DARK SOULS III – PC (Steam)

DARK SOULS is a series of video games for people who hate themselves.

DARK SOULS III doesn’t give a shit if you think sword and sorcery is stupid. It’ll make you love its weird, dark, gloomy world and obfuscated lore. It’ll cause your mouth to hang agape when you encounter one of its many monsters that are beautiful, horrific, and strangely logical in turn. It’ll make you shout joyous profanities when its ingenious level design loops around like some demented Möbius strip. It’ll leave you reading every item description and looking for fan theories online. You will hate yourself for this.

DARK SOULS III doesn’t care that you may have already played two very similar titles, both with the word SOULS in them. You are not allowed to tire of DARK SOULS’ gameplay, and in fact it gets better with every iteration. It will offer its usual deliberate, careful pace, swords and bows and magics, but it will also surprise you with faster gameplay. It will reward you with familiar sights (almost nostalgic), and it will still manage to stun you with new vistas and skyboxes. And then, while you’re admiring the scenery, it will kill you. You will hate yourself for this.

DARK SOULS III doesn’t consider for one second that you might not like difficult games, that you might be really terrible at video games. DARK SOULS will kill you and kill you and kill you. It will punish you for every careless mistake, every inflexible behaviour, every time you rest on your laurels. Despite its mercilessness, it will dare you to love it. And you will. And you will hate yourself for this.

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Worst of all, DARK SOULS III will make you feel a sense of accomplishment with every bonfire reached, every sweet revenge, every abomination bested. As you fall asleep later that night, savouring those accomplishments, you’ll realize they’re hollow, that doing well in a video game is about as meaningful as doing well with building a snowman. These are not bankable skills. Nonetheless, the next time you have an hour to spare, you’ll find yourself logging in to be killed and killed again until victorious. And you know what? It still feels meaningful. You will hate yourself for this.

DARK SOULS III may not be the best video game you will ever play, but it’s probably the best gameplay loop ever designed (so far). The controls are responsive, the challenges high but fair, and the exploration a perfect mix of wonder and dread. The game gives you all the tools to succeed, and rewards smart thinking, not simply fast reflexes. As such, the sense of accomplishment isn’t some sort of cognitive dissonance but rather you learning to play smarter, to outwit the game using its own rules. The game shapes you, warps you. Of course you will hate yourself for this.

DARK SOULS is probably my favourite game series, both in concept and in practice (i.e. sheer number of consumed hours). I love these games. And I hate myself for this, but not enough to deny their quality. And not enough to stop playing them over and over.

DARK SOULS III is available for every current-generation video game system and is currently $60.

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