not bad but doesn't have the level of creativity the non-DS2 titles have. lots of areas and bosses that'll make you go "yeah, that was okay" but don't do a whole lot on their own to stand out and aren't super memorable as a result, aside from the ringed city. also i might be crazy but i thought it was a lot uglier than the first game.
I honestly didn't expect any game in the Souls series to surpass Dark Souls for me in large part due to an awareness that the most compelling aspect of that game, its rich, deeply interwoven world that is so well realised that it sears every corner of its map into your memory, is something I wouldn't again find in quite that form in any of the other three Souls games.
Dark Souls III knows it can't really compete on those terms, so instead does something completely different. It accepts a more linear path, much more linear than any of the other three Souls games by a fair margin (though still with a great deal of exploration to engage in within each individual area, never sacrificing the sense of intrigue, mystery and discovery), and engages in this style with intent; Dark Souls III is the most narrative of the Souls games, taking you on various emotional and thematic arcs in your journey across this waning land, arcs that can only exist with as much potency as they do thanks to the game knowing the order everything will be seen in. Rather than trying to be what the other games are, Dark Souls III gets it is best to be something proudly distinct.
The obvious retort here is how can you say Dark Souls III is interested in being something distinct when it has such a deep attachment to the past, bringing back so many places and characters from former games, how can that be consistent with all these references that are littered everywhere. But again, just like with the game's more intense linearity, Dark Souls III ending up this way isn't due to being lazy or cashing in on the success of the Souls series, this is intentional. These references are serving a very particular effect. In its dying days this world is crashing in on itself, colliding with other worlds, time and space becoming unhinged as this age approaches its final moments, and these echoes of former games, so many of them off-putting or bizarrely, indescribably nonsensical, are the most unsettling way to make this felt. There are so many moments where these references put a smile on my face, only to be followed up with the feeling that it doesn't feel quite right, this sense of unease creeping up on me.
The feelings this game engenders are so intentional, and so powerful, and I think thematically it ends up being the richest, most fascinating entry in the series as a result.
Even beyond all of this, beyond all the ways the game's seeming weaknesses somehow act as marked strengths, and beyond the depth of emotion found within all of it, Dark Souls III is also just fun. It is the most refined of the four Souls games, learning a lot of lessons from what came before it. There's still some amount of arcane nonsense that is hard to ever really work out on your own, secrets within secrets, but importantly this stuff doesn't touch the actual mechanics of the game of the game so much anymore. In terms of understanding how to play the game Dark Souls III ends up being the most accessible of all the Souls games and is all the better for it, with a bunch of quality of life features present also that manage to make the game more pleasant to engage with without ever compromising the game's emotionality or sense of fascination.
Dark Souls III has easily the highest floor of the Souls games, with a level of consistency that is wildly unheard of in the series. Meanwhile the high-points for me rank as the very peak of the series partly due to the stellar art direction, partly due to the game taking Dark Souls' macro-world design and trying to apply it on a more micro-level to fit within this linear approach (everything about the design of the Cathedral's map is just a work of art), and partly because Dark Souls III's increased sense of narrative spreads to boss fights also making so many of the best fights into actual stories packed with emotion, awe and fascination, with the mechanics of these fights complimenting the stories being told so beautifully.
It's genuinely amazing to me how Dark Souls III manages to all at once iterate and develop on what came before it in a way that fully understands it could never exist without these earlier entries, whilst also keenly charging forth as something so different from these earlier entries, boldly and unapologetically.