/ April 15, 2017

First, I’ve got the Platinum on both Scholar of the First Sin and Dark Souls 3. Okay, that last part is a lie. I still need Master of Miracles for Dark Souls 3 (grinding out the Concord Kepts from the Silver Knights in Anor Londo… ) But still, I’ve been through both games more times than I can count.

So how hard is it?¬†Average. Dark Souls has this reputation for being difficult, but I don’t think it is. Yes, enemies hit hard. But so do you.

There are no “bullet sponges” here. They hit you for half your health bar? Guess what, you can hit them back for almost the same. You’ll die a lot, and unlike many other games, there isn’t an overly generous checkpoint system.

But know this: My kid (with some SunBro assistance from me) beat Dark Souls 2 -including DLC – when he was 11. He just finished Dark Souls 3 last weekend. He’s 13.

That said, after hundreds of hours poured into Dark Souls 3, here is my brief review.

Lets start with the negative stuff first:

The Poise system is badly designed (there is, last I checked, a belief among the community that the Poise system in fact doesn’t function at all. There is supposedly code in the game that would allow for a functional Poise system, but it was removed or ‘switched off’ before release. The developers, to my knowledge deny this, which is fine. But then it means they handled the mechanic really, really poorly.)

“It’s working as intended.” Then you intended it to work badly…

What is Poise, and why does it matter?

Every time you hit an enemy, you have a chance, depending on their Poise and your weapon, to interrupt their movement (preventing them from dodging, running, rolling, and most importantly – attacking.)

This is called staggering. The movement is interrupted and they get hit. A staggered enemy is a helpless enemy. A dead enemy.

This system applies to you as well as the enemies in game.

How Poise used to work: In past Dark Souls games you could wear armor that would raise your poise, making it more difficult to stagger you and disrupt your attacks.

How it works now: It doesn’t. Any enemy can interrupt most any attack with any weapon you use.

At first that might not seem so bad, until you get to the second mistake of Dark Souls 3 – and possibly my biggest complaint with the game.

Absolutely every enemy attacks faster than you can (and has longer reach), no matter what weapon you are using. They have a greatsword the size of a house? The can initiate an attack with that faster than you can stab with a dagger. Their dagger? Will hit you while your greatsword whiffs the air in front of their face.

So, if you’re the kind of player that likes to trade hits with enemies… you will ALWAYS be staggered.

Your only option now is to dodge out of the way of everything, all the time. And that’s fine. If that’s the playstyle you want to choose. People have been doing it that way since Demon Souls. But there was always a choice.

I like to be a fast-rolling ninja. But there are also times when I get sick and tired of this game’s crap and want to throw on some heavy armor, pull out a flaming ultra greatsword, and go to town!

In the past, you could choose heavy armor, and a greatsword, and exchange hits with an enemy. Yes it would hurt you, but you would hurt them more. An entirely viable playstyle that no longer works.

And fine. That’s how this game is supposedly designed. But the claim that Dark Souls has such a deep combat system? I don’t think that’s true with this installment.

For a game that is in large part based on combat… That’s a pretty big step back.