Here it is, here is my choice for the game of the year for 2016, Dark Souls 3. I’m going to assume that there are some obvious reasons for why I would hold this game in a high enough regard to give it the honour of being my game of the year. Let me get the most obvious reason out of the way, the incredible boss fights.
If there is one thing that the Souls games are known for is the boss fights, it’s a defining feature of these games, without the bosses there is no chance that Dark Souls would be as notorious as it is for the challenge that it inflicts upon those who play it. While reaching the bosses of the various areas of Dark Souls 3 can be a challenge in itself most of the time it is simply preparing you for what you are about to endure. Working my way through Irythll of the Boreal Valley was a nightmare, when I first arrived there after having defeated Wolnir on my first try. For me it was then that Dark Souls 3 truly hit that notorious point of being difficult, soon as I stepped foot on that bridge into Irythll I was met with that rather disgusting, intimidating monster known as Sulyvahn’s beast, it was part crocodile part beast but all scary. I knew from that point that it was going to be a tough fight through the area, with it more than likely ending in a painfully difficult boss fight, painful doesn’t even begin to describe the experience of defeating Pontiff Sulyvahn, this insane tyrant was easily one of the biggest challenges for me in the entire game.
The Pontiff wasn’t my favourite boss fight, though he certainly proved to be worthy of being the mid game boss of a Souls game. No my favourite boss fight of Dark Souls 3 was The Dancer of The Boreal Valley, the way she moved was so precise, so graceful, so intimidating. There are many reasons for the Dancer being my personal favourite boss of what I consider to be one of the best games of the series, the lore behind the Dancer is intriguing it’s some of my favourite lore, it would seem as though the Dancer is a member of the old royalty through being the daughter of Gwynevere, which is supported by the miracle you can transpose her soul for. I could keep talking about the Dancer for this whole post but I have plenty of other content to cover so perhaps I will go into further detail on my fascination with the Dancer another time. As a whole I think along with BloodBorne Dark Souls 3 mostly had a solid cast of bosses with only a few posing little to no threat at all, such as the Deacons, the Curse Rotted Great Wood, and the Crystal Sage. I think it would be fair to say that if all the bosses of the Souls series were ranked together, Dark Souls 3s bosses would dominate the top half alongside BloodBorne. I think for me the hardest boss of all was the Nameless King and just like the Dancer the lore surrounding his fight helped to cement his status as being one of the best Souls bosses to date. I have to give a special mention to Sister Friede and Father Ariandel, that boss fight was a thing of beauty, unfortunately the DLC The Ashes of Ariandel was too short but the main boss fight was a first for the series with it being a 3 phase 3 different health bars fight. That’s right to defeat the DLC you have to wipe out Friedes health bar 3 times, as well as Father Ariandels health bar in the second phase.
What else besides the bosses could this game have that has made it a clear winner in my mind, well a couple of different things, since I have already touched upon the lore of this game I think that would be the best aspect to discuss next. Lore is a big factor in Dark Souls, it always has been, many people have enjoyed sharing their thoughts and speculations over the years with each passing souls game, while I may not have publicly voiced my opinion about the lore over the years I have had my fair share of ideas and thoughts about the few facts From Software have given us and about the various things that From Soft has insinuated rather than solid fact. That’s part of what makes Dark Souls 3 incredible, yes there are facts in the lore in this game, it has confirmed and dismantled various beliefs amongst the community, however there are certain things that From Soft haven’t confirmed or denied. They have left much of the story to our imaginations for us to interpret the lore as we see fit, because you see our journey as the unkindled, as the ashen one is exactly that, it’s our journey and the open ended lore helps to cement your individual journey through the age of fire.
Finally, the atmosphere of this game is thick with death, danger and an unknowing. One the first run through of these games you don’t know what is round the corner, you don’t know how many enemies stand between you and victory. There is a strong under layer of emotion that can be felt in the atmosphere, the cathedral of the deep I find to be a sad solemn area, this is where Aldrich clearly turned the Deacons that were once part of the way of white. Or in Irythll where Pontiff Sulyvhan now rules through force destroying what was once a beautiful place.
Dark Souls 3 gripped me from the very beginning, it made me invest so much of my time into preserving the age of fire. Never have I felt so accomplished about beating a game, since I won the platinum trophy for this game I can truly say that I did it, I took on the danger of Lothric, I conquered all Lords of Cinder, I finally saw this long enduring journey come to an end.