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Dark Souls 3 Review: On Flames and Cinder

For this review, I decided to take a tally of the number of deaths my poor unfortunate character experienced from the time the game installed to when I vanquished the final boss. It didn’t matter if the deaths were intentional — either by combat or by error — each time “YOU DIED” flashed across my screen in crimson letters, the counter would increase. As of Tuesday May 3, 2016, when I finally defeated the Soul of Cinder, the final boss, my character met his end 112 times overall. I don’t know if there’s a website I can compare the number of times I’ve died to others but, in my estimation, that number would’ve been a lot higher if I didn’t have prior experience with the Souls series.

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Why would any gamer subject themselves to such a harrowing experience? The answer is simple: for the challenge. “Dark Souls 3,” the latest installment of the dark fantasy action RPG by Namco and From Software, is one of the most difficult games this veteran gamer has ever played. This game pulls no punches and newcomers to the franchise better take notice that “Dark Souls 3” doesn’t play around. This is a completely different gaming experience from other popular RPGs like “Fallout 4” and “Skyrim.” The designers of “Dark Souls 3” are more than content to keep punishing you if you mess up at any moment.

The game is masterfully unpredictable. Gamers have to keep their guard up because they never know what’s around the corner. However, that doesn’t mean you can just sit back behind a shield and wait for enemies to come to you. Being too passive or too aggressive invites failure, so gamers have to constantly adapt to new situations.

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As for the story, it is a marvelous send-off for the franchise. Much like a band on their farewell tour, “Dark Souls 3” features elements and characters from the previous two games and even some nods to “Demon’s Souls” and “Bloodborne.” The environments, game design and art direction are stunning to behold. The game really does a tremendous job of crafting numerous, unique settings to make you feel like you really are exploring a wide-ranging fantasy realm. There are tight quarters that can make you feel uneasy at every errant sound and wide areas littered with enemies that make you dread having to cut through them all. “Dark Souls 3” is the epitome of the dark fantasy genre in gaming.

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Gameplay is really simple, but the control scheme allows gamers to easily customize and experiment, giving everyone a unique play style. There are hundreds of weapons one can use, each class with a unique move set, and they can be further upgraded and altered to suit their wielder. Melee-focused players can clad themselves in heavy armor and wield great axes, or they can wear light mail and focus on parrying or backstabs.

Ranged combat is, also, encouraged with the inclusion of bows and crossbows as well as sorcery, pyromancy and miracles. Gamers can mix and match all they want so that a warrior clad in plate can be seen with a nimble scimitar while a mage can brain enemies with a large club while their sorcery staff rests in their left hand.

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“Dark Souls 3” was an excellent experience, a really difficult game for hardcore players who love a challenge. It is in many ways the perfect sequel in the series. It’s not directly connected in terms of story with the other two games, but it borrows a lot of elements and themes. Combat is deceptively complex and completely dependent on the creativity of the player.

I can, also, appreciate that the developers made “Dark Souls 3” pretty difficult compared to the other two previous games, a feat which I didn’t think was possible. Enemies in this game can be downright bastards which only increases the thrill of every battle and heightens the sense of accomplishment upon victory.

Unfortunately, that sense of victory can be short-lived as the area’s boss kicks your teeth in for the thirteenth time.

10/10

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