Press Start: 'Dark Souls III' deserves recognition as one of 2016's best games
I made a mistake not including “Dark Souls III” in my favorite games of 2016 list a few weeks ago.
I'm only one man. With a full-time job, limited funds and other hobbies outside playing video games (shocking, right?), it's not exactly feasible to play every big-name game as soon as it launches. “Dark Souls III” is one I postponed picking up.
When “Dark Souls III” released in March, I hadn't even touched the series. That is something I rectified in May by playing the original “Dark Souls.” After penning my column on the top games of 2016, I got “Dark Souls III” as an early Christmas present.
I've spent close to 50 hours exploring that game, and it absolutely deserves recognition as one of the best games of the year.
“Dark Souls III” is the culmination of everything developer FromSoftware has learned creating two “Dark Souls” games, a spinoff called “Bloodborne” and the game that started it all, “Demon's Souls.”
Combat in the grim fantasy role-playing game is notoriously challenging, where even the smallest misstep can lead to quick deaths, but it's at its best in “Dark Souls III.” The game features plenty of unique enemies with different fighting styles, meaning I had to constantly learn unfamiliar foes' tricks to stay alive. The game's bosses are the series' most challenging and satisfying to fight.
The world itself is more linear, which is a blessing and a curse. In “Dark Souls” and “Dark Souls II,” I constantly got lost, which required me to consult online walkthroughs to figure out how to progress through the story. I had a couple of similar moments in “Dark Souls III,” but they were fewer and farther between.
“Dark Souls III” feels more like a singular twisting path rather than an open world. Some of my favorite moments in previous “Souls” games included opening a door only to find myself in an area I had been in hours before, making me realize I was in an interconnected world. Such moments are rare in “Dark Souls III,” but I'll take that over being hopelessly lost.
On top of fun combat, “Dark Souls III” features a high framerate that keeps the combat feeling fresh and responsive. While some of the high-octane action can get laggy, anything's better than the awful framerate constantly found in previous “Souls” games. I still get nightmares about my first trip to Blighttown.
“Dark Souls III” also has amazing environments with gorgeous views that brilliantly let you see other venues you've already conquered, and each area is packed with secrets and goodies. Covenants, which are basically factions players can join for various rewards, are streamlined and far simpler to understand.
I haven't paid too much attention to the story the “Souls” series is trying to tell. “Dark Souls III” is similar to “Destiny” in that vein; both games are dripping with lore, but players have to deliberately explore and scrutinize to figure out the secrets to their stories. For some players, I'm sure that's half the fun, but I personally enjoy just killing things and slowly but surely improving at something that pushes my gaming skills beyond their normal limits.
I have yet to beat “Dark Souls III,” but after experiencing most of what it has to offer, I'm surprised it didn't get more recognition at The Game Awards. “Dark Souls III” was a nominee in only one category: best role-playing game. “The Witcher 3's” 2016 expansion, “Blood & Wine,” claimed the award. I haven't played “Blood & Wine,” but I much prefer “Dark Souls III” over “The Witcher 3.” Then again, “The Witcher” probably appeals to a greater group of people than the punishing difficulty of “Souls.”
If I had to write it over again, “Dark Souls III” would be in the top three games I played this year, maybe even number one. I certainly hope I didn't miss any other gems this year, but we'll soon find out. I still have Christmas presents of “Deus Ex: Mankind Divided,” “Battlefield 1,” “Watch Dogs 2” and “Pokemon Moon” to play through.
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.