J. M. DeSantis

Ash Seeking Ember: First Impressions of Dark Souls III

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It’s hard to believe that two months have passed since I stated I wanted to take some time in this blog to focus on writing about the Souls series from developer From Software. Of course, for those keeping up with my work and this site, the publisher for my comic Chadhiyana, Rosarium Publishing, ran a successful IndieGoGo campaign. That, coupled with some time for recovery (promoting it was the most aggressive I’ve ever been about promoting anything), threw off my schedule a bit. But now that things are stabalising, and since I’ve completed my first play through Dark Souls III (with my own creative work, I can’t put as much time as I’d like into gaming), I thought I’d begin this week by writing about my reactions thereof.

Now, before I go on, I want to add that I have not spent much time researching the lore–which is half of why I love these games. Again, I’ve only completely one play through of the game, and just as I would with secret areas and hidden items, I don’t take to the internet to delve more into the lore until I’ve first taken what I feel is sufficient time with it on my own.

That said, based on my initial impressions of the story of Dark Souls III, I have to say it corrects a lot of the issues I had with Dark Souls II’s story, mainly that the latter was so derivative (and I understand that within the structure of that story it made perfect sense) that nothing about it was very memorable. Dark Souls III takes the player on a new quest within the Dark Souls world, and though indeed it seems to follow the events of both games, there is much newness in it which leads the player to further explore what occurred in the ages between the other two games and the present one.

Coupled with the lore (what little of it I know) are the cameos within the game–mostly, as is often the case with story elements in a Souls game, through armour and items. Though, admittedly I did find it a bit overdone at times. Indeed every armour set of past games can be found in this one. Hidetaka Miyazaki (the series’ creator) has ambiguously stated whether this will in fact be the final Souls series, the last of its kind, or the last for a long while, but in any case, the profusion of past armour sets and items does make the game feel like Miyazaki was thinking something like: “Well, this is it! Might as well throw it all in.” Though, it’s hard to complain when I have the ability to switch from Artorias’s armour set to Lautrec’s to Alva’s to the Black Knight set at will.

More affective, however, were the vague references Dark Souls III makes to Demon’s Souls (the first Souls game, though outside of the Dark Souls world). Indeed I thought Bloodborne was taking that over, as it were, as there were many similar aspects of the two games, but to see them in Dark Souls III was a wonderful treat–for those who knew what to look for, as many Souls fans did not enter the series until Dark Souls.

Beyond that is the gameplay, and in this I think I did myself a disservice by finishing Bloodborne so close to beginning Dark Souls III (with only a few days between the two finishing–at last–my Platinum Trophy in Demon’s Souls). I greatly missed the faster paced combat, so much so that I abandoned my shield in most cases for a dual-wielding stance (something I had never done before in a Souls title). More was the rally system of gaining back life, which I think was artfully done in Bloodborne as it so well tied in with both the lore of the game and the push to make players more aggressive.

Still, on its own, Dark Souls III’s gameplay is wonderfully punishing as all Souls games are (except for the last boss which, I felt, was too easily taken down–for me). I will state I didn’t much use the game’s new weapon arts. Perhaps I missed some wonderful new combat mechanics, but I did not much see the need for them–and again I still was missing Bloodborne’s system of weapons with two forms (perhaps I should write a comparative article on the fighting systems of both titles in the future). Even so, I very much enjoyed my slightly altered Souls-play style, and the game has been as addicting to play (for me) as previous titles in the series. I really can’t wait to start NG+.

Level design has gone back to its roots as well, and there is much interlinking between the various locales of Lothric and its connected world (as Miyazaki promised). My only complaint with level design would simply be that there are too many bonfires (the game’s checkpoints). I feel as though previous titles had less, though perhaps I’m just getting so much better at these games that I have an easier time moving from one to the next. I don’t know.

Honestly, there’s so much more I could write, but overall, the game was excellent (and still promises to be in successful plays through). Certainly a step up from Dark Souls II (which, as time passes, I do feel a greater sense of appreciation for–and even want to go back again and play because of Dark Souls III), but never quite (to me) reaching the greatness of the first Dark Souls (which is difficult to do). Though, perhaps there is more to find in NG+ and whatever DLC From Software will be offering. And it will be interesting to see if and how the Souls series will continue.

Perhaps after next weekend’s White Plains Comic Con I can focus a bit more on Souls writing. After all, I keep wanting to spend more time on this blog writing about topics of interest to me rather than writing about my current projects and how they are developing (though, indeed, there is great value in that too, as long as it’s not overdone).

So then, until next week. Cheers!

J. M. DeSantis

J. M. DeSantis is a writer and artist (Write-ist). He is best known as the creator of the medieval Indian fantasy heroine, Chadhiyana. DeSantis has also authored a number of short stories and artworks, mostly in the fantasy, horror and humour genres. He is also the writer and artist for the humorous web-comic, Gentleman Cthulhu: Emeritus Moribus Monstrum (gentlemancthulhu.com) and the writer and owner of this blog.

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