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Dark Souls 3 First Look Review

“I threw my controller under the backdrop of a string of profanity that peeled paint off the wall.”

If a game that makes you do that sounds fun to you, read on. If not, Dark Souls is not going to be your game. The Dark Souls franchise prides itself on being HARD, and I love it. Before we dive too far into what #3 has to offer, I want to touch on what a hard game means.

This is me. I'm a pale-white assassin with a katana. Badass, right?

See, our resident MOBA fiend, James, will tell you that Dark Souls is hard just to be hard. I disagree wholeheartedly. If you take a game like Impossible Mario, then I would agree. It’s hard just for the sake of being hard. When you die in Impossible Mario it is likely simply because something you never could have predicted happened, and the only way to progress is to memorize all these unpredictable things and make one step forward with each death.

Dark Souls, on the otherhand, punishes you for making mistakes. Enemies telecast what they’re going to do, it’s almost always pretty clear, but the decision on how you should react and then actually PRESSING the damn button at the right moment… that’s where you fail. And when you fail (and you WILL fail), you fail because you dodged the wrong way, at the wrong time, or didn’t dodge at all. You fail because you didn’t watch your stamina meter, and yes, sometimes, you die because you haven’t yet learned the patterns. Most of the time, however, your death is all on your personal inability to get it right.

This is a boss. An easy one. My katana still seem badass to you? Didn't think so.

Dark Souls 3 is pretty close to Dark Souls 2 so far. I’ve only put about 5 hours in, but suffice to say the mechanics are more or less the same. Dark Souls revolves around three simple skills:

  • Timing your defense
  • Timing your attack
  • Learning the patterns/locations of enemies

Each enemy has a variety of attacks at its disposal. It telegraphs what it’s about to do a split second before it makes a move, and it’s your job as the player to decide in that split second the best action. Defense actions include things like backstepping, rolling, parrying, blocking, simply walking away, and the ever popular RUNNING away. Taking damage is severe, even a one-hit kill enemy will take about ¼ of your health off you. Every mistake you make costs you, not a death by inches, but a death by feet.

Similar to each enemy's attack, you too must time your attacks appropriately. Stick around smashing your sword/mace/dagger/club/fists/spells into your enemy for too long and they’ll recover and clobber you. A skilled player can even interrupt enemies between their swings with a well timed attack, turning their offense into defense.

Finally, there’s a skill to Dark Souls in simply staying alive when you explore new areas or encounter new bosses. Running around and dodging until you understand how they attack, how they move, and where their openings are is an essential skill.

So, how does Dark Souls 3 stack up? So far so good. There appears to be a lot more exploration paths to take than in 2, which lets you wander around the creepy world and see all the crap that is wrong with your afterlife. Oh yeah, you’re dead, that’s part of the story, which is incredibly confusing and I don’t want to get too far into it… but you’re dead and the afterlife sucks even more than your life apparently did.. But what can you do? It’s not like you can die again… well… not exactly.

Combat is about the same as in 2, but there are far more enemies that use “player” style abilities. I was incredibly surprised to find, in the first area, an enemy that parried my attack and did a finishing move. Swinging wildly? Apparently not a good idea!

There's a fair amount of playing dress-up. I knew I'd never look as cool as the boss, so Pajamurai anyone? 

As I am only 5 hours in I can’t say much for the mid-end game, but the intro has been a sufficient reminder of why I love a game that makes me physically angry. My dogs, however, hate Dark Souls. With every death, every string of profanity, and every loud bang produced by the stomping of my extremities on various surfaces around me sends them into a frenzy of either attempting to protect me or running for their lives.

My verdict on first impression:

9/10 for masochistic humans.

-1/10 for dogs.

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