Are you up for challenge of ‘Dark Souls III’?

Are you up for challenge of ‘Dark Souls III’?

Many modern games want to be beaten.

They’ve been designed from the ground up to facilitate player success, with adjustable difficulty levels — even mid-game if you’re having trouble — extensive tutorial and hint systems, abundant save points and checkpoints, and the right tools at hand whenever they’re needed.

This isn’t a dig. Games are meant to be entertaining and fun, so greasing the wheels often helps keep players coming back for more.

But sometimes you want something a little different, something more challenging.

And that’s where From Software’s “Souls” series comes in — including the latest and possibly last entry, “Dark Souls III.”

In these games, there’s no coddling of the weak, no hand-holding, no mercy.

Just harsh reality, albeit a reality where swords and sorcery hold sway, where monsters are dangerously real, and where survival demands blood, sweat and tears.

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There’s no tutorial — just some bare-bones instruction on how to walk, block and swing a weapon. No map; no radar; no direction on where to go or what to do. No pause button to save your skin when your sweaty fingers start slipping on the controls. No way to go back in time when you realize you messed up somewhere and your sorcery teacher has left and isn’t coming back.

Progress requires taking risks, sometimes even forcing you to push on when all your restoratives are gone and a single stumble could waste hours of effort, in the simple hope of unlocking a shortcut or reaching a new bonfire — a beacon of hope and rebirth in a cruel and unforgiving world.

And let not your hard-won success in “Dark Souls III” give rise to hubris and carelessness, as these sins are oft punished quickly and unsparingly. The Internet — YouTube especially — abounds with examples of players who fell victim to feelings of invincibility. (For a quick example, see the video I've attempted to embed at the end or click here.)

The game series is regarded by many as so challenging that words from Dante’s “Inferno” should be inscribed on the game boxes: “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

My take is somewhat different. I prefer the cliche, “It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game.”

“Dark Souls 3” doesn’t act like a game world. It is an alternate reality where the challenge stems from the simple truth that a human being — with or without arms and armor, magical spells or the blessings of a god — dropped into a world of dragons, demons and murderous undead is not going to have an easy time of it.

With reality comes depth. You can be who you want to be, within reason. Character design — male or female, tall or short, skinny or fat — is the least of it. An honorable knight clad in full plate while wielding sword and shield? You can be it. A wizened sorcerer dressed only in loose robes? That too. A holy cleric capable of smiting foes through divine miracles? Yep, even that. All of the above throughout your journey? Yes, though I don’t recommend it, as too much diversity can be as detrimental as too much specialization.

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Regardless, such choices impact performance. After all, a pyromancer spamming fireballs can make short work of a horde of slimes — foes a sword-wielding knight must approach most cautiously — while that same knight may quickly slay a fiery gargoyle that the pyromancer’s spells have little chance against.

Standard game elements — health, stamina and mana bars, as well as damage indicators and targeting HUDs — are only there because they represent things you would know, or at least guess at, if you were really the character you control.

To win in battle requires wit and restraint, not wild swinging, unless you wish to come to a quick and bloody end. Every swing of the blade or stab of the spear, every block with the shield or rolling dodge costs stamina. And as stamina falls, defense weakens. Thus, “Dark Souls III” is a game of patience, of waiting for the opportunity to strike true, then backpedaling desperately to avoid reprisal. And doing so over and over until the foe falls.

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Strangely, though this can be considered a single-player game, you don’t have to go it alone — and you also may be plagued by invasive opposition. Other players — as well as NPCs — may be summoned from alternate worlds to help you do battle, though hostile players may also intrude, seeking your death for their own gain. Changes to this system are truly what distinguishes the latest game from its predecessor, “Dark Souls II.”

Now, up to six players can take part in a single session, with any of that number being friend or foe. And the system can be manipulated so that real-life friends are among those summoned.

Perhaps my words have dissuaded you, though I hope not. After all, haven’t you ever wished to embark on some fantastic adventure, to triumph against adversity, to truly rise up as a powerful champion? Would you truly quail from the idea just because it might be difficult, especially when it’s a game with no lasting consequence but which may fill you with a genuine sense of achievement?

Play “Dark Souls III.” You’ll thank yourself.

About ‘Dark Souls III’

PC, Xbox One, PS4
M for mature



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