Fail­ure has al­ways been a fea­ture of the Souls games, and it has al­ways had se­vere con­se­quences. Dark Souls III re­tains some of its pre­de­ces­sors’ post-death pun­ish­ments: beat­ing a boss or con­sum­ing a cer­tain item trig­gers the Em­ber state, which boosts health and lets you sum­mon co-op part­ners. Die, and it’s gone. But here, death can be an as­set: we don’t want to give too much away, but suf­fice it to say that Dark Souls’ most oner­ous sta­tus ef­fect can, when com­bined with the right ma­te­ri­als and a will­ing­ness to per­se­vere, dra­mat­i­cally boost your cho­sen weapon’s dam­age out­put. As a way of sweet­en­ing the bit­ter pill of death af­ter death, it knocks Dark Souls II’s despawn­ing en­e­mies into a cocked hat.

In­di­vid­ual ar­eas are tightly de­signed, but we know all of the short­cuts by now – one-way doors, empty lift shafts, lad­ders that need kick­ing down – and we’re yet to loop back to an ear­lier area and ac­tu­ally be sur­prised by the dis­cov­ery. Well, once, but not in the man­ner to which we’ve grown ac­cus­tomed: deep in a for­est we opened a door that took us back about half an hour’s worth of progress, with three bon­fires about a minute’s walk away. Check­points aren’t quite as plen­ti­ful as they were in Dark Souls II, but there are cer­tainly more here than in its pre­de­ces­sor, where bon­fires were al­ways a few tough en­coun­ters far­ther away than you’d like. Here, they have a habit of turn­ing up just when you’re start­ing to feel like you need them.

We’re pick­ing holes, ad­mit­tedly, but that we even feel the need to speaks vol­umes about the way FromSoft­ware’s games have as­cended to a higher plane than most. When you have a seat at the top ta­ble, you nat­u­rally in­vite greater scru­tiny, and your lit­tle flaws mat­ter more than ev­ery­one else’s big ones. With Dark Souls III, Miyazaki has en­sured his stu­dio’s rep­u­ta­tion re­mains in­tact, and de­liv­ered on our ex­pec­ta­tions – al­beit a lit­tle too closely at times. He can’t help it, re­ally: there’s noth­ing like Dark Souls ex­cept for it­self, and there’s more of it out there with ev­ery pass­ing year. This, though, could be the last of it, and in the end there’s a sense of clo­sure. Not just for a cre­ator bound to a con­tract that’s maybe run longer than he’d planned, but for the player too, a warm­ing send-off for an old friend who’s mov­ing on to pas­tures new. We can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

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