The third installment in Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Dark Souls franchise is renowned for its difficulty and style of gameplay, living up to the reputation well-established by its predecessors. With the release of the new Dark Souls 3 DLC, “The Ringed City,” and the inevitable conclusion for the franchise, it is now fair to compare DS3’s overall quality with the titles before it. In terms of the two biggest features in the Dark Souls franchise, gameplay and atmosphere, how does DS3 compare with DS2?
Dark Souls gameplay is broken into two goals: Player vs. Environment (PvE) and Player vs. Player (PvP). Dark Souls 2 has a much better PvE system, allowing the player many different playthroughs of the same areas without feeling boring or redundant. The gameplay of PvP in DS3 has much less importance than it did in DS2, as the balancing of weapons and spells are grossly disproportional. DS2 did a better job creating environments that remain fresh despite multiple playthroughs and also made PvP combat fair and entertaining, no matter what your build is.
It wouldn’t be a fair contest to measure both games by the graphics, so we will examine the dreary atmospheres so infamous in Dark Souls. The visual tone of both these games are gorgeous and thought-provoking while the musical scores thrill the player and simultaneously invoke a sense of melancholy. While DS2 has much better musical themes in their environments and more memorable scenery, DS3 creates the most intense boss battles through its use of music, paying homage to past installments but still progressive enough to remain fresh.
Overall, DS3 is a flawed, yet reminiscent and satisfying conclusion. However, Dark Souls 2 had much better features for both gameplay and atmosphere, which should be odd considering the difference in capabilities. For as much disdain DS2 garners from the community, it faces no real justification because DS3 simply doesn’t measure up.