Dark Souls 3 + Ashes of Ariandel DLC: Final Flame
Updated: Jan 7, 2019
My introduction to the Soulsborne series was with Bloodborne as most people who have read my writings or have talked to me in the past, I did play a little bit of Dark Souls 2 Scholar of the First Sin but for reasons that I will not go into too much here I left it to focus on other games. This game will mark the first Dark Souls game I have played till completion and I must say I am happy to have finished this game rather than DS 2. What a great send off to such a venerable series.
Because the lore and story of Dark Souls is vague and up for interpretation I will only give what I know in regards to the summery. The Dark Souls world of Lordarn is stuck in a cycle of fire and dark, with each game taking place towards the end of a fire age. You are the Chosen Undead/ Cursed Undead/ Unkindled who rise from their graves in order to link the fire and prolong the inevitable coming of the age of darkness. This time the Unkindled (different from the Chosen Undead in ways I am not sure of at time of writing) have risen to seek out the four Lords of Cinder who all abandoned their duties to link the fire and force them to for fill their jobs. Along the way the Unkindled will meet some interesting people and try to understand what the hell happened. The Ashes of Ariandel DLC has the Unkindled travel into the Painted World of Ariandel to try to save Ariandel from some strange rot that is threatening to destroy that world. Most of the story is told either through item descriptions, music, levels or short interactions between characters. Cut scenes are short and rare. I really like this form of storytelling not only because it is a rarity among most video game narratives but that the fact it is done so well. The small bits of lore and story not only keep the player wanting to press on to find out more but also allows room for imagination to fill in the blanks, something that a lot of games are too afraid to do on the off chance that some demographic might lose out and as a result is a lot more compelling than most video games. The music in of itself can tell us more about a boss then any monologue could hope to do and I love it.
(Before I get into the game play, please use a controller if you are going to get any of the Soulsborne games, I will go into that part later but playing with keyboard and mouse will make your experience much, much worse.) Game play is mostly the same of any entry in the Soulsborne series; based around stamina management, item load and rolling. Exploration is key in these games as you will need to grind for souls should the need arise and make such you have any items that may give the tiniest advantage in your journey. The levels encourage exploration due to the maze like quality they have, looping around and in on themselves with short cuts and hidden areas. Yet they appear to be places where people have lived and died, you never get lost in the maze nor do you never not know where you going. The combat leans closer to Bloodborne’s fast paced combat encouraging you to jump in and out to get in a few hits. There is also the online aspect where you can leave little notes to other players, you can also summon in other players or get invaded by said players to engage in PVP, at the time of writing the servers are still up and fairly well occupied, you will be able to find a player willing to help you or invade you throughout the game. The problem with hackers is not as bad now, only encountered two so far (might be down to luck of course...) The game play is sharp and very enjoyable; the Soulsborne series is one of the few games that I enjoy grinding in because of the fun combat and the difficulty keeping it interesting and fun.
The graphics might not be the most top notch, high end graphics in the world, it is smooth and looks good on a higher specs PC, the real star lies in the art style and creature designs, a majority of the levels are massive Gothic cities and lordly halls that make you feel like a tiny insect scrabbling across a mighty world that is falling apart around you, a standout is Ithryll of the Boreal Valley because of it’s soft moonlight sky sweeping over a sleeping Gothic city, different shades of blues and whites create such an breath taking visual even on the lowest setting. My jaw dropped when I saw it. This game on any setting looks amazing because it has such a defined art style. The creature designs are appropriately grisly and laden with body horror; much like what Bloodborne was going with if not slightly less disturbing.
When I got this game my PC was.....shall we say was not suitable for running the game well, however I was able to upgrade to something closer to the requirements, any problems encountered pre upgrade will not be taken into account. However post upgrade I still encountered crashes when I minimized the game, loading into a level or respawning after dying. Fortunately nothing was lost but it is annoying that I have to start up the game often multiple times because one area decided to crash over and over again each time I died and considering how hard this game is, that is a lot of times. The fact that the PC port is bare-bones when it comes to controls along with a tutorial that does not bother to have the controls match the commands make a controller an essential if frustrating first experience. One would think that From/ Namco Bandai would have learned from the original Dark Souls port but that sadly has never been the case. Despite this the game does run smooth with no noticeable frame rate dips or glitches.
Overall, Dark Souls 3 is a great send off to the series, a solid end before it outstayed it’s welcome and I look forward to what FromSoftware does next. It will not be in the Hall of Fame due to the shoddy PC port but it does get very close.
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