Back in 2010 I had to review the original Demon’s Souls on PS3. We did not get along. While I appreciated it trying to stand out from the crowd with its bastard hard difficulty and measured approach, it wasn’t for me. There’s a fun to challenge ratio I find acceptable in games and the unresponsive combat and miserly checkpoints just didn’t sit personally.
By the time Dark Souls appeared, I was relieved to see another member of staff take it on instead. And that was the last I saw of the series until From Software released Bloodborne in the PS4. Our Souls-friendly staffer was yet to grab Sony’s new machine, so I found myself handling the beta and review. Then something strange happened, I started to like it.
I’ll not blather on, my Bloodborne review will handle that. Nowadays I have my own site and find Dark Souls III on my doorstep, daring me to play it. So, let’s see how things have changed since those early days with Demon’s Souls.
Not having played the previous two Dark Souls games, I can’t attest to their difficulty, but it’s safe to say they’re considered to be tough tests of a player’s skill and patience. Given that Demon’s has you smashed to bits by a boss character during the tutorial and Bloodborne has you trying to punch a werewolf to death at the start, I was expecting a similarly brutal opening.
But no, this is a hell of a lot easier and I’d clocked up nearly half an hour of careful poking around before seeing the infamous ‘You Died’ screen after awakening the first boss. And to skip ahead a bit, I only needed another three or four attempts with minimal levelling up to finish off the first boss. When compared with the first boss in Bloodborne, I felt like a speed runner.
Let’s not get nuts though, I’m not saying Dark Souls III is easier than any of the other games in the From Software lineup of survival horror action RPG (what bloody genre are these things!). That would have made for a juicy headline, but seeing as I’ve only played the game for 2.5 hours so far, I really can’t say such a thing. I can say though that the opening is certainly easier and far less intimidating than I was expecting. So if Bloodborne was your first taste of these games, and you enjoyed it, this could well be worth a look too. Naturally, I’ll be following this article up with a full review.
Anyways, how does the game handle? Like a dream compared to Demon’s Souls. Playing as a Knight (very newbie friendly stats), combat and dodging feels much sharper and being able to block (a feature removed from Bloodborne to keep things aggressive) is useful when taking on regular enemies. That said, I found myself rolling more as it’s easy to be staggered by enemy strikes and the dodge roll has a generous amount of I-frames (invincibility frames) where you physically roll right through an attack without being hurt if you time it right.
Bloodborne’s counter strikes using the pistol to interrupt an attack at the last moment in the hope of stunning an enemy for a juicy Visceral strike was an incredibly rewarding feature. It took a while for me to get a handle on them, but they’re an essential tactic for boss fights and their enormous health bars. I’m struggling so far with the equivalent strikes in Dark Souls III though. Attacks from behind are worth working the roll angles for as they provide extra damage. But it’s the parry system for which I’m probably going to head online to learn how to use properly. For you fellow newbs out there, the parry button is separate from the block button and performs a rather relaxed casual tennis backhand motion before getting a sword to the face. I just couldn’t get it to work, but I know I’m going to need it pretty damn soon once the game stops pretending it’s going to take it easy on me.
Enemies so far haven’t proved too challenging, although I can feel that I owe Bloodborne a lot in the way I never take any of them for granted and remember to spin the camera around upon entering a new area. There is one enemy type that spawns into something much worse if not finished off straight away, so I’ll need to keep an eye out for them.
The early stages are quite linear so far with little room for exploration. There are lots of doors locked from the other side, so I’m expecting to unlock shortcuts all over the place eventually. The placement of bonfires (think Bloodborne’s lanterns) have been very generous so far and I’ve never had far to go to recover any dropped Souls.
The Cestus flasks (health topups with a torturously long animation) are new to me and being only able to carry three or four of them is balanced by being able to replenish them for free at any bonfire, at the cost of any defeated enemies respawning. But hey, I’ve been able to farm a decent amount of XP for levelling up. Although, the increasing amounts required each time are getting steep already and I’ll be forced to push on further into the darkness for bigger rewards.
But that’s the allure here. I know things are going to get much harder. Just because I’ve not hit a wall yet, doesn’t mean it’s not coming. Bloodborne brought me around to From Software’s ideology and the early hours of Dark Souls III have eased me in gently enough that I’m ready for it to step things up a notch. However, if it wants to keep providing lots of safe haven bonfires I won’t be complaining. Not so sure about the hardcore fans though.
Update: Here’s my full Dark Souls III review.