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Review

Dark Souls 3 Review

  • First Released Apr 12, 2016
    released
  • Reviewed Apr 4, 2016
  • XONE
  • PS4

The only way is through.

GameSpot may get a commission from retail offers.

Dark Souls III is a game of valleys and peaks, down through dungeons and up over castle walls. It's a plummet into places we shouldn't be--an escape from places we don't belong.

But of course, we fight our way through the darkness, and find our way out. There are a few stumbles along the way, but in the end, Dark Souls III is well worth the riveting climb.

This is the third in a series of dark fantasy role-playing games known for their brutal difficulty and unforgiving nature. It gives minimal direction and little room for error. As with its predecessors, playing Dark Souls III means accepting two extremes: recurring defeat, and the reward of breaking through it. This is a game that recognizes the value of perseverance, tearing you down before it pulls you back up, reinforcing the spots where it broke you, preparing you for that next valley just down the road.

The world itself is a disconnected series of detailed areas--some sprawl outward, while others stack on top of themselves, folding back and looping around in intricate webs. It's a testament to the level design that discovering a bonfire checkpoint is as important as levelling your character or defeating a challenging boss. In this dangerous world of swamps, prisons, and undead villages, every milestone is a victory.

Many of Dark Souls III's secrets won't be clear until your second playthrough.
Many of Dark Souls III's secrets won't be clear until your second playthrough.

Returning to the Firelink Shrine hub world in order to level up character stats, weapon quality, and the health-imbuing estus flask seems tedious at first, but as time goes by, you'll recruit helpful companions that set up camp at your base, granting useful items and buffs throughout your playthrough. Bonfire checkpoints strewn throughout Dark Souls III allow for easy fast travel, and returning to Firelink becomes a welcome reprieve from the surrounding world.

This macabre locale has subtle stories to tell--enemies on the Road of Sacrifices behave defensively, only attacking once attacked. Giants bow their heads in exhaustion among the rafters of the Cathedral of the Deep. A sense of mystery pervades Dark Souls III's gloomy world, and there's a confidence on display that's often missing from many modern games--Dark Souls III has secrets, whether you find them or not.

It's also impressive how Dark Souls III strikes a balance between exploration and guidance. There's usually more than one path you can take through the world at any time--to new bosses, secret dungeons, or new areas entirely--but never too many that it feels overwhelming. The level design encourages wandering without losing focus.

Dark Souls displays a confidence often missing from many modern games--the secrets are here whether you find them or not.

Obstacles come in a variety of grotesque forms along the way: hulking giants and feral dogs; ancient knights and suicidal monks. Each enemy is a unique threat, and in groups, they grow more dynamic and punishing, demanding a flexible approach to combat. Dark Souls III is also clever in the way it plays on your false sense of comfort: many deaths come when you underestimate an enemy you've killed dozens of times before. The danger is always lurking. In the long run, survival requires patience.

This is true throughout--there's a certain cadence to the combat, a certain pattern to each enemy, that's only discernible when you take time to observe it. Some enemies are weak near their sword arm--others are vulnerable from behind. Instinct may tell you to dodge every time a knight retracts its spear, but wasting stamina could lead to a quick death, forcing a restart at the most recent bonfire. Dark Souls III doesn't just teach you new skills--it forces you to forget ones you've already learned.

The combat fluctuates between measured duels and frantic fights, but it almost always manages to keep things fair: you may be outnumbered and underpowered, but defeat is usually your fault. Sometimes, however, Dark Souls III breaks that rule. The camera often struggles to adjust in tight spaces, and the lock-on mechanic can be capricious, especially against Dark Souls III's more mobile, aggressive enemies. In boss fights that require precision, an imprecise camera becomes all the more of a hindrance.

Using embers increases your maximum health and kindles you for future fights.
Using embers increases your maximum health and kindles you for future fights.

But what impressive monstrosities these bosses can be. In fact, several display more creativity than any others in developer From Software's RPG lineup. These creatures play on your expectations and force you to adapt. One boss fight pits you against a crowd of pyromancers that inches toward you, hinting at its weakness with subtle visual cues. Intuition tells you to keep your distance, but it soon becomes clear you'll need to enter the fray. It rips you out of your comfort zone at a harrowing pace.

Despite the nuance and novelty of most bosses, however, some stick to familiar ground. Deja vu kicks in during several fights, when the monsters display move sets similar to those that came before them, diminishing the creativity displayed elsewhere. I brought down Pontiff Sullyvahn, the Consumed King, and even Aldrich--a boss the game purports to be one of my major targets--with tactics I had used hours earlier. These enemies feel recycled. They feel repetitive. The skin may be different, but the beast remains the same.

One glaring design misstep involves a boss requiring a specific item to bring him down--that is, if you don't want to spend half an hour whittling away at his health. There is an earlier, obscure side quest that removes the need to use that item. But many players might not stumble upon it. Dark Souls is at its best when it rewards your growth, and tests your character's hard-earned experience. This boss fight doesn't--it has a very specific solution, despite the path you've taken to get there. This enemy, and the repetitive bosses, fly in the face of the progress you've made. They repeat patterns you've already mastered.

The late-game hours of Dark Souls III seem not to erupt, but fade slowly into the fog.

So too does the overall level design of the late-game hours. Whereas most of Dark Souls III makes uses of labyrinthine corridors and trap-laden outdoor settings, these areas lose their design appeal as the game comes to a close. I expected Dark Souls III to carry me through imaginative fights and engaging treks as my character reached the apex of her skills, but instead I felt disappointed. I had come all this way with her, and aside from two fantastic end-game bosses and a handful of inventive secret areas in its waning hours, Dark Souls III seemed not to erupt, but rather, fade slowly into the fog.

But by and large, your growth is respected. It's that thread--that near constant sense of progress--that leads to Dark Souls III's greatest moments. We create our travelers. We make them stronger, faster, more resilient, turning them into fighters as we too learn the intricacies of this foreboding world. We can't slay the final boss until we conquer every enemy before it, so by the end of Dark Souls III, we've truly mastered something. That's a special feeling.

The best bosses make you question your instincts.
The best bosses make you question your instincts.

Much like From Software's earlier entries, Dark Souls III obscures its plot beneath its gameplay elements--the story is more concerned with tone than exposition. But what plot there is asks important questions: why do we place our idols in such high regard? How did they become our legends? The Lords of Cinder are imposing figures in Dark Souls III, and their power is attractive to pawns like us. But the end of their road is a lonely one--was that destination worth the sacrifice it took to get there?

There are several possible endings to Dark Souls III, and although most are anticlimactic, they drive home the loneliness of the paths we took. The old lords have abandoned their posts, and in the hunt to usurp them, we descend into those dark valleys, and climb those imposing peaks. This is the essence of Dark Souls III: periods of doubt, followed by great reward. The journey may be rocky, but there's a throne waiting at the end.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
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The Good
Expert level design
Thrilling combat
Creative, challenging bosses
Beautiful setting with ample secrets
The Bad
Redundant late-game bosses and areas
Inconsistent camera and lock-on
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Dark Souls III

About the Author

Mike Mahardy completed his first Dark Souls III playthrough in 23 hours. He spent another 20 hours on subsequent playthroughs and secret areas. He plans on making a Deprived run soon. Bandai Namco provided a copy of Dark Souls III for review.
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sakaiXx

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After months of playing dark souls 3, I agree with this review. I enjoyed DS3 for what it is but personally they played too safe with this installment. I think its probably due to the amazing experience I had with DS1 and Bloodborne that when I arrived at the end of DS3 first walkthrough I was like, that's it? The surprise just was not there anymore

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deactivated-5c66a5fc40886

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Hi Everyone!

I made a video about a fictional Invader character, called Moe. Who is a little bit too full of himself and he also likes to break the fourth wall a lot. Travel with him through all kinds of adventures like being beat up by gank squads and having revenge on lonesome travelers. But sometimes he gets lucky and manages to spank a ganker here and there. Enjoy the vid. #invadersarealsopeople

https://youtu.be/M6lDj2H5vQA

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bodao-zse

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"Creative, challenging bosses" / "Redundant late-game bosses"
Wich is it?

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bodao-zse

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" MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS"?? I freaking hope not!

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BonzaiBillie_99

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Edited By BonzaiBillie_99

This review initially evoked fury in me, which subsequently got me temporarily banned from the site. But now, after having completed the game multiple times, all with different classes, this review seems more moronic now then ever.

DS3 is a masterful achievement in game design. And the fact that a "professional critic" was unable to recognize that is shameful. An 8??!! No. Bar none, No.

Also, Im on my 6th character playthrough, and every time I play there is something new I discover. Whether that is an item of some sort, or an element of the gorgeous story I am able to piece together, this game is above and beyond anything else on the market. The whole series is (Demon's Souls & Bloodborne included) They have spoiled me.

So, Eff this review, AGAIN. And long live the glory of Dark Souls. Peace out.

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Willywill

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@bonzaibillie_99: Everyones entitled to a opinion and I agree with you.

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trancend

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Edited By trancend

@bonzaibillie_99: They are of gamings best indeed, and may be why this reviewer held it to such a high standard. I think with the technical (frame rate) issues this game suffers from as well 8 is a fair score. Plus the fact PS Pro wont be getting a 60 fps patch i cant get too excited, im waiting for PS5 HD ed.

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bodao-zse

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@bonzaibillie_99: your 14 line review was actually way more helpful than the "professional critic". Tx. (i mean that)

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BonzaiBillie_99

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@bodao-zse: Hey, thanks bodao!

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GGson

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@bonzaibillie_99: totally agree. If there were ever a game to deserve a 10 out of 10, this is it. What an incredibly brilliant game. EVERYTHING about it is outstanding.

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kuchiki-ness

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Edited By kuchiki-ness

@bonzaibillie_99: do you recommend me play the previos before i play this?, i haven't played the others but blood borne did, or just dark souls 2 and 3 or what should i do?

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trancend

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Edited By trancend

@kuchiki-ness: Demons' Soul great start into series. Play it on a HD tube if possible (it supports 720p/1080p, no 1080i, so u need a Altona at-hd550 down scaler to get 1080 on an interlaced tube which most are. Just got mine cant wait to get my tube out of storage hope adapter works). This game is too dark for lcd and wasnt made to cater too them (its from 2009), if u want to see some truely amazing lighting grab a sony kd-30sx955 http://www.crutchfield.com/S-usDB5j9cvfd/p_158KD30XS9/Sony-KD-30XS955.html if u can.

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BonzaiBillie_99

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@kuchiki-ness: If youve already played Bb, I would say go for DS3. DS1 is my favorite game of all time. So maybe try that after 3.

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EXxile

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On my 5th playthrough. Having played and completed every Souls game available (Demon's Souls, DS, DS2, Bloodborne, DS3) I would have to say that Dark Souls 3 is my favorite, followed by Bloodborne. It takes everything that was great about the Dark Souls franchise, and key pieces from Bloodborne to essentially make the best one yet. Now, for me personally, this game gets a 10 from me. When a game makes you want to replay through it over and over again immediately after completion, I can't see how that does not deserve a 10 from a player.

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MonsterAm1

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Would give it a 9 out of 10.

First time playing a souls game,although I had researched and read alot about the game and it's uniqueness but in the first hours I had many many questions in my mind,overall I was glad and happy about this experience and I'm happy to spend my money on this,this game is a unique experience and this is what I was looking for as a gamer,maybe it was'nt all that satisfying for the game fans but as a first time for me personally it was an amazing experience,Thank You FROMSOFTWARE for making this game.

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pmulrich

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Would give it a 7 out of 10. Played hundreds of hours of DS and DS II, and this is the weakest entry. The combat is more fluid and somewhere between DS and Bloodborne. Faster enemies mean more trouble for sorcerers and pyromancers who get killed because of slow cast times. The game feels like it's build on top of a bloodborne template for gameplay that favors fast, high dex characters over the tanks and casters of DS.

The game is also still full of technical glitches, like a bad camera that spins out on you in corners at the worst moments, enemy weapons going through walls, frame rate drops, etc. Enemy placement is predictable, and relies too much on setting traps around loot points. The game tries to capture nostalgia moments by imitating locales from past games, but it feels cold, linear and empty. Graphics are a small improvement on PS4 over DS II, even though the DS II remaster looks better at times.

Worst is ridiculously big hit boxes and overly accurate chain attacks of certain enemies, that went from difficult but challenging in DS, DS II and bloodborne to fake hard and frustrating.to create an artificial challenge. Boss fights are meh, and much better skipped in 30s by summoning Sunbros. Overall it fails to capture the spell of the first games. Good thing that this is the last game in the series.

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EXxile

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@pmulrich: Having played and completed every Souls game available (Demon's Souls, DS, DS2, Bloodborne, DS3) I have to say I highly disagree with you. To each their own of course, but I found DS3 to be favorite in the entire franchise; even moreso than Bloodborne (Bloodborne is my 2nd favorite now). Also, I played DS2 remastered, and DS3 looks significantly better overall.

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EXxile

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Edited By EXxile

@akassassin11: Agreed.

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actionrick

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@pmulrich:
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Deilpo1

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How hard is this compared to other Dark Souls games? I'm really interested in playing a game like this but the challenge is very offputting. (i'm just bad lol)

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@deilpo1: I played DS1 from start to end, DS2 I was only about halfway in. IMO, DS3 is just as difficult. It seemed a little easier for me at first, but I think that is because I played the previous games. Later on I realized it is just as difficult.

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on my 2nd playthrough now i'm both in awe and a bit disappointed. The game's linearity is kind of a bummer to me. in previous games you always had those 4 big ones to beat which meant that you can go 4 different ways (each with multiple levels and bosses) and do those in any order you like. In ds3 there's one way only, although it has some sizeable sideroutes. that being said the leveldesign is amazing, intriguing and full of secrets. In the end i would have wished for a few more bosses, though there were a few tough ones that i haven't beat solo yet (coop makes all bosses ridiculously easy but sometimes i just wanna progress ;) ). Pvp feel good so far, except for the fact that normal red invaders are having a hard time getting ganked by hosts with friends and the frequent visits of blue sentinels/darkmoon blades (i sometimes get summoned as a blue into what is already a 3 on 1, making it a ridiculously stupid 4 on 1). also i'm missing a variety in dex weapons. i got the uchigatana from the beginning of the game, and while i love it and have no problem doing my whole 1st playthrough with it, it was sad to see that i didn't find any other dex weapons that could compare to it damagewise. Because it's a weapon you basically start the game with i find that rather weird.

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NullLight

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Edited By NullLight

Оk, I'm halfway through the game, and guess what? This game deserves a 10 hands down. And something tells me that if Kevin had done the review, it would have been a perfect score.

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SilentAssassin

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Edited By SilentAssassin

I know that reviews are just peoples opinions but I believe that this game is worth more then an 8. I usually don't mind people's reviews and have my own thoughts but I just can't help but think this is a 9 or even a 10. Dark Souls 3 is an amazing game and I'm looking forward to completing it soon and writing my own review. I just don't think Dark Souls 3 and a game like THE DIVISION should get the same score.

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I didnt play it yet .... cant wait to put my hands on it .... having exams now and i know DS suck you in and you cant stop until u satisfied your ego. from the comments i believe its easier than DS2 and i think its bcoz many ppl complain about that or you ppl become more experienced.... Dont forget who played DS forsure pass by blood borne and that game was really pain in the ass .... have fun ppl

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Hippystank

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Gamespot smoking the crack pipe? 9/10 for DS2 and an 8/10 for this? This is the best in the series even better than Dark souls which is a hard feat to accomplish.... DS2 was more of an 8/10 in the souls series.

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Arsyad00

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if they got cool weapon like bloodborne, this should have been 10 :(

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Edited By beowulf1211

Playing this on the PC with the latest 1.04 patch.

No issues whatsoever. Even the Xbox One controller is working perfectly. This game is a sight to behold, on the PC anyway! Cranked 1440p res with 60 fps. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

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vortec40

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The same score as far cry? Wow your review sucked. No offense Mike , but oh do you sound hard to please. And completely wrong as well.

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

Got to that part where everyone is saying frame rate drops on PC, holding steady at 30 on ps4, playing online, if you're worried about Blighttown then there's nothing like that on here, good job From

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Edited By GirlUSoCrazy

@pasullica: You can plug a controller into your PC lol

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Edited By MartinWan

Greetings! I need help! I finished Dark Souls several times, but I didn't finish Dark Souls 2, can I still play Dark Souls 3 or its imperative to finish Dark Souls 2 first? Thanks :)

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@martinwan: No it is not imperative that you finish Dark Souls 2 before going to the third game. Some people even recommend that you skip Dark Souls 2 altogether (the game gets a bit of a bad rap). I personally really enjoyed Dark Souls 2 but I have to admit that it was fairly underwhelming compared to its predecessor. I have been playing Dark Souls 3 for the past few days and it has been nothing short of spectacular.

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@muddrox: U dont need to, but forget about what people say about DS2, they are nothing but parrots.

Dark Souls 2 , when u add all the expansions, or the Schoolar of the First Sin edition, is a GREAT game.

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@julianboxe: you hit the nail on the head about "what people say about DS2, they are nothing but parrots."! No DS games could have matched the "awe and wonder" of Demon's Souls!

Just play the dam game and judge it yourself. It's a great game, by the way.

DS3, TO ME, feels a bit (dare I say it) UNDERwhelmed! Bonfires are ... easy to come by, where in previous DS and BB, you have to bit the bullet to go to find them. And "Unable to summon" message! Is it an issue of this game?

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@julianboxe:Agreed, Dark Souls 2 is a great game. Although I didn't feel it matched the awe and wonder of its predecessor; I certainly believe that all the hate it garnered was completely unwarranted. Dark Souls 2 is a very high quality game.

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@muddrox Thanks! :)

Dark Souls III More Info

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  • First Released Apr 12, 2016
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Dark Souls III is the latest chapter in the critically acclaimed Dark Souls series with its trademark sword and sorcery combat and rewarding action RPG gameplay.
    8.5
    Average Rating378 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Dark Souls III
    Developed by:
    From Software, Bandai Namco Games
    Published by:
    Bandai Namco Games, From Software
    Genre(s):
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
    Mature
    Blood, Violence