Dark Souls 3 is an amazing game because of the incredible care put into every aspect of the gaming experience. Yes, there are great weapons, fascinating landscapes, and smart game mechanics, but there are also numerous nods to lore, and thoughtful details are tossed in throughout. And the element of the game that makes it all work is the deliberately inconsistent soundtrack. Dark Souls has always featured powerful music, but FromSoftware has significantly upped its game on the symphonic front. The biggest boss battles are now set to haunting choruses that raise the tension — and the stakes.

In the game, each area you work through is essentially a puzzle studded with specific challenges that culminate in a boss encounter. The challenges take the form of surprising ambushes, enemies with frighteningly large health bars, and deadly one-shot traps. While exploring, players encounter various audio cues that help them to avoid the dangers of each area. To play Dark Souls 3 is to listen very carefully to Dark Souls 3. Only the boss battles have a soundtrack, so when the music swells, our adrenaline surges.

In some cases, the areas leading up to the bosses are more difficult than the final encounter. 

With this innovative strategy, Dark Souls gives every boss encounter additional texture, and every boss a new layer of characterization. While each boss track does feature similar elements and tones that compliment the overall tone of the game, the music enhances certain parts of each encounter.

For instance, take the Dancer of the Boreal Valley. The boss here is a slender female figure who quietly steps across the room with a sense of grace, her footsteps resounding loudly through the hall as she tries to take you out during her first phase. During the beginning of the fight, the music is quiet with peaceful tones in order to allow her footsteps to echo out. During the second phase, however, the music picks up as she attacks.

The same strategy makes the encounter with the Abyss Watchers particularly memorable. A legion of undead soldiers, the Abyss Watchers are slender armored figures that fight with large swords and attack aggressively. Once again, the music here is slow with a few light vocals are first as you fight one member of the legion. But. as addition members rise from the floor, the music drastically picks up with heavier vocals and loud, ringing bells. In phase two of the fight the music drastically rises in tone, introducing faster male vocals along with some violins into the mix to complement the bosses heavier, quicker attack pattern until you defeat the encounter.

Every single boss encounter in Dark Souls 3 features this sort of dedication to music; FromSoftware ensures that every sound included somehow fits the bosses’ move patterns, the atmosphere, and the facing of the fight. The results are simply astounding; Dark Souls 3 provides the most engaging and memorable experience in the franchise so far.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore