Now in DS3 minor bosses are almost nonexistent and most bosses work as previous mayor bosses worked with more cutscenes and more complex battles, giving this battles much more weight. Bosses also feel more as characters because with the improved narrative in the game most of them are mentioned way before you fight them. So when you do fight them they are not just simple obstacles and you know who they are and why are you fighting them.
Also there are some side stories involving some NPCs that you will find in numerous occasions along your travel, sometimes they will be friendly other not so much depending on your choices along the game. This characters are quite interesting and their stories are very good having different endings depending on the way you play and interact with them.
The gameplay is basically the same than in previous games, just a little faster. You play in third person view and with the right trigger and button you control the weapon on your right hand, and with the left buttons you control your left hand. Most swords and similar weapons have light and strong attacks. You can roll to doge attacks and you can use most weapons one handed or two handed depending on the circumstances and your playstyle. The combat system is simple to understand but difficult to master as you need to learn very well the speed and reach of your strikes and learn to manage your stamina so you don't leave yourself exposed in the middle of a combat.
What is new to DS3 combat system are new abilities called sword skills, this are special moves specific to each weapon that can be used when holding a weapon with two hands and using the left trigger. For example, a lot of this skills change the posture in which you hold your sword allowing to perform several special attacks like breaking the guard of your opponent or an attack that hit more enemies at once, etc.
Probably the biggest change and improvement is how magic and spells works, in previous games spells worked based on a charges system, with each spell working as the magazine to a gun holding a number of shots, the problem is that in late stages of the game usually you had several copies of the same spell allowing to shoot almost infinitely. Now the charges have been substituted with a mana bar, and spells cost both mana and stamina to use, and also your health and mana potions are tied together. This create a good balance because if you want to invest heavily in the use of magic you need to sacrifice some health. Also as spells now use stamina and your mana bar is limited you can no longer obliterate enemies with hundreds of spells, instead you can only cast a few spells before you need to wait for your stamina to regenerate. This combined with a good diversity of spells makes for a more dynamic, balanced and challenging combat for those who like to use magic in the game.
The game also has online multiplayer with both cooperative and competitive systems. This works by two means, summoning and invasion,
Summoning consist in placing a mark in the floor in your game which will then appear in other people games and is used to summon you to their game either for co-op or PVP depending on the type of mark you placed. The other mode is invasion in this you decide to invade other peoples games, most of the time to act as another enemy, in an attempt to kill them.
Multiplayer is quite entertaining, co-op is good for difficult bosses and areas. PVP when using summoning can create some pretty good duels against other players. Invasion is probably the only one that can be a little frustrating, specially when you have almost cleared an area and you are low on supplies just to someone invade and kill you. But I have to admit it can create some cool scenarios where you have yourself and three allies against three enemies players creating some prety awesome battles. Specially when the invaders are not of the same faction.
Soundtrack and graphics
Once again the sound design of the game is excellent creating great atmosphere in the game, most areas are quite silent with very subtle music and belive me there is nothing that creates more tension in the game that hearing the sound of a nearby monster but don't knowing where it is. Also most if not all of the songs that play during the boss fights are just awesome. Graphics have improve a since Bloodborne, they have better textures and more detail and even if they are not at the same level of other games, the art design of the areas, enemies and bosses are excellent. The different areas are big well designed and most of them are simply beautiful, ranging from decrepit ruins, dungeons, forests and my favorite the snowy tundra of Irithyl with a beautiful Gothic city and the aurora lighting the sky.
Probably the only downside is that they should improve a bit the character models because the armor and clothes look really good but the actual people lacks the same quality and this differences can clash sometimes.
As a final thought, I think the game is great, probably even better than the previous ones. I highly recommend it for both fans of the series and newcomers. Most of the problems of the old ones have been fixed making it more accessible to new players. It is still very challenging but in the good way, the combat is very good and faster. The story is good with several interesting characters and at least 3 endings to the game as far as I know. It feels a lot less frustrating thanks to the better balanced combat system and even in the most brutal sections of the game it can become so more manageable if you just summon some online help.
Well I thing that's all, now if you excuse me I need to kill a devourer of gods (again).