There are really only three reasons not to play this game, so I want to list them real quick and then use the rest of the review to convince you why they still don't matter. That's how good Dark Souls 3 is. So, if you don't like:
- Dark fantasy
- Difficult games, or
- Minor technical and gameplay annoyances,
Then Dark Souls 3 might not seem like the best game for you... but you'd be wrong. Personally, I'm not even really a fan of dark fantasy- I don't like the feelings of desolation, depression and despair that the genre brings up in me, but DS3 does it in such a way that you really feel connected to the game world and its plight- you do feel what the world is feeling, but even though it's a world of zombies, dragons and magic, you end up having a very real connection with it... so with every challenge you overcome and every boss you vanquish, you feel like you are actually doing something to rid this world of suffering.
The difficulty definitely plays a part in that. If you're a veteran of the Souls series, you're no stranger to the "game over" screen... and this experience is no different. You will die a lot, but every time you die, you are resurrected with the most important resource of all- information. When you go back and finally figure out how to get past a particularly difficult encounter, you're gifted with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and it's so much more rewarding than the "press X to kill this enemy" experience that plagues so many modern games.
My point is that this game is so immersive that it gives you real-world punishment and reward in the form of emotion, which is why the third point listed above (minor technical and gameplay annoyances) is actually probably worst fault of DS3. When the framerate stutters and pulls you out of the world for a moment, it's frustrating. Luckily, this is rare, but since the rest of the experience is so reliant on immersion, it definitely stings when it does happen. Another gripe as far as gameplay goes is the fact that you have to return to the "hub" of the game (Firelight Shrine) to level up. In past iterations, it was possible to do this at the checkpoint-esque bonfires scattered throughout the world, so you actually retained that feeling of being alone in the world with only your wits to save you. Returning to the Shrine (which you will inevitably do as soon as possible to level up) is another thing that breaks immersion, and I found it to be annoying.
With that being said, everything else about this game is basically perfect, so it makes those minor annoyances just that- minor. I loved the new concept of "weapon arts," which makes every weapon you use feel unique- for instance, long bows allow you to sort of "snipe," while short bows let you act much more nimbly. Using big, two handed weapons gives you more power, while dual wielding lets you make quick, deadly strikes while remaining mobile... the system essentially lets you play to your own strengths by rewarding your individual play style, and it works wonderfully.
The game is absolutely gorgeous, and while some environments may seem like repeats at first glance (looking at you, poison swamp), the insane level of detail put into them makes them so much fun to explore even if you have seen the "template" before.
Overall, you really can't go wrong with Dark Souls 3, even if you just give it a Redbox rent to see if you can handle the dark fantasy, difficulty and minor annoyances... Chances are, you absolutely will. This is definitely one of the best games that has come out in a very long time.
Finally, I'd like to give a massive thanks to Namco Bandai for providing me with a unique review press-kit in order to publish this review summary. I've attached some of the pictures below - it's a fantastically crated wooden box which holds a variety of press goodies. You should also note that only 1000 were made, how amazing is that? Not just rare, but definitely something that many Dark Souls veterans are sure to enjoy.