Review

Dark Souls 3 Review

  • First Released Apr 12, 2016
    released
  • XONE
  • PS4
Mike Mahardy on Google+

The only way is through.

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.

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Now Playing: Dark Souls 3 Video Review

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

More Platform Reviews

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.
931 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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alcohollol

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Edited By alcohollol

@Isaac_Redfield: You're actually just describing yourself and I feel bad for you. Seek help.

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jellyhillcrab

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Edited By jellyhillcrab

I love these games and would, as a fan like to see a higher score, as I'm excited about the game coming out.

But it reads as a fair review and may reflect a slight drop in quality of the series. Not so much in build and design quality, but more the novelty wearing off a little. I still remember in Demon souls reading the first few messages, or clicking on a blood stain and thinking wow! This is awesome. Its hard to sustain that impact.

I'm just looking forward to better visuals on the xbox one, as we didn't get BB. Can't wait and this review does not put me off.

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Arguyle

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@jellyhillcrab: About time someone here speaks some sense. Amen.

And I would add to this... if somebody is ready to read a review on a game before buying it, well be prepared to be either hyped or disappointed. A review is not a trailer, people should remember that.

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INewIRave

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@jellyhillcrab: I think you have hit the nail on the head. I remember actually paying to get a US shipped copy of demon souls to play it after hearing it called 'the hardest game of this generation'. It was amazing and had an utterly unique feel to it. The same could be said of dark souls, a game which got better the more hours you put into it (learning about the lore was genuinely like unveiling a mystery). Dark souls 2 was enjoyable with a refined combat system to boot but I felt like they were being cryptic for the sake of it.

I 100% completed both dark souls but everything was a bit robotic in Ds2 - the fighting, the traps, the bosses, the summons, the ai. It managed to have its own style and feel but offered very little innovation so I wouldn't be surprised to see ds3 do more of the same. Frankly I expect it will still be enjoyable and challenging though.

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destinhpark

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Finally, an honest and deserving review of a Dark Souls game. Like I've always said about the series: Good not great.

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robing9126

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Edited By robing9126

@destinhpark: a series that Edge Magazine named as THE title of the last generation.......any objective evaluation of Dark Souls would point to its status as a classic in terms of level design, story telling and innovative cooperative play......

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razecah12

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@robing9126: the Edge sucks

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Bruise

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@destinhpark: But...but, an 8/10 IS Great lol

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Haanabi89

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@destinhpark: amazing is the word youre looking for peasant! How dare you slander such an incredible franchise

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jagdedge124

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Edited By jagdedge124

Well we have a few people here criticizing the review (but not nearly as many who protested IGN's review of The Division giving it a 6.9, which had nearly 25,000 people up in arms in protest).

I personally come to Gamespot for Reviews, and IGN for up to date news, but no doubt, they're terrible with Reviews (in my own view).

This site generally has for me, a better track record. As far as Van Ord, lets face it, he was a huge fan boy, and i don't know if i trust a fan boys review of what may be his favorite game. I think that's irresponsible.

Being a DS fan myself, i personally felt the series HAS diminished, as compared to the past (DS 1 in my view being the best, and DS 2, not very good)), and so, an 8 sounds more right, certainly as compared to a 9.5 over at IGN. That's just crazy for a DS game, that may have very vocal fans, but a small fan base for a niche game nonetheless.

I mean, i couldn't get people to download DS1 FREE on 360 when it free at the time Not many people like DS (for a myriad of reasons), but for those of us who do, a "fair" Review, is at least what i would expect, and to even get an 8, this game BETTER deliver as an 8, and not a 6.

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Fia1

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Edited By Fia1

@jagdedge124: everyone keeps talking about vanords opinion but noone takes their time to see vanords twitter and find out that... surprise! he said he would have given the same score, an 8 for dark souls 3, and he said this is the soul game that has given him more problems compared to the others.

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jagdedge124

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Edited By jagdedge124

@Fia1:

Wow is that right? Well that's not a good sign. If Van Ord has admitted a problem with it, it may really only deserve a 6 lol (he'd never admit that).

Again, even being a fan, there's no question the series has diminished, and many including myself would wish the game was a 9.5 as IGN cited, but lets face it, that's never gonna happen lol.

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tanerb

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Edited By tanerb

I can still remember the opening of the first game. With the strength of the lords they challenged the dragons. Can't wait for this game

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JonBeecham

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9.5 on IGN though... @TwitchSharer Team Jesus Needs your Help: https://goo.gl/tuUahE

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alcohollol

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I felt compelled to create an account just to come on here and say that this is a horrible review. Where's good old Kev when you need him? Mike, you praise the game so much only to give it an 8/10? Why give such a low score for the completely subjective reason that: ONLY the last few bosses SEEM to be MAYBE SLIGHTLY repetitive?... C'mon dude. People come here for objective reviews, not personal gripes. (But ever since MGS 5:TPP got a 10/10 how can we ever trust you again?)

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TacticaI

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Edited By TacticaI

@alcohollol: 8 out of 10 is low? It's literally two steps away from a perfect ten, and Kevin was a DS fanboy, and he was terrible at hiding it.

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aiat_gamer

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@TacticaI:

"I played and finished Dark Souls III. It is great, and also the least interesting and safest game in the Souls line, including Bloodborne. I would have given Dark Souls III an 8, and still may if I get the time to write about it."

This is Kevin himself.

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Isaac_Redfield

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Edited By Isaac_Redfield

@alcohollol: So you created an account just to reply to a review you didn't like, despite the fact that the review is an opinion? He also didn't say what you claimed he said about the last bosses, he said that about a handful of the other enemies and bosses. You obviously didn't even read what was written, or you can't actually understand what he said. FROM recycles a lot, and this game was developed at the same time as Bloodborne, so there's no reason to doubt recycling happened here as well.

Getting upset, and whining over a review is the stupidest thing on the internet too. It's like your ego gets super crushed if a game doesn't actually deserve what YOU either think it does, or want it to. I wouldn't even be surprised if you haven't even actually played the game yet either.

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rightyouare

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Edited By rightyouare

@666Rich666:Idk rich, i can see how people can give a soul game a 5. A 360noscope cod loving reviewer who hates jrpg's can give the game a 5

Its not really the score that matters its the reasoning. People have called this crap journalism, schoolboy drivel, poor and no justification review just to quote some of the comments. For some who boasted on the lobby of playing every soul game it is lacking some real depth and insight in how d3 discerns itself from the other games.

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666Rich666

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@rightyouare: Yeah but if there is no reasoning behind the score other than they didn't get it? That would be like me reviewing Madden 2017 or CoD: Black Ops future warrior ultra dude bro 2017... Give the review duty to someone who understands the genre. I would give those type of games a low score because I have no aptitude for the subject matter.

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rightyouare

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@666Rich666:Haha well said. The quality of this review is like the ign's too much water. I Don't think people even care about the score. 8 is pretty reasonable. The same score as the last of us. This review as a whole is extremely poor is has upset people.

Never once have i read so many comments slamming the reviewer or the review itself rather the score. Quite interesting to read. Sorry can't directly reply get some stupid error

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666Rich666

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Who is this guy? Gamespot used to be a veteran crew of game media... now its a fuckin ghost town. Aside from Danny O Dwyer, Mary Kish, Peter Brown and a few others, they're all freelancers. After Gerstmann left it was rocky, then Kevin van Ord left and it was a joke. The only reason I visit this site, or to content. is to see how much it has dropped in quality. As a key point, the lack of depth in this review is proof of how little editorialship (yes im making this word up) goes into what they publish. IGN might be a commercial shill, but at least it is a site that actually goes in depth. Gamespot used to be my premier source of gaming information growing up, but now its just a site i visit when I want a good laugh. If they delete this comment then that is sheer proof of how much of a joke this site has become. Way to shit the bed.

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garysingh34

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I think it's fine to have subjective views come into a review. Problem is the reviewer they assigned to this game. 23 hours plus 20?

Ds3 warranted gamespots best reviewer onto this game as its a unique game that many of its unique fans consider close to flawless (especially ds1). They should have paid Kevin Vord to do it!

Discrediting it's score for the reasons mentioned in the review is inconsistent and disproportionate with previous reviews for souls games.

Without having played it yet I know ds3 should be assigned a score of what is universally considered a 9 or better.

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aiat_gamer

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@garysingh34:

"I played and finished Dark Souls III. It is great, and also the least interesting and safest game in the Souls line, including Bloodborne. I would have given Dark Souls III an 8, and still may if I get the time to write about it."

Kevin himself.

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Hellcanwait

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I'll give this review a 1/10.

I learned nothing, nothing at all about ds3 from this review.

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666Rich666

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@Hellcanwait: because the reviewer followed a walkthrough

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robing9126

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Edited By robing9126

I dont mind a poor review. And lets face it compared to DS1 and DS2 this is a poor review - however the review does not justify the rating of 8. The TWO cons listed are similar cons to DS1. On top of that DS1 had frame rate issues and the PC version barely worked. If this is about lack of innovation (as other poor reviews have pointed out) then fair enough, but this review does not make mention of that, so why the poor score?? Is it because it ends on a whimper not a bang? Then list that in the cons! This review does not make logical sense....unless there is something about the game that the reviewer is not mentioning which merits such a low score......

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666Rich666

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Edited By 666Rich666

@robing9126: No mention of weapon arts, or the way the mana bar is back... I dont think this guy has played demon's souls, let alone understood the series as a whole, so how did they let him review the game, rather than giving it to a more senior staff member? I give gamespot a 3/10

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KayeMeep

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@robing9126: *sigh*

This again. Why does everyone think that 8 is a horrendous low score? It's one of the highest scores possible. There are only 2 higher than it. It even says "Great" right next to the giant glowing 8. If it was a low score, he wouldn't be calling it "Great." Low scores are between the bottom of the barrel 1 through to 5. 6 is mid-range, typically indicating mediocrity but not necessarily poor or irredeemable. 7 is typically good, but not great. Some scales work differently, like the IMDB where any integer in the 7 range is considered very good if not great whereas anything 8 and above is considered stellar/amazing. But there isn't a single 10 point scale in existence where 8 is not a high, respectable score. I thought the whole "8 is a low score that means something is terrible!" argument died out years ago...

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IceVagabond

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@kayemeep: I hate to rain on your transparent and rather histrionic attempt to sound "smart" on the internet, but your logic is fundamentally flawed. The person you're responding to was referring to the grade on which this game series- and this game- is typically graded on. Moreover, the average score for a game is NOT a "5" just because it's the median number here- even in the GameSpot FAQ, they mention a 7 being the "normal" score, and the mean score being between 7 and 8. And yes, 80% can be considered a bad grade- in academia, for instance, 80% is not anywhere near "respectable" or "high", and any good student laments such a score. The fact that you said 8/10 is one of the "...highest scores possible" is quite frankly kind of silly. There are great swathes of games with that score, perhaps more so than any other score (other than perhaps 7).

I might also add that your accusations of them saying that "8/10 = terrible" is a strawman argument, and what I'd call a pretty good indication that you understand well yourself that your own logic is garbage. I'll agree with you that there's an overreaction about the score, and hell, 8/10 is about what I'd give the game myself having played the Japanese version- but don't come in here arguing using faulty reasoning and logical fallacies.

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KayeMeep

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@IceVagabond:

I admit I came across as a bit jumpy and have apologized, but I was legitimately asking for a justification as to why 8 was a bad score. There's no need to be so damn condescending yourself. I got my answer from the OP and apologized for coming off as jumpy.

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Hellcanwait

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@kayemeep:

the kid reviewing this said in the lobby that ds3 is better than ds2, ds2 scored a 9 and ds3 an 8.

Kevin VanOrd spend about 80 hours on ds2 before reviewing it, this kid could only manage 40 before reviewing ds3.

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Isaac_Redfield

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@Hellcanwait:Dark Souls 2 was also a lot longer. Many people have finished this game in 25 hours or less, so no, 40 isn't really a short amount of time, especially if you've played the previous games. The only other Souls game this is longer than is Demon's.

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666Rich666

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@Hellcanwait: because he folowed a walkthrough

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robing9126

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@kayemeep: I agree with you that 8 is not a low score. However in the context of previous souls-like games it is a shockingly low score. In a video interview on this site the reviewer did mention it was close to a 9 but in the end he settled on an 8. My problem is that there is little justification for the score in he review (unlike in the video I just mentioned) and in the cons list. Now another site gave DS3 a 7, which is fine, but the difference was that the score was completely argued and justified - that's the difference.....

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KayeMeep

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@robing9126: Ahh, k. Sorry if I misread you or appeared jumpy, wasn't my intention but looking back I could've worded it nicer. Still, it's likely different largely due to reviewer. Everyone rates things differently, of course.

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robing9126

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@kayemeep: np...all good :-)

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doccobb

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So i loved bloodborne but never played a souls game is it much harder or similar enough that id like it these are not my sort of games but i loved bloodborne so muc h i want to play it but still on the fence on ehether to get it ir not any suggestions?

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robing9126

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@doccobb: Id start with Ds1 at least and the lore does link between DS1 and DS3 (bit like silent hill 1 and 3)

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darksouls

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@doccobb: I've played every installment and if you liked Bloodborne, I think you'd like this one.

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rightyouare

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Edited By rightyouare

@donmega1: Comments like yours should be getting more up-votes. Now that you have mentioned it Mike Hardy's review actually has no substance to it.

All he has told me there are 3 out of 30 probably (usual Dark Souls boss number) repetitive boss fights and the camera is an issue.

Massive point about the camera though, at 2:55 in the video where he complains, the camera is perfect isn't? I might be missing something but if that was the worst camera angle he could find he was fishing big time. Can someone explain to me why it was bad please? Iv'e experienced the 360 degree flip around in the other games why didn't he show that?

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Haanabi89

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@rightyouare: the bad camera angles usually only persist in awkward spots, like underneath a boss or when youre against a wall and try to face the camera outwards. Personally ive never had an issue with camera angles in any souls game.

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xantufrog

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Edited By xantufrog  Moderator  Online

@rightyouare: the video is just background eye candy - that footage at 2:55 isn't showing the bad camera angles. What happens is the reviewer writes a review, and then someone makes a video, and then someone (sometimes not even the reviewer) reads the reviewers text aloud.

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Buck_Swaggler

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So DS2 is a 9? And this is a full point worse?

I doubt that.

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robing9126

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@Buck_Swaggler: I love DS2....but I cannot fathom from the review why DS3 would get such a downgrade.....makes no logical sense

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Edited By darksouls

@Buck_Swaggler: I find it hard to believe that as well.

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Dark Souls III

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
Great

Average Rating

404 Rating(s)

8.4
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