Where before the Souls games were only cryptically connected with each other, leaving the community to thread the lore together, Dark Souls 3 not only threads the narratives together but then wraps them up with a bow and some confetti. Familiar faces return, old locations are revisited and items you pick up tighten those threads.
When I was playing through Dark Souls 2, I could never find a thread that connected the first and second games. I’m sure it’s there if I were willing to dig deep enough but I would have appreciated more connectivity between the two titles. This is likely the reason I wasn’t nearly as fond of the second game as I was the first. Alternatively, Dark Souls 3 reintroduces characters, places, and much more from the original games in a smart, elegant way that doesn’t come anywhere close to feeling lazy or repetitive.
Dark Souls 3 is a veritable mishmash of Souls tropes. Each area has the satisfyingly interwoven design of the original game (while the overarching structure is more like one long, epic path). The stunning views and wide-open spaces of the sequel are inspired by Dark Souls 2, while the more pacey combat borrows from Bloodborne. It’s the perfect amalgamation of all that’s come before, and yet it doesn’t feel greater than the sum of all those parts. Instead, it feels precisely like the sum of those parts, content to look back and say ‘Hasn’t it been a blast?’ in a way that suggests it’s aware of its own finality.
Remember that Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, which gave closure to fans who felt betrayed by the main game’s conclusion? Dark Souls 3 is the equivalent, minus the orgiastic atmosphere, but with a similarly self-aware sense of humour. So many little details and lore tidbits from previous games are brought together in Dark Souls 3 that it takes on an almost reflective tone, looking back on the series’ ‘Best Bits’ and presenting them to us in a satisfying closing chapter.
The subtle continuity of the Souls series is something I’ve appreciated in my time with the games. Much like the story and lore, it’s deep if you dig hard enough and pay close attention to the world and characters around you but it doesn’t hamper the experience you’ll have.
Dark Souls as a series is likely one of the most infuriating, rewarding, gems I’ll ever play and while I don’t know if Dark Souls 3 is the best of the series, it’s one of the best games of this generation. It should be an example for games to follow and learn from. It never once made a strange change or weird choice because the fans demanded it. People never had to “demand” for anything and FromSoftware likely wouldn’t have done it. The truth is, it was a near-perfect game from the beginning and never relented, not even in the final hours.
If you’ve never played a Souls game, I’d encourage you to give the first one a shot. It’s not for everyone but the people who like it, love it.