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Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
Score: 80%
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO Games America, Inc.
Developer: FromSoftware
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 6 (Online)
Genre: RPG/Action/Online

End of an Era:

Itís difficult to predict what kind of legacy the Souls series will leave behind; while each entry, spinoff, and spiritual successor has gone down in the public record as a high-quality experience, it has kept its sights aimed at satisfying a relatively small share of the role-playing market. Each entry is capable of inspiring both groveling adoration and blinding hatred. The series as a whole will likely be remembered as such, despite the influence it has had on development over the years of its existence. With the release of Dark Souls III: The Ringed City, developer FromSoftware sends its flagship franchise out on a high note. It isnít the culmination of years of experience and knowledge you might expect it to be, but it is a worthy end, and a must-play for anyone who enjoys the series.

Paradise Lost:

A word of warning, first. From recommends that adventurers seeking to experience Dark Souls III: The Ringed City be at least level 100. I think thatís incredibly generous, but take that with a grain of salt; Iím not the best at Souls games. You can get to the titular Ringed City from a new bonfire near the Kiln of the First Flame or from the Painted World, at the bonfire near Sister Friede. I would suggest you ensure that youíre as prepared as humanly possible, as this is, in more ways than one, the end of the line.

Slave Knight Gael seeks the Dark Soul of Humanity, and it has taken him to the literal end of the world. Naturally, youíre in hot pursuit, and you eventually and inevitably end up at the eponymous Ringed City, a formerly opulent but now crumbling wasteland populated almost exclusively by individuals whose torment has driven them over the brink of madness. Itís a haunting, labyrinthine nightmare, which, of course, is the general idea behind the series in general. Whatís worse is the legion of spectral horrors occupying this forsaken place, numbering in the infiniteÖ

Showing and Telling:

Dark Soulsí particular brand of implicit storytelling goes through a bit of a forced shakeup in Dark Souls III: The Ringed City. Subtext still absolutely reigns supreme, but for this final outing, character finally gets its chance to upstage setting. I wonít give anything specific away; I can ruin in far more words what the game elegantly does with spectacularly few. What I will say is that the final encounter is about the most natural, organic marriage of expectation and delivery. In a word, it is perfect.

As far as the classic Souls gameplay formula goes, The Ringed City doesnít break any new ground. It knows what the fans want, and delivers in spades. Of course, itís brutally difficult. Of course, each new discovery is a macabre delight. And of course, each bonfire found is the relief of tension redefined. The classic risk/reward systems are still in place, as they should be, and the experience generally comes across as fair but immensely unforgiving. A handful of new enemy types (one in particular that I wonít describe in specifics) force you to think outside the box in terms of your approach; their collective awareness and incredible range make most of your options hopelessly unviable. Itís an interesting approach, but it may turn off some players; the patterns most of us have grown accustomed to just donít work in some of these encounters, and your only alternatives do not play to the seriesí strengths.

Sun Bros Forever:

As far as the Souls series is concerned, Dark Souls III: The Ringed City is almost on par with Artorias of the Abyss, which many (myself included) consider to be the best of the seriesí add-ons. From all the potential ends that we could have gotten, The Ringed City is arguably the best of them.

Iíve never denied the quality of the Souls series, but I have worried on occasion about its longevity. I understand and even applaud Fromís decision to pull the plug at this point. Any further iteration along the same trajectory as the last few releases, and the unthinkable would have happened Ė it would have worn out its welcome. It is best for them to finish strong and focus their immeasurable talents elsewhere. Considering their body of work over the last eight years in particular, I canít wait to see what they do next.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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