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It's hard to tell if the folks at Bandai Namco and From Software are just confident, or if the early release in Japan forced their hand. Either way, today, more than a week before the release of the game in most territories, we get our first wave of reviews for Dark Souls III, supposedly the last in the challenging series of dark fantasy action-RPGs.
Overall, the scores are very positive, though a few of the less enthusiastic reviews seem to hint at a certain fatigue setting in among reviewers. Given this is the fourth title of this kind we got from From Software in about five years, it's not surprising to see reviewers come in with heightened expectations, which weren't always met.
IGN complains about framerate dips but is otherwise very positive, 9.5/10.
If Dark Souls 3 truly is the last in the series as we know it, then it's a worthy send-off. Weapon arts allow stylish and versatile new moves without tarnishing the purity of the combat system. Lothric's awe-inspiring locations provide visually stunning arenas for rigorous exploration and fierce face-offs with hosts of deadly enemies and even deadlier bosses. While not all the risky changes land as neatly as others, Dark Souls 3 is a powerful journey and the sequel the series truly deserves.
PC Gamer, 94/100.
Dark Souls 3 gracefully pushes the series' notoriously difficult action towards a greater artfulness that tests far more than reflexes. I was challenged to read environments and props like a novel, to empathize with Lothric's imperfect inhabitants, and to ask whether or not I was trying to save anything worth saving. But there are no easy answers here, only 40-plus hours of tense action, awe-inspiring exploration, certain death, and big, bleak, beautiful questions.
Polygon's Philip Kollar wasn't quite satisfied and feels the game was pushed out too quickly after Bloodborne, 7/10.
Dark Souls 3's level design feels less ... intentional, in a way that extends well beyond the size or complexity of the world. At a Souls game's best, finding a bonfire to rest at or unlocking a new shortcut brings an intense wave of relief, a sense of exhilaration at having survived the latest challenge. Here, I was left saying 'huh?' or shrugging my shoulders just as often as I felt positive. So many of the shortcuts are spaced poorly, presented at moments where they don't really make a significant impact.
At this point, most Souls players know what they're looking for in a new entry. Your personal expectations for the series will play a key part in your enjoyment of Dark Souls 3. If you play these games for the intense, controller-clenching combat and the excitement of invading other players' worlds, then there's a lot here to keep you busy and happy. But in so many important ways its world design, its pacing, the technology powering it Dark Souls 3 falls short of the mark. Do you play for the joy and stress of exploring dangerous, intricately crafted places full of hidden elements and endless side paths? Then I suspect you'll join me in being a little let down with the direction this sequel has gone in.
Dark Souls III successfully replicates the winning formula of the Souls series, a wondrous combination of majestic boss battles, incredible layered environments full of secrets, and precise combat that can make other action RPGs difficult to play once you've mastered the art. If you've never played the series, this is a great place to begin, offering a bit more direction in the early game before opening up. If you've already played the series, you can feel confident that From Software hasn't lost its touch.
GameSpot complains about the camera and the endgame, 8/10.
Whereas most of Dark Souls III makes uses of labyrinthine corridors and trap-laden outdoor settings, these areas lose their design appeal as the game comes to a close. I expected Dark Souls III to carry me through imaginative fights and engaging treks as my character reached the apex of her skills, but instead I felt disappointed. I had come all this way with her, and aside from two fantastic end-game bosses and a handful of inventive secret areas in its waning hours, Dark Souls III seemed not to erupt, but rather, fade slowly into the fog.
But by and large, your growth is respected. It's that thread--that near constant sense of progress--that leads to Dark Souls III's greatest moments. We create our travelers. We make them stronger, faster, more resilient, turning them into fighters as we too learn the intricacies of this foreboding world. We can't slay the final boss until we conquer every enemy before it, so by the end of Dark Souls III, we've truly mastered something. That's a special feeling.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun, scoreless.
My complaints are minor, given the quality of the game as a whole, and some of them are directed toward elements that make this entry more approachable than its predecessors. Just remember, if you are going to play, not even the biggest and most brutal beasts are as tough as you imagine when you first see them, and the next bonfire is rarely more than a few minutes away.
VideoGamer.com decided to wait until they could test the online component before giving a score. They find the title to be a little too familiar, though the review is positive:
It's a joy to spend time in the world, to grow stronger, to return to previously-difficult areas and crush everything in them, and while the sense of adventure is dulled it's never truly extinguished. You'll want to see what comes next, and even if it doesn't inspire awe then the superb combat goes some way to making up for it. It never hits the heights of Bloodborne or the original Dark Souls, but then not a lot does.
Destructoid also complains about the excessive familiarity, 8.5/10.
If Dark Souls III truly is the last game for now, it makes perfect sense, since it's just as much of a love letter to fans as it is a culmination of the series. I may not have liked this iteration as much as the rest, but it's still streets ahead of most current action games and deserves a warm spot on your shelf by the bonfire.
VG247 calls it "Miyazaki's triumphant middle ground" between the original and its sequel, scoreless.
In this one can see why Miyazaki has repeatedly described Dark Souls 3 as the final outing for Souls in its current form; in places this feels like his greatest hits package. There's plenty new and memorable on offer, but this title is also absolutely happy to remind you of the glories past with a wink and a nudge. It's meant to be the ultimate Souls experience, a solid blend of everything that came before, and in that it succeeds. It's not breaking new ground, but it'll certainly scratch the itch many have been feeling since the release of whatever their last favourite Souls was, as it has a little piece of all of them.
The Jimquisition, 9/10 (8/10 on PS4 due to performance problems.)
Any player who's been through this mill is prepared to die, but once more, that fantastic beacon of hope urging players to press forward and overcome each obstacle is shining as bright as ever. Because that's what Dark Souls is all about perishing, persevering, and prevailing.
No game series comes close to doing what Dark Souls does, and Dark Souls III has done it again.
It's an undead favorite.
Dark Souls III was always presented as the last in the series, with Miyazaki being quite open about the difficulties inherent in keeping the third entry fresh. His answer to the problem is at the same time both clever and frustrating, which is perfectly in keeping with the nature of the series in general. Some will see this as the best Dark Souls of them all, others as a mild disappointment. And both will be right.
But no matter where you place it in your own personal hierarchy this is still an exceptionally well crafted and supremely entertaining video game. Where the series goes from here no one but Miyazaki knows, but if Dark Souls III does nothing else it confirms him as one of modern gaming's most talented creators.
GamePlanet Australia wasn't quite impressed, 7.0/10.
Despite the issues with the game, it's far from outright bad it's still Dark Souls, after all, and it's just as satisfying to play as the prior games in the series. What's good here is good, but it could have been so much better, due to the inconsistent game design and underwhelming world.
As the final game in the series, Dark Souls III delivers a fantastic, no holds barred, 30-hour experience that will satisfy longtime fans. Dark Souls III polishes its gameplay mechanics to a shine, and delivers the lore in droves to those who hunger for it the perfect mix for an action RPG. Praise the Sun.
Tom's Guide, 8/10.
Dark Souls III has the same pros and cons as the four games that preceded it. It's tough, but fair. It's beautiful, but bleak. It's rewarding, but punishing. I was very pleased to spend dozens of hours tackling the game's challenges and discovering its secrets, and I imagine most fans of the series will feel the same way.
The changes since Dark Souls II are incremental, but the trade-off is that the game finally feels like a cohesive chapter in an advancing story, not a tenuously connected tale. While I can't think of anything in particular to recommend Dark Souls III over Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II or Bloodborne, I can think of plenty of things to recommend it over almost any other game on the shelf lately. Pick it up, be patient, and may the flames guide thee.
My journey through Lothric to meet with the Lords of Cinder took me through unforgettable vistas and resulted in more than a few sleepless nights where all I could think about was pushing through another corridor, seeking out another bonfire. It's an experience that the established Souls fans already know they can't miss, while for those curious about Dark Souls, eager to discover what all the hype is about, this is the perfect starting point.
It might not be everyone's favorite Souls game, but it just might be mine and I can guarantee that Dark Souls III will dominate more than a few Game of the Year lists in 2016.
God is a Geek, 9.0/10.
Perhaps most importantly, Dark Souls 3 corrects errors made in Dark Souls 2. I enjoyed that second game, but I felt like the boss battles were very by the numbers; especially early on. Here, they are epic occasions and unforgettable moments. Transformations are used cleverly, changing locations and switching things up. I remember every one of my boss encounters, even the ones I found a little too easy, because From has nailed the spectacle so completely. While there are a few fights that feel unfair rather than challenging, with the decks stacked against you, and although it doesn't quite match up to Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3 is still a spectacular game.
So we return then to the key question. 'Why would I want to play the most difficult game ever?'
Dark Souls fans hate that question. It mischaracterises the game, and by proxy themselves. It paints a picture of an impossible task and the masochists who toil away at it anyway. Once you're a fan, Dark Souls isn't difficult. Hell, Dark Souls III might be the easiest of the series (with some notable exceptional elements). The appeal is all mental, because it's not about beating the game, or the bosses, or an area. It's about beating the part within all of us which tells us we can fail.
Dark Souls 3 oozes loving detail at every seam, and is at the very height of craftsmanship in the action RPG genre. Sometimes it is too poised at being more of a greatest hits album of the franchise than a proper sequel, but maybe that was the intent. From Software knows how dearly fans love this series, and they have reciprocated that love tenfold with this game. Dark Souls taught us that nothing lasts forever. From the largest star to the smallest bonfire, sooner or later every fire fizzles out. For now at least, it is time to bid farewell to this franchise, and Dark Souls 3 is as wonderful a send off as any we could have hoped for.
If there's one word to derive from Dark Souls 3, it's warmth. The comfort of familiarity means relatively fewer risks were taken in branching out new ideas. Regardless, the core mechanics of the series are refined, expanded and perfected in a final gameplay experience that adds depth to an excellent series. Dark Souls 3 is Dark Souls, but with a new coat of ashen-colored paint. It's hard to ask for much more than that.
Hardcore Gamer, 4.5/5.
Dark Souls III is shorter than what we've come to expect, but it's also more consolidated to give players exactly what they're looking for without any unnecessary fluff. There's still some mishandled bonfire locations and shortcuts spread throughout the world, but this is still a major step-up in level designs and boss battles. It will bring nostalgia back to a game that isn't even five years old yet, moving through a world that feels oddly familiar, yet at the same time new and refreshing. For those who haven't been able to get into Dark Souls in the past, your mind won't be swayed here as the third installment is mechanically the same with only slight alterations to combat and progression. Fortunately those already tightly entrenched in the series won't have anything to scoff at. Significantly improved over its predecessor, Dark Souls III will have players immersed in the deep and rich fiction that From Software is known for.
Eurogamer feels like the game lacks the poetry of the original and wonders if the overt self-celebration wasn't mandated by its publisher. The game still gets an Essential nod, however.
The fact is that From Software own the action RPG genre to such an extent that the only valid comparison is with themselves - not a single other studio can match the quality or rate of production of the four Souls games and Bloodborne. Dark Souls 3 bears the hallmarks of a mighty heave to bring closure, from creatives who have long since mastered their tools and style.
This is a truly epic journey, from your first faltering steps across gloomy cliffs to striding like a lord-slayer through Lothric Castle. Like all epics it has endless diversions, quarrels, unexpected companions, and great big fights. Is it the finest Souls game yet? I don't know; it might be. I can say this, though: Dark Souls 3 is a fabulous game, and a fitting conclusion to the greatest trilogy of modern times.
The classic combat of Dark Souls has been refined and expanded, but it still feels the same to play. This, of course, is a good thing, as minor tweaks were the most that was necessary in this department. But in crafting the rest of the adventure, FromSoftware has pushed its traditional strengths in aesthetic, environmental and enemy design to new heights. A fanatical attention to detail is evident in levels that consistently amaze in the cleverness of their layout and their sheer beauty.
Horrific enemies synergise both with each other and with their environment to create challenges that will write themselves in your memory, using your tears for ink. As much as veterans and newcomers alike will relish these challenges, prior experience will make your journey especially poignant. Dark Souls III is not only an astonishing game in its own right, but as it closes the current chapter in the series, it transcends itself, and adds new meaning to your time with its predecessors.
Dark Souls III may not stretch too far from its roots, but it's still one of the most rewarding video game experiences you can have. You'll get frustrated, but you'll learn from that frustration. The combat combined with the level design is unlike anything you'll find in most AAA titles these days. Dark Souls III is not for everyone, but for those that do give it the time required that it takes to learn, they'll hopefully walk away from the game satisfied like I did. Because what they'll end up playing is one of the best games of this year.
Paste Magazine, 8.8/10.
Dark Souls III would be a fitting end to a videogame series, and we don't get many of those. I enjoyed almost all of my time with it, but I'm not sure if I'd want another game like this to come by for a long time. As a comprehensive second draft of the best moments from the series, it left me with fond memories of everything I love about these games. And by sprucing up those moments, it gives new players a chance to finally understand why these games matter. It doesn't make sweeping changes to the series' structure or rhythms, but just this one time, it can get away with tugging at familiar heart strings. I came into this game hoping it wouldn't be (just another Dark Souls game.) But I'm glad that's what I got.
Frugal Gaming is one of the few publications disappointed by the lack of references to Dark Souls II and hopes for a more complete edition later down the line, 8/10.
If the performance issues can be addressed and the lore of Dark Souls 2 brought more into the fold, then this could very well be a contender for GOTY. As it stands, it feels like the perfect follow-up to Dark Souls 1 and nothing else. A day on patch is also due on the day we publish this review. Like Dark Souls 1 and 2 before it, I'd wager we can expect a complete edition within a year. We've had Prepare to Die, and Scholar of the First Sin.
Everyone will find something in Dark Souls III to nit-pick about, but, in the end, this is a wonderful sequel that every single long-term fan will grab and never let go - and there are plenty of reasons not to, although not much has changed, and despite the fact that it still hasn't fixed its biggest problems. Its world is still magnificently dark, its lore still a wonderfully challenging puzzle, and the gameplay is still that weird combination of pleasure and masochism. FromSoftware has once again created a game that you don't just play through, but experience as an engrossing odyssey. and, as expected from the series, it's not for everyone.
PlayStation LifeStyle, 8.5/10.
Dark Souls III is another punishingly hard game in an era of hand-holding that masochists will appreciate. While enemy AI is laughably dumb, those same enemies can take you down in no time flat. This is a game that forces you to learn its intricacies and quirks, and use them all to your advantage. Sporting a wonderful environment full of color, suffering, death, and a small amount of hope, fans can expect to sink several dozen, if not hundreds, of hours into the game, if they haven't already. From Software knows how to make challenging games that reward those who invest the time needed to properly engage enemies, and Dark Souls III continues in that tradition.
Attack of the Fanboy, 4/5.
A grand, epic, sweeping, and extremely lengthy adventure awaits players in Dark Souls 3. The switch to current gen consoles has allowed the game to flourish, with the best visuals ever for the series. This comes at a bit of a cost, sadly, as performance can be sluggish on rare occasions. The gameplay is still pure Dark Souls bliss though, and if you enjoyed it in the past, you will eat up every single hour of this game. For those looking to get into the series, this one is a good place to start, as it does a better job of funneling players along the proper path. It is still an open world though, and getting lost is not only inevitable, but also part of the fun. While everything you loved is back, some problems also return, such as a not-so-great targeting system and other missing features. Those seeking something wholly new will be disappointed, but if you want more of the Dark Souls gameplay that you love, this is exactly what you've been asking for.
Despite the odd issues I ran into with the game, be it performance related, or gameplay related (mobs of enemies don't always make a game harder FromSoftware), Dark Souls 3 is a gargantuan step up from Dark Souls 2 in terms of design. It's odd that I find myself looking forward to the DLC they plan to put out, especially before the game even launched. Yet, seeing how well put together Dark Souls 3 is, I am eagerly looking forward to even more content to mess around with, although I'll have a hard time getting bored of what's already in place. From Software has included a lot for players to mess around with, and between the various armor sets, locations, weapons and enemies to get acquainted with, Dark Souls 3 is one behemoth of a game that could stand at the top of the entire series in terms of quality.
The Daily Dot, 5/5.
One of the beauties of this franchise is that the changes and tweaks implemented in its sequels seldom ever feel like improvements based on fan feedback from previous installments. Instead, it feels like From Software is merely experimenting, trying new things without prior criticisms being a driving design force. That's a rare privilege for a studio to have. In the context of Dark Souls III, its surprisingly linear world will not impress most of its fans, but that's a minor issue when everyone uses fast travel anyway. The combat also makes up for this it's the deepest fighting system in the series. Lastly, it maintains the series' penchant for cryptic narrative, with an ending that is conclusive without officially declaring that this is the final Dark Souls. If this is the last one, as recent interviews have lead us to believe, it doesn't go out with a bang, but rather with melancholic fanfare, which is certainly fitting for this landmark series.
Niche Gamer, 9/10.
Overall, I think that Dark Souls III could easily be the best the series has had to offer yet. While it'll be a while before the internet has truly had its way with the game to uncover the secrets and intricacies of the game, as it stands, Dark Souls III is a fantastic RPG and another great Souls game from FromSoftware.
Rocket Chainsaw, 5/5.
Huge, dark, haunting, beautiful, challenging, insanely fun I could keep throwing adjectives at Dark Souls III but I probably still wouldn't do it justice. Newcomers will get sucked in with the game's faster pace and amazing visual design, while series' veterans can rest assured it is much better than Dark Souls II and will reward their loyalty with some very cool cameos and callbacks. Dark Souls III is easily an early game of the year contender, and is a must-buy for anyone looking for one of the most enjoyable challenges in gaming.
Dark Souls is a series about pushing through the unknown, pressing forward with your shield raised, probing the darkness, and looking for the flicker of the next bonfire. When the fire is lit, the previous area loses its mystique. It is conquered. This same sense of familiarity permeates Dark Souls 3, and it only ever gets you out of your comfort zone by resorting to cheap tricks. Yet despite this, it's still a beautifully bleak adventure with one of the best combat systems in videogames - it just falls short of the magic of the original. Like the opening cutscene says: the fire fades.