Dark Souls 3 finally gets its international release and fans everywhere can get ready to “Praise the Sun” and tell noobs to “Git Gud” all over again. Was it worth the wait?
Game: Dark Souls 3
Publisher: Bandai Namco
(Review copy provided by publisher)
If you’re experiencing some deja-vu right about now, that’s understandable. After all, we first published our Dark Souls 3 review last week after I spent quite a few hours in Lothric being murdered over and over again, finding hidden shortcuts, shiny loot and gradually buffing my abilities to finally be able to take down a menagerie of giant, overpowered horrors. You can read all about that in my first impressions here. This part of the review will cover the parts that we’d left hanging and finally award the game a score.
Why did we leave some threads hanging? Dark Souls 3’s international release has been a point of some contention with the fan base. It initially came out in Japan on March 24th 2016, a whole 3 weeks before its international release on April 12th. This might not be such a problem but for the fact that importers quickly discovered that the Japanese release had full English voice acting. For myself as a reviewer it also proved a quandary. We got our review copy through a week after the Japanese release and were told that the patch we were to install, bringing the game up to version 1.01, was the “Day One” patch – a suggestion that this was how everyone would find the game come the 12th. As I mentioned in part one of the review, the game at that point had some serious performance issues including horrendous texture pop in and some massive frame drops. Add to that the fact that the online portion of the game, arguably an important part of the Dark Souls experience, simply wasn’t working (at least on PlayStation – I’ve seen some PC players streaming their games on YouTube with online functionality intact) then it begs the question – how can I, as a reviewer, accurately give you, the reader, my thoughts on the final product when I feel, to say the least, disappointed? At the time we published that review, my score sat at a provisional 6.5/10.
I’m pleased to say that my feelings have been swayed in the days since we published that. Bandai Namco put a v.1.03 patch online last week which improved the games performance no-end, delivering a solid 30fps in most section with mild drops noticeable when entering larger areas – nowhere near the crushing performance problems of the 1.01 build. Some texture pop in is still noticeable but, again, this is massively reduced. A pleasing improvement then, as the performance issues were ruining what is a stunningly beautiful game. As I previously noted, the visuals are better than they’ve ever been, benefiting hugely from the updated engine From Software developed for Bloodborne. Draw distance is impressive and has allowed the design and flow of the game world to open up more than in previous games, even Bloodborne. It makes Lothric feel alive; being able to stand at the ruined edge of the castle and look out over the Undead Settlement, across the Road of Sacrifices and over to the Cleansing Chapel is, in a word, breathtaking.
The online elements of the game have now also been turned on, making the world feel more alive. White phantoms flit around, a glimpse into the game worlds of other players. Bloodstains on the ground can be touched to see how people have met their fate and messages can be left or read, some offering help for players, some duping others into putting a foot out of place and coming to a sticky end. Of course, you can still play offline and not have what some may consider to be clutter, but you’d then miss out on the multiplayer elements as well. There’s the usual “Jolly” co-op, the ability to summon other players into your world to help take down a particularly troublesome boss, but there is also the threat of PvP invaders, players who enter your game world through your co-op summons with the intent to murder you to death. As with everything Dark Souls, there is a heavy risk/reward mechanic in play here. Summon a co-op partner and risk invasion? Invade someone’s world and kill them for big rewards, but expend a Cracked Red Eye Orb in the process? There are even more nuances to this which are introduced as you explore the game and join different factions and, as someone who normally plays the Souls games offline, the online experience is like nothing found in other titles. Teaming up with a group of other players to try and take down an invader who had camped out near an angry giant who wanted nothing more than to make hummus out of our bodies was a great experience and it’s almost a shame that you can’t drop in and out of it, relying instead on using items which might not always work as you’d hoped.
Visually breathtaking, Dark Souls 3 is a worthy end (allegedly) to one of the most intriguing and groundbreaking games series of the last ten years. Where it excels, however, it disappoints by not being as fresh as its predecessors. Reuse of assets, animation and audio from other games is more than apparent and its “Greatest Hits” feel doesn’t deviate much from the core mechanics in the way that it’s most immediate cousin Bloodborne did, or even take the design concept to new places like the excellent side-scrolling “Souls-like”, Salt & Sanctuary. As an accessible entry to the series, however, it’s a great jumping on point for newcomers looking for a challenge and old hats looking to expand the series lore will relish the chance to Praise the Sun one last time.