dark soul 3 tips and review

"Fresh gameplay, breathtaking atmosphere, and remarkable music Make Dark Souls 3 an unforgettable gaming experience."

This review is of v1.01, so all updates and patches from v1.02 and on are not taken into consideration. Also, no story or lore details will be reviewed to keep the review as spoiler free as possible for those awaiting the US release.

When the fourth game in Souls series was announced, I had doubts about the quality and direction the series was taking. I fully expected the game to be rushed and cluttered with recycled content, bringing nothing new to the table. I was happily proved wrong when Dark Souls 3 provided the best music, some of the most beautiful locations, and the most intense boss battles of the series. Dark Souls 3 learned from the mistakes of its predecessors by carrying over some of the best features from the past games, but still introducing plenty of new content to provide players with a fresh, unique experience.

Players should be prepared to flood their galleries with screenshots. 
The atmosphere in Dark Souls 3 starts out a little dark and dry, but still gorgeous; however, the world really opens up as the game continues. Players will spend hours exploring castles, cities, caves, forests, and swamps, as well as the snowy and mountainous regions of Lothric. 

Unfortunately, much of the time spent exploring castles and forts was on the outside of them. The castles and forts were large enough that there was a substantial amount of content on the outside of them, but the amount of detail and the colossal size just made me more curious about everything inside. The swamps and forest are very large and surprisingly dense. Players will undoubtedly spend hours wandering the forests and swamps hoping for an escape. Caves and other underground areas were intense to explore. Bonfires were sometimes scarce and the occasional jump scare will be more than enough to keep players on the edge the whole time. The mountainous regions and cities were arguably the most jaw-dropping locations in the entire series. 

Unlike the previous Souls games, Dark Souls 3 didn't have any "I hope I never have to go there again" areas (sorry Blighttown and The Gutter). Each location is worth revisiting. Each and every location was unique and filled with exceptional detail. The atmosphere started out beautiful, and somehow became more and more breathtaking as the game continued. 

The gameplay in Dark Souls 3 feels like they took the best parts of Demons Souls, Dark Souls 1, and Dark Souls 2 and brought them all together. 

Like the other Souls games, bonfires are the checkpoints that you use to rest and refill your health. Players are granted the ability to warp between bonfires right from the beginning, allowing for fast travel and less wasted time backtracking. Bonfires also repair weapons and armor simply by resting at them. Unfortunately, bonfire ascetics from Dark Souls 2 are no longer in the game. Estus Flasks (used for healing) are also upgraded at the bonfires and Estus Shards are used to increase the number of flasks, similar to Dark Souls 2.

Players can only level up their character in Firelink Shrine (the main hub of the game). While this may seem like an inconvenience only being able to level up in one place, the ability to fast travel from the beginning of the game makes this a trivial issue.

One of the most important things that was fixed in Dark Souls 3 is the hitboxes. There wasn't a single hotbox issue throughout the entire game. For the first time in the series, arrows can be shot through small areas without being blocked by an invisible wall and certain enemies don't hit you when facing in the complete opposite direction. Every fight, both bosses and common enemies, was fair and didn't rely on poor hitboxes to make it a challenge. 

The gameplay itself is fast paced and challenging. Enemies, especially bosses, are aggressive and require players to carefully decide their next move. The game will try to punish any mistake a player could make, but in a fair way. The aggression of the enemies makes mobs difficult to deal with and requires patience from players. The phrase "try luring it out" has never been as relevant as it is in Dark Souls 3.

Weapon and armor variety is vast. There are returning favorites such as the Uchigatana and the Catarina Set, but also many new weapons with unique abilities. 

One major change is that the game utilizes a mana bar for casting spells instead of giving each spell a set number of uses. The mana bar can also be refilled by using the newly introduced Ashen Estus Flask. This allows players to decide which is more important, using lots of magic or healing. 

Bosses are one of the highest selling points of the game. Bosses in the Souls series have always been great, but Dark Souls 3 really takes it to the next level. Every boss is different from the last; there are no reskins. Whether it be splitting into multiple bosses, teleporting, or having multiple weapons, players will be on the edges of their seats the whole fight as they learn to adapt to what each boss will throw at them next. Boss battles are by far the most intense in the series, and every boss was a memorable, unique experience. It's a shame there weren't more bosses (there are 19 in total that are known), but... quality over quantity. And the bosses in Dark Souls 3 were definitely quality. Fights were fast paced, intense enough to make your hands shake, and provided a great sense of achievement. There has been some talk from players who watched the demos and 1st hour gameplay videos that bosses had too little health, but boss difficulty greatly increases as the game goes on and is guaranteed to give players the immense challenge they desire.

Overall, the gameplay in Dark Souls 3 was above and beyond the other Souls games. Hitboxes are accurate enough to shoot an arrow between an enemies legs, fast travel saves useless backtracking time, and the boss battles were consistently some of the best I have ever experienced in a game. 

Players can use an "ember" to enter "Lord of Cinder" mode, which raises overall health by 40% and allows players to summon other humans in co-operative play to tackle those difficult areas. Being in "Lord of Cinder" also exposes players to the risk of getting invaded. Invading players enter the hosts game and try to eliminate the host. Players should be weary of invaders since they're generally much more difficult than fighting against the A.I. and will often do whatever they have to do to win since invaders typically have nothing to lose. While invading may seem like a mean thing to do, and being invaded can be frustrating... it's shamefully one of the most fun parts of the Souls series and never gets tiring. Similar to invading, players of specific covenants (or with the red soapstone) can put down a sign and be summoned into other players' worlds for a duel. Duels are typically more "honorable" than invading and often times begin with both players bowing to each other. 

Connection wise, the online has been very smooth up to this point. Summons are quick and dueling areas have high population. The only concern would be that sometimes there's a small delay between hits and damage done, often times requiring players to anticipate their opponents next move.

The title menu theme alone should be enough to tell players how the music is going to play out during the game. Much of the game is spent without music, just listening to the beautiful sounds of nature and the blood curdling shrieks of enemies. But when the music starts, the intensity of the game really picks up. Most of the music is orchestral and builds in intensity as battles go on. The music was easily the best in the series, and arguably one of the best game soundtracks of all time.

I finished the game with a playtime of 26 hours. If I were playing the entire game solo, I may have been stuck on specific bosses for hours, if not days. While 26 hours may seem fast compared to the other games, it's worth noting that I (along with many other players who will be purchasing the game) have a lot of experience with the series and should not expect it to take near as long as our first runthrough of the first game. Also, I did miss a few areas and bosses, didn't thoroughly explore every area, and prefer to go through my first run of the game quickly and then explore more once I have become more skilled. Other players have also been reporting playtimes of about 25 hours after completion; however, there is much more content and many hours more of playtime. Dark Souls 3 is not a short game by any means and has a very satisfying amount of content.
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