Retaining the same difficulty, style, and tone as the rest of the franchise, Dark Soul III continues From Software’s medieval fantasy, action-RPG series.
Dark Souls III is the conclusion of the trilogy – though interviews with director Hidetaka Miazaki (via VG247) have confirmed that this won’t mean the end of the franchise.
Back to its roots
Dark Souls III’s story revolves around the Lord of Cinder. This calls back to the first Dark Souls, once again picking up the theme of fire, darkness, and cycles.
This more explicit referencing of original Dark Souls lore could be Hidetaka Miazaki influence. The original game’s director has returned to co-directing this third installment. This will be good news for some fans, who cited his absence as a weakness for Dark Souls II.
In keeping with this, Dark Souls III maintains the franchise's signature fantasy style of desiccated beauty - a once gorgeous world now collapsing, and shrouded in shadow. This is clear from the outset, with every richly designed environment seeming to be overgrown and crumbling as embers float through the world and a dim, dying sun sets in the distance.
Dark Souls III’s land of Lothric is a more linear world than previous games. Though there are some branches, the critical path through the story feels far more direct. There is a hub area, that is reminiscent of Demon’s Souls', but returning to it using the Travel option at bonfires feels more like going back to the beginning rather than providing an exciting place to explore from.
Once more into the darkness
In terms of gameplay, From Software seems to have learned from the weapon system that it introduced in its PlayStation exclusive title, Bloodborne. While the combat remains heavy and paced - with patience and defensive play still a virtue – Dark Souls III feels faster.
It also introduces a new magic system that ties spells and miracles to a mana bar. This is consumed as you play, but can be topped up with a new Ashen Estus Flask. This works identically to the health regenerating Estus Flask seen in previous games, but now you must decide the balance of uses you have in each. Yes, you can trade health for mana, allowing magic users to play more aggressively.
The mana bar and Ashen Flask are also used by more melee focused fighters. New combat styles and stances are available for every weapon and consume mana to use. This adds more variety to fights, with substantive differences between weapons increasing tactical options.
For example, a light Rapier’s unique stance allows for fast execution of multiple moves. By comparison, a Great Sword lets you shoulder charge, before launching opponents in to the air with a powerful upward swing.
Dark Souls III carries on the series lineage brilliantly. Evolving the combat mechanics utilizing everything learned across its games, From Software has created new dynamics within the familiar system that should force everyone think. Combine this with a less obtuse story - that ties together threads that fans have been pondering for years - and you have a game that is perfect for veterans while also managing to be accessible for newcomers.