Feel free to either watch the review below or read it, the old-fashioned way. I like to cater to all tastes.

Finally, the game I’ve been most looking forward to all year has arrived! Dark Souls 3. I’ve been a long-standing fan of this game series having completed Dark Souls 1 and 2. For those who aren’t aware of this series then they’re action RPG games which are not for the faint of heart or the easily frustrated. They’ve been celebrated as the most difficult games of their genre for the recent and current console generations, and the developers like to go out of their way to keep that title intact.

If you’re looking for a button mashing action RPG then Dark Souls is certainly not for you. From the outset, the combat will teach you caution, patience and planning. Hit at the wrong moment and enemy will deal massive damage in return. Drop that guard at the wrong moment, massive damage. Down to one hit left on that boss? Just go for it right? Not in this game. Attempting that last hit in haste could well lead to a “You Died” message. This is not a forgiving game. Mistakes are punished and so is bad judgement and impatience. It’s a game of tactics, of circling an opponent waiting for their guard to drop to get in a few hits before circling them again. But all of the above is, to me, what makes the games so rewarding. The feel of circling the opponent and then getting in that lethal backstab or of finally beating that boss after attempt number twenty. The satisfaction is indescribable, and something I’ve experienced in few other games to date.

So how is Dark Souls 3 compared to its predecessors you might ask? Well the first thing the veteran player will notice is the increased movement/ fighting speed, or possibly the blue screen of death, if you play on PC with an Nvidia graphics card, but more on that later. Even a character in heavy armour will attack and roll faster than previous games, Bloodbourne excluded. This leads to faster-paced battles. Your character reacts a lot faster to button presses, so when you hit the roll button before an attack, I generally find the characters does it in this game, rather than take so long building up to the action that they get hit anyway and then roll… Yes that was a pet hate of mine. The downside of faster combat is that with attacks coming faster, there’s less time to react. If you don’t stay on your toes and fail to block in time then getting hit by a vicious chain attack can be devastating to your health points and leave you reaching for that precious Estus flask or with that patronising “You Died” message. That’s right, laugh now Dark souls, but I’ll have you in the end.

Dark Souls games have always been hard but I did feel that the level design in Dark Souls 2 went slightly easier on the player, with bonfires before most bosses, linear levels and more hand holding. Dark Souls 3 is more in keeping with Dark Souls 1 in that regard with the level design also more reminiscent of Dark Souls 1, with the weaving paths and shortcuts opening back to previously visited bonfires. One of the things I wasn’t so keen on in Dark Souls 2 was just how linear the game had become, but this is thankfully fixed in Dark Souls 3 and the level design is back to Dark Souls 1 brilliance. Also, like Dark Souls 1, the bonfires are not always apparent; you’ll have to explore to find some of them.

Combat difficulty is hard to judge for me, as I’m used to the mechanics and the general tactics of the Dark Souls gameplay. I’ve played all the previous games and Dark Souls is like an old friend to me now. To the point that I can predict where most of the enemies will be placed as soon as I enter an area for the first time. The logic is simple; take a look around the area/ room, judge which is the worst possible place for an enemy to be and there’s almost certainly one there. If you enter a room and see the white glow of an item in the centre of it, expect a trap, and if there are any blind spots, there’s almost certainly an enemy there lying in wait, it’s all standard Dark Souls commonsense. I haven’t yet come across any cheap shots in this game, giant crossbow bolts in the face or boulders down the stairs, and I’m almost disappointed by that, but perhaps I just know Dark Souls too well these days.

Dark Souls 3 certainly isn’t as new player friendly as Dark Souls 2, but I don’t feel it’s out of reach to the new player. While I enjoyed the first boss, only about ten minutes into the game, I will admit that for a first-time player, it could provide an early hurdle. Two hits from the boss’s second form kills, and while its attacks are heavy, slow and easy to dodge for a veteran player, a new player, still learning what the ropes even are at that point, could find it a major impasse. True, Dark Souls is designed to be a challenging game that pushes the player to really excel themselves, but I feel this lesson might be better left for the hour mark over the ten minute mark, for new players.

 The graphics are stunning even on the low settings. Due to numerous reports of crashes, in most cases reported to be linked to Nvidia graphic cards/ drivers, I haven’t raised my settings any higher than that. The low down on the issues reported is that on medium or high settings there is a danger of the game crashing whenever a bonfire is approached. Fixes for this include lowering the graphical settings to low or to use a knight character and not remove the helmet. This is disappointing to be sure, but bad launches for a PC port isn’t unheard of in the Dark Soul franchise, as the first Dark Souls game was reported to be extremely buggy on release as well. However, I bought the game regardless, aware of the issues with Nvidia compatibility. I have an Nvidia graphics card and after 6 hours of gameplay I have yet to encounter a single crash. Perhaps, I’m just lucky or perhaps the fact that I updated my drivers shortly before release has worked in my favour. Either way it’s all good from my end but if you don’t want to take the risk of a buggy release then I would suggest that you wait a few weeks until a fix is released.

Dark Souls 3 is gothic and dark and very nostalgic to the veteran player, without being a clone of any of the previous games. Some of the enemies are familiar from the previous games. The knights on the High Lothric Wall remind me of those in the Undead Parish in Dark Souls 1. A lot of the armour sets are throw backs to previous Dark Souls games and even some areas make a comeback, like my favourite Anor Londo which gets a whole new re-envisioning.

As in previous games you can summon other players to help you, but in doing so you open yourself up to invasion. There are a lot of complaints from the PVP community at the moment, stating that invasions are unfair in this game, as having active summons make a person more likely to be invaded, hence leading to a lot of instances of 2 vs 1 in favour of the person being invaded. I, however, think this is perfectly fair. I myself only use humanity/embers in order to summon help for bosses, and many people who do it are just trying to complete the level in PvE mode and have no desire to engage in PvP. If you want to aggressively invade other people’s games, who are generally just minding their own business and trying to battle their way to the end of the game, then I think you need to be accepting of the consequences and not expecting an honourable one on one battle when you’re forcing PvP on players who may not want it. There are separate ways to engage in honourable one on one duels, so it isn’t like that possibility doesn’t exist down other avenues. I’ve rarely been invaded and not at all so far in Dark Souls 3 but when I do, I’ll use any technique I can to survive which generally for me involves rushing the boss fog wall which automatically sends an invader packing. Co-op is great for when you’re struggling with a boss as some bosses are harder to defeat with certain builds so sooner or later you’re bound to have a hard time. Thankfully, in Dark Souls help is rarely far away as other players can make themselves available for co-op to help with levels and bosses. I tend to save this way of defeating bosses for a second play through as I like having the satisfaction of defeating a boss solo first but for new players being able to summon will likely be a life line in the early game, while they’re still getting their bearings.

I could write forever about this game but I’ll round it up here. If you don’t have a decently powerful PC then one of the downside of this game is that it isn’t at the moment particularly well optimised and may well find yourself with frame rate issues. If you’re unsure if your PC can handle it then you be better to either hold off for a month or so until patches are released or purchase a console copy it you can. In all other respects I’m really enjoying this game. It represents a true return to form for the franchise. Masochists will love it but if you like your games easy then this game really isn’t for you. There is not hand holding and no easy mode. You’ll die and die and die again. I love it!