Wow I put this review off for way too long. It's been more than 2 years since it was released and I haven't really played it in a while. And yet some aspects of the game are still vivid in memory that I want to lose some words on.
Let me begin by saying that I really, really enjoyed my first playthrough of vanilla DkSIII. The game only disappointed me on subsequent plays. It's too linear, that makes it hard to get the most of many builds. A magician isn't much fun until the late game where their spells start to become viable. Builds that dispense of shields also have a much harder time dealing with enemies than they had in previous games, thanks to enemies being more aggressive. On the other hand the game plays a lot smoother than the previous installments of the series, and being able to elegantly dodge all kinds of attacks is very much possible even with medium armor. The drawback here is that it plays too much like an action game - bosses all just spam attack after attack, always requiring the player to learn the timings to dodge. It gets a bit old after a while and I prefered the early Souls games where each boss requires a unique straegy.
The visuals look stunning, but there are some issues. First off there's a certain lack of color in unlit areas - without a light source all textures emit the same grey-blue color. It quickly gets boring to look at. Then dark areas have the issue that they aren't really all that dark and don't necessarily require a light source, they also don't limit the draw distance very much allowing you to see far and wide in the darkest areas. It's completely missing the kind of oppressive atmosphere that DkSI and DeS featured in areas without light.
Not much to say about the games sound design. There's some awesome tracks that play during specific boss fights, but outside of those there is little to no music. But of course this fits the game very well and has been that way since Demons' Souls.
The story and lore is as vague as ever. Back in Demons' Souls and Dark Souls I whole worlds were hidden in enemy placements, item locations and item descriptions. This time From went on to top that - now those bits and pieces don't even add up anymore and it's hard to get a real sense of perspective on the world and setting of Dark Souls III. You can tell the devs didn't really care much at this point, a real shame because the formula has lot of potential as shown by earlier Souls games.
PvP in this one is a bit of a joke. Characters have lots of stamina and dodging is comparatively cheap, leading to very long matches. If you're playing normally and get invaded you may be in for a long and painful session of cat&mouse. Simply put I enjoyed the PvP in DkSII a lote more than this.
Eventually the game got its DLC expansions, and those kept the general trend of Dark Souls III being a disappointment. From embraced the "Dark Souls is hard" meme as much as they possibly could with these, making the game near unplayable without a shield in some areas. Due to the difficulty its hard to visit the areas early, kind of locking most of the new items to the late game. In the worst case you don't get much out of the new equipment unless you start a new game plus. Some of these DLC bosses are very frustrating to fight 1on1 because of ridiculously large HP pools, not leaving one much room for error in very long fights.
I know this turned into a stream of negative comments, so let me repeat again: Dark Souls III is a great game that's easily worth playing at least once. It's got great visuals in the well lit areas, smooth gameplay, a large variety of items to customize one's character with and great music where there is any. It's just missing the extra spice that made the other Souls games stand out so much.