Friede gave me hell for the first phase for a real long time, but after beating that for the first time, I finished all three phases about six tries later. Only once died to phase 2, the first time. Gael is an absolute champ if he doesn't get gangbanged in the corner during phase 2.
Finished Dark Souls 3 with DEG immediately on the heels of finishing the 360 stack of Dark Souls 1. I thought it would be a major contrast, but DS3 is such a copy-and-paste of DS1 that it basically felt like a better remake than DSR and not much more. DEG constantly called it "Dark Souls 1.5," and he's spot-on. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, but it scratches a specific itch that rewards memorization and appeals to me. I did delve into the DLC, mainly because the weapons in the DLC are broken as hell and make the stupid invasions much more manageable. I didn't beat Gael because I have no interest in the story and you don't get anything worthwhile, but I did get as far as beating Midir and Shira for that sweet, sweet crucifix. I didn't find Midir particularly tough, but it's all down to different playstyles. As a dark/pyro/quality build, the Demon Prince really gave me hell.
The story in Dark Souls reminds me of the story in Five Nights at Freddies', in that everyone is fascinated more by how difficult to piece together it has been than by the story itself. It's just a dismal, shitty mythology that has no lesson beyond the futility of doing anything. Loads of maudlin sob stories that exist just to be edgy.
The gameplay is equal parts brilliant and trash. The RPG mechanics are addictive, and I love how powerful the choices you make for your build can be. I love how viable every weapon is if used intelligently and how substantial the upgrades are. I hate how unresponsive the controls are, how poorly the movement controls, how badly the game wants to frustrate you. Implementing online play with such a shaky netcode is stupid. Designing whole areas to be platforming challenges when you have movement somehow worse than a GTA 4 character is assholish. But by far the worst part of the Dark Souls series is the community. By far the worst community I've ever seen.
Anyway, right now I'm playing Dark Souls 2 on the 360, with online functionality turned off. This is probably the best experience I've had in this series. I can't shake the feeling that these games should be good, but after this, I guess I'll give up on them. I don't consider Sekiro a part of the series, but it's by far the best FromSoft game I've played. Back to stealth games after this, I suspect.