Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City Review

Contains spoilers…

The Edge of Madness

The Darksign burns radiant in the sky, casting a scornful vigil upon a realm of dizzying purgatory.  Inverted towers warp to the impetus of the abyss below. An ominous haze cloaks vengeful spirits, brimming with fervor to extinguish the light.  Ash covered cobblestone streets, hover delicately over infinite night, while nature surges to reclaim dominion of this twisted fantasy world.  The Ashen One must descend once more into madness, to the world’s end, in search of the Dark Soul of Humanity…

Once more, FromSoftware seeks to push sanity’s fragility to its limits, by casting the player into the chaos of converging worlds, beyond the age of fire, in search of a fabled city.  Harrowing abyssal fiends swipe and slash with savage aggression, and labyrinthine structures ebb and flow atop a nebulous landscape.

Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City is much broader in scope than its predecessor Ashes of Ariandel, and pays homage to prior installments in the series in regards to level design and evasive lore references, scattered throughout each environment.  If this truly is the final piece of content for the series, devout fans should find themselves frequently nostalgic.  Much of the narrative complexities of the series are revealed, while more existential themes remain open for interpretation.  Dark Souls’ complex timeline is explored in layers, as the player delves deeper into the unknown.  Exploring the intricacies of each new environment evoked feelings of awe, as I traversed prodigious Gothic architecture, enigmatic ruins reclaimed by lush nature, haunted cathedrals and surreal cities sinking slowly into murky depths.  The Souls series has contributed some of the most intricate and innovative level designs in video game history, and The Ringed City is no exception; in fact, it may be the pinnacle of the series in this regard.  Complementing the breathtaking visual aesthetic appeal of the game is an unforgettable soundtrack, comprised of hauntingly operatic vocals, backed by opulent, sweeping string arrangements.  Bombastic compositions follow the pace of the action, catalyzing the intensity of each nightmarish face off.  Compelling attention to detail within the world, coupled with sophisticated themes, culminate in the most immersive experience I’ve had with a game since Bloodborne.

Transcendent Terrors

Grotesquely bloated knights, with black hole faces, thrash unwieldy cleavers with hysterical aggression.  Phantom shades materialize and ferociously hurl themselves at me, while I attempt to fend off waves of skeletal phantoms.  Cadaverous angels launch luminous projectiles of expeditious lethality, and gargantuan demons unleash an unrelenting whirlwind of razor-sharp precision.  Enemy design is equally innovative and reminiscent of prior installments, which befits the lore and provides unprecedented challenges for the player to confront. Meticulously rendered weapons and armor push the boundaries of the game’s art direction to an inconceivable, industry defining level.  Merciless new enemy attack animations result in terse moments of respite, which require the player to skillfully utilize their moveset to endure. Often, I found myself brimming with enthralling trepidation, as I narrowly progressed from one encounter to the next.  Subsets of the series’ most devoted fans, desiring a more challenging experience, should find themselves pleasantly surprised.   

Expanded attack animations for the player include attacking from an an elevated position, often resulting in an incredibly satisfying impale animation as the enemy writhes in anguish. Increased verticality within the environment provides players with ample opportunity for exploitation of the aforementioned animations, in both PvE and PvP scenarios. Robust additions to the player’s arsenal, include some of the series’ most impressive and gratifying entries to date, such as banners, door shields, hammers and paired greatswords (that’s right).  Patch 1.11, in conjunction with The Ringed City, has introduced several alterations to the meta, especially in regards to PvP, by improving bleed and poison buildup infusions, reducing the weight of heavy armor and buffing heavy weapons.  These alterations, coupled with the addition of three new PvP arenas and password matchmaking, revitalize core game mechanics resulting in countless hours of replay value.  

Verdict

A Hallowed Fairwell

Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City is a dark fantasy, painted in apocalyptic detail.  Echoes of atrocity and damnation pierce through the world and its otherworldly inhabitants.  Rich content, viscous encounters and mesmerizing ambiance, culminate in these final hours of FromSoftware’s remarkable Souls series.  Perhaps this is the end of the Ashen Ones tale, but the fond memories of a flickering flame prevailing through the darkest of nights, will be remembered for years to come.

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8.8

Pros Cons
+Impeccable level design and ambiance -Relatively short 
+Innovative and challenging boss encounters
+Gripping lore revelations
Developers: FromSoftware, SIE Japan Studio, Shirogumi Inc.
Publishers: Bandai Namco Entertainment, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sony Corporation, Atlus, FromSoftware, Atlus USA

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

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