Before I even begin, let me state this: Dark Souls III is a good game. I’m still playing it. Also, this isn’t a review or a preview, just a little rant on my grievances with the game so far. I’ve yet to finish it, so these are first impressions.
I’ll say it again, Dark Souls III is a fun game, with the same depth and lore as its predecessors and keeping the same style of gameplay we’ve come to expect from From Software’s titles. But it has some annoying flaws in design, particularly boss design that drive me crazy.
Enemies in Dark Souls, and I mean the normal bunch and even the NPC invaders and humans spread around the environment, are a varied sort. You have your abominations, your giant monsters, the knights and everything in between. The Cathedral of the Deep has pretty much one of every kind within its walls.
But the boss design is pretty much a one-trick pony: humanoids in armour with melee weapons, particularly swords and spears. They’re all hyper-aggressive with long reaching sweeping attacks. Some of these are great, like Darth Pontiff, as I like to call him, with twin swords and Jedi-like moves, and the Abyss Watchers, which is most definitely my favourite boss in the game. But it is a common trend in the game, particularly in the main route. The optional bosses do present more variety, such as the Curse-Rotted Greatwood, the Old Demon King and Oceiros, the Consumed King (though this last one is a necessary kill or one of the endings). This tends to box all encounters, particularly if you’re melee, in a single strategy of rolling around avoiding damage, particularly because 95% of them deal damage that you can’t completely mitigate with a shield or have such strong moves that blocking them depletes your stamina. Right now, nearing end-game I’m rocking Yorm’s Greatshield and it’s the only thing that offers decent protection and lets me block effectively. Non-human bosses give you other strategies, make you think of positioning. The only way Dark Souls III makes you do that is with environmental complications like those Bed-of-Chaos-esque poison breathers in the Dragonslayer Armour fight, which is complete nonsense!
The Lords of Cinders themselves have some issues, except the Abyss Watchers, which are amazing. For example, Aldis’ fight is in one of the most memorable Dark Souls places but the boss itself is rather bland, with very little nuance or strategy to him, just roll through the attacks and swipe at him. Yorm the Giant is a gimmick boss that dies very quickly from the anti-boss weapon you find in his arena, otherwise he takes minimal damage like most giants. Even the Twin Princes lack some impact, as it’s a simple encounter with odds stacked against you…as they all are.
But perhaps my greatest issue with the bosses and which might have had an even bigger impact on how memorable they are is the lack of boss intros. Most bosses just start after you enter their arena, without the dramatic cutscene that introduces them to you and give you that first moment of awe, something that was frankly amazing in Dark Souls, the first one. I will forever remember the cutscene to the Gaping Dragon and that of Ornstein and Smough, they were great and told you exactly what you were in for before the boss even did anything to you.
Dark Souls III has the lore, the references to the original game—quite a few in fact, yet it doesn’t feel like a retread—but it lacks the dramatic impact of that game. It’s almost as if the developers knew that the audience would know things so they didn’t put time into the presentation, the introduction of elements, characters and most importantly, bosses.
My final issue with Dark Souls III before I go is that much like Dark Souls II, there are way too many greatswords, ultra greatswords and in big weapons in general, and not enough Straight Swords or fast single hand weapons. I know they love their bulky equipment, but it would’ve been great not to end with the Broadsword as my main weapon much like I did in Dark Souls II. Also, most weapon arts are rather bland.
But to not end this in a downer, I’ll say I loved the new way of handling Estus Flasks, the allotment and reinforcing. Truly love it, same with the weapon upgrade options. They kept the good but got rid of the clunky. I’m happy with that.
I’ll be playing more Dark Souls III in the coming weeks and maybe soon I’ll have a review for it. I just needed to get these off my chest. That way you can know what I’m grumbling to myself most of the time while playing!