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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Dark Souls III.

Transcript Edit

Let me say right out of the gate that you can call me Billy Blue Biased Bollocks on this one. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on Dark Souls, you can hop off to Jimmy Neutral, the sexless gamer's Youtube channel, so he can whine about getting murdered with knives over and over again as he scratches the disappointing, little nubs that one day, god willing, will become his balls. 

I haven't got the slightest idea what Dark Souls III would be like for a newcomer to the series. I imagine it would be like meeting your girlfriend's family in Newcastle. You get talked at like you're supposed to know what they're on about for an hour and then get brutally killed with sticks. 

But Dark Souls is my comfort zone. It's the big, squishy arm chair full of lost pocket change and razor wire that I can always settle into whenever I'm bored, stressed out, coming down from a bad trip or being held captive by Syrian revolutionaries. Actually it came in handy that time cause the Syrian revolutionaries had been having a terrible time with the Hydra until I showed them where to get the rusted iron ring. The point is: this is all coming from a fan, so expect me to complain about how formulaic it's gotten while simultaneously bitching about everything that's different. 

Dark Souls wouldn't be Dark Souls if it wasn't as open and transparent with its story as a cocaine dealer in a police interview room. So let me provide a little cheat sheet here: the world of Dark Souls is caught in an endless cycle of fire and dark, and each game takes place in the final days of a dwindling age of fire. Someone must either link the fire to postpone the inevitable or just toss it all in and get a dark age going, sort of like the choice between a Clinton and Trump presidency. 

In Dark Souls III however, all the lads whose job it was to oversee the linking process have buggered off to a man, having perhaps reached the reasonable conclusion that we're three games in now and the whole age of fire / age of dark thing doesn't seem to be working out. Maybe it's time to hang this stupid business and try an age of spiders or an age of meringue. Consequently people like you have risen from their graves as unkindled, to jolly well talk some sharp, pointy sense into them. Being unkindled is not quite the same as being undead as you were in the last two games. Firstly, you use embers rather than humanity to get out of the diminished condition after death, and secondly, that's it. So the game can witter on about how the stakes have totally been raised cause you're called something different and you spend the game descending from the final castle area rather than ascending towards it. But the fundamentals are all in their usual places: it's Dark Souls, you explore themed areas in state of some advanced decrepitude, chew on a boss fight or two, then move on to the next. 

First impressions were good, though. Dark Souls 1 provided a nice balance of the two major food groups, dudes in armour and fucked up monsters with hammerhead sharks instead of toe nails. And I talked shit about Dark Souls 2 for getting kinda tubby on the generic dudes in armour diet. So when Dark Souls III's introductory boss fight was against generic dude in armour #8047, I was lured into a state of eye-rolling resignation that swiftly ended after I got him down to half health and a giant, black monster bogy the size of a minibus burst out of his nostrils and slapped me about like I was a stress ball and it had gone three months without masturbating. That rather sets the tone for what will probably turn out to be Dark Souls' final installment in which the decrepitude is decreping it up even more than usual, the enemies rife with physical corruption and body horror, kinda like the visual theme Bloodborne was going for. And incidentially, isn't it impressive how can trot out these massive open world games with such suspicious frequency? I ain't judging, I've been using the same imp graphic for eight years, but I do get a sense that Dark Souls is repeating itself quite a bit. Yes, like everyone else, when Siegmeyer showed up, I had a happy little trouser accident, but only until I thought about it. 

As we all should know by now, a good sequel jumps off from the original, a bad sequel wallows in it. Dark Souls 2 jumped off, now Dark Souls III has jumped right back on again, tunneled back into Dark Souls 1 and gone to sleep. It's like they ran out of new stuff at some point and filled in the gaps by carving off some chunks from the great big ball of Dark Souls and Bloodborne that now floats around the office, occasionally commanding them to kill. 

Here comes a statement that will nail the end of my willy to the mast for all to come and pluck like a banjo string: I prefer Dark Souls 2's level design, I think it had more creativity. There's such a thing as too many cathedrals, Dark Souls III. Are the undead hordes known for holding a lot of royal weddings? 

Another thing that I found weirdly irritating was that I could just not find any weapon that was better than my starting long sword. I don't cone every rancid bum crack of these games for the sake of my cardio, I'm looking for better items and equipment so I can piece by piece replace myself with dark fantasy Robocop. And I was doing my best to get into the spirit of things, by the end I had a bottom drawer full of upgraded boss weapons I'd used for all five minutes each. Oh boy, this giant demonic axe that looks like a KFC zinger patty tied to the end of a whale's knob sure looks like the business. And then I'd take it out for a spin and discover that it was indeed the business as long as the enemies are polite enough to not stab you nineteen times while they're waiting for your character to go through all twelve steps on the mandatory pre-swing checklist. Turns out some cues have been taken from Bloodborne's combat style where being able to hit faster is more important. And a lot of enemies can only wave back and forth in stun lock like an arthritic belly dancer while I dick-slap them left and right with my whippy little longsword, appropriately upgraded with the titanite that the game showers you with like it's being plumbed through the hot taps. 

Oh yeah, there's a magic meter now, that's a new thing. So now you can actually cast soul spear more than three times before needing to lie down and a Gatorade. But it's telling that the manner in which this bold and unique franchise has chosen to innovate is to do a thing that every other RPG does. 

Frankly, I'm luke warm on Dark Souls III, which is ironic for a game that's mostly about setting yourself on fire. My first run didn't seem to take as long as in previous games, and the final boss was squitted down like an early morning fart, but then that's practically traditional at this point. And after the usual trip to the wiki to populate the traditional laundry list of shit I missed, cause if you need everything to be sign-posted then you can sod off back to Google Street View, it turned out I'd missed quite a few things, so maybe I'll feel different after I've had a chance to play it to death, which I'll inevitably do cause it's Dark Souls, and I will take whatever I can get in every slacker-lubricated hole. But I'm given to understand that From Software are declaring this the last one and that's certainly what it feels like, the last weary sigh before it lays its head down for a well-deserved sleep, followed by an idle midnight wank when the DLC comes out. 

Addenda Edit

  • Praise the buns: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • If one of those mimics took the appearance of a bonfire it'd eat like a fucking king 
  • Syrian revolution delayed until they get past Ornstein & Smough
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time

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