In a year of blockbuster releases, it might be difficult to cast your mind all the way back to March but that was when From Software’s ‘final’ entry into the Souls series, Dark Souls 3, was unleashed upon the world. Pure PlayStation had barely taken its first baby-steps way back then and had yet to enlist the services of a certain self-professed Miyazaki fan-boy, so we don’t have a review for you (Authors note: 10/10 GOTY) but if you’ve yet to conquer Lordran, trust us when we say it’s damn good. We’ll let our resident masochist Dom O’Leary explain why he thinks this title deserves its GOTY 2016 nomination and if he’s a good boy, we might even let him throw in some fashion-souls vanity pics.
From my first steps out of the cemetery of ash, Dark Souls 3 had me enraptured. The sweeping vista that gives players their first glimpse of Lothric and the lands beyond has now become iconic and it’s only the first of many such breathtaking sights you’ll find along your journey. From the environments with their variation from claustrophobic gothic ruins to wide open swamps and more, the amazing weapon and armor sets, or the grotesquely detailed enemy designs and animations, Dark Souls 3 has got the visuals department covered. It’s not just a pretty face though; dive in to the combat mechanics and you’ll find a world of depth – much of which you’ll be discovering by yourself – adding layers on top of layers to the seemingly simple block-dodge-attack system. To survive the game, you’ll also need to get a handle on parrying, stamina management, ranged attacks, spells, weapon and damage types, armor types and weight management… and I could go on. If, like me, you played the first three Souls games then most of these mechanics weren’t exactly new to you. What Dark Souls 3 adds to this formula is a bit of a speed and mobility upgrade, somewhat inspired by Bloodborne, as well as some new features like weapon arts and the welcome return of a mana pool (from Demon’s Souls) instead of limiting magic to a number of uses per rest.
Aspects like the updated combat mentioned above helped Dark Souls 3 stand out as its own title rather than a rehash of previous entries into the series. The continuation of the wider lore of the Dark Souls universe and clever back-referencing of characters and locations from previous games meant that, if this is truly to be the conclusion of Dark Souls, it provides a fitting end to the series. It artfully continues the series’ tradition of secreting these tidbits of lore and story in item descriptions and off-hand conversations with the world’s colorful characters. This might not be everyone’s ideal way to uncover a story but it does make every encounter and every new item feel significant in a way other RPGs often fail to capture. Anyone who has helped Sirris defeat her grandfather or taken Anri’s quest line all the way to Aldritch will know what I mean by this. For those who don’t, there are no faceless NPCs giving out fetch-quests here, you will know every supporting character in the cast, if you care to, and you will either love or hate them too. The various permutations of these storylines and the variety of endings are just two of the reasons I have played through this game to completion more than four times and have clocked somewhere around 150 hours total playtime.
I could talk, as many others have, of the inherent challenge level of the game and, yes, I do feel that this increases the sense of achievement from overcoming tricky foes but I don’t really think this makes the game ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It’s a fact that, despite the learning curve, anyone with a bit of patience can sit down and learn enough about the game to beat it. What really draws me in, aside from what I’ve already mentioned, is the emergent multiplayer. Personally, I thought the PvP side of the multiplayer wasn’t quite as well implemented as in previous entries where covenants were concerned but the spontaneous co-operation and fighting off invaders is just a unique multiplayer concept that really appeals to me (check out the gameplay video above to see how a little jolly co-operation can make the game’s toughest bosses a piece of cake), not to mention the fact that PvP options have been expanded since release with the recent Ashes of Ariandel DLC. I might be a bit biased but Dark Souls 3 doesn’t just rate as my game of the year, it’s my game of the generation.
If those heartfelt words swayed you, Dark Souls 3 and its associated Season Pass are available now for PS4, Xbox One and PC from all retailers and as a direct download from the PlayStation Network. Let us know whether you agree with our assessment or what your GOTY suggestions are in the comments below (we reserve the right to ignore them). Now, as promised ladies, here’s that fashion parade – Dark Souls style:
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Dom is a gaming orphan; after his surrogate father SEGA was killed in the console wars, he was adopted by Sony and raised by various PlayStation consoles. He swears he’s not biased in any way though, so that’s good enough for us.