There are no “bullet sponges” here. They hit you for half your health bar? Guess what, you can hit them back for almost the same. You’ll die a lot, and unlike many other games, there isn’t an overly generous checkpoint system.
But know this: My kid (with some SunBro assistance from me) beat Dark Souls 2 -including DLC – when he was 11. He just finished Dark Souls 3 last weekend. He’s 13.
That said, after hundreds of hours poured into Dark Souls 3, here is my brief review.
Lets start with the negative stuff first:
The Poise system is badly designed (there is, last I checked, a belief among the community that the Poise system in fact doesn’t function at all. There is supposedly code in the game that would allow for a functional Poise system, but it was removed or ‘switched off’ before release. The developers, to my knowledge deny this, which is fine. But then it means they handled the mechanic really, really poorly.)
“It’s working as intended.” Then you intended it to work badly…
What is Poise, and why does it matter?
Every time you hit an enemy, you have a chance, depending on their Poise and your weapon, to interrupt their movement (preventing them from dodging, running, rolling, and most importantly – attacking.)
This is called staggering. The movement is interrupted and they get hit. A staggered enemy is a helpless enemy. A dead enemy.
This system applies to you as well as the enemies in game.
How Poise used to work: In past Dark Souls games you could wear armor that would raise your poise, making it more difficult to stagger you and disrupt your attacks.
How it works now: It doesn’t. Any enemy can interrupt most any attack with any weapon you use.
At first that might not seem so bad, until you get to the second mistake of Dark Souls 3 – and possibly my biggest complaint with the game.
Absolutely every enemy attacks faster than you can (and has longer reach), no matter what weapon you are using. They have a greatsword the size of a house? The can initiate an attack with that faster than you can stab with a dagger. Their dagger? Will hit you while your greatsword whiffs the air in front of their face.
So, if you’re the kind of player that likes to trade hits with enemies… you will ALWAYS be staggered.
Your only option now is to dodge out of the way of everything, all the time. And that’s fine. If that’s the playstyle you want to choose. People have been doing it that way since Demon Souls. But there was always a choice.
I like to be a fast-rolling ninja. But there are also times when I get sick and tired of this game’s crap and want to throw on some heavy armor, pull out a flaming ultra greatsword, and go to town!
In the past, you could choose heavy armor, and a greatsword, and exchange hits with an enemy. Yes it would hurt you, but you would hurt them more. An entirely viable playstyle that no longer works.
And fine. That’s how this game is supposedly designed. But the claim that Dark Souls has such a deep combat system? I don’t think that’s true with this installment.
For a game that is in large part based on combat… That’s a pretty big step back.
One more complaint:
The covenant system. This is no big deal if you’re not a trophy hunter. It’s entirely possible to play the game the entire way through and enjoy it without ever messing with the majority of covenants.
But if you’re after the Platinum trophy? Get ready to grind. A lot. Because while the multiplayer system has been improved over games of the past, there’s still a couple broken covenants that will require either a LOT of sitting around waiting to be summoned, or grinding. Expect an average of 6 hours killing the same enemies over and over and over and over and over and over…
(I’m looking at YOU Blades of the Darkmoon… )
OK, so what’s good?
Pretty much everything else.
The environments are beautiful, and fun to explore. I can’t think of a single area where I arrived and went “UGH. This again.” (In the first Dark Souls, I found pretty much everything after Sen’s Fortress to be cheap and tedious.)
The weapons and armor, everything really, looks amazing.
There is plenty of enemy variation, and they make sense for the environments in which they are found.
Multiplayer is always open to opinion. I think it’s fairly balanced if you play smart. Others will disagree. If you’re a whiner and don’t like being outnumbered when you invade, you won’t be thrilled with how Dark Souls 3 handles things.
Matchmaking is much improved. You can co-op with your friends easily this time around thanks to password matchmaking.
Finally, one of my favorite improvements: For the first time ever, all armor sets are useful! You no longer need to upgrade them. And they are ALL functional. The majority of weapons are viable as well.
The developers have given you an incredible armory to choose from, and it all works. Even the poorer weapons are adequate for handling in game enemies.
Bottom line: Is it fun? Yes. Is it frustrating? Somewhat often. Is it worth buying? Yes. Are there other games like it that are better? No.
Do I harbor resentment towards the developers? A bit!
If I were to score it, I’d start with a 10 for all the amazing things this game gets right. Then I’d take away 3 points for the broken combat and settle around a 7. Yes, this game has a whole lot going for it. But you’re gonna have to put up with some unnecessary (in my opinion) frustration to enjoy it.