Ashes of Ariandel comes seven months after the initial release of Dark Souls III, so new content is certainly welcome, even though the base game will take around 60 hours to get through for an average ‘Souls’ player. Hence, you can safely say that players by now will have either given up, or will be going through the game again on New Game + or doing ad hoc PvP which seems popular at Irithyll or Anor Londo.
With this DLC, you get one medium sized area and a new dedicated PvP arena if that is your thing.
Accessing this DLC thankfully is pretty easy and available within the first quarter of the main game, head to the Cleansing Chapel Bonfire (Just before the Cathedral where you fight the Deacons Boss), just after the graveyard and the fight with the Crystal Sage. There is an new NPC there that once talked to will whisk you away to the Painted World of Ariandel. I will say though you need to be at least level 75+ to get anywhere in the DLC, so keep playing the main game to level-up a bit if you are new, here. At level 90, I found this pretty tough going.
The area itself incorporates a snowy forest, a chapel and a small village way below said chapel. The feeling you get, and the new enemies remind you of Norse mythology and the new human like enemies are quite Viking in their appearance. Other enemies include giant crabs – again, a new tree type magical creature which hurls fireballs at you or casts ice magic, plenty of wolves (including a large wolf which acts and has the same move-set as the annoying Alligator beast on the Irithyll Bridge), large bugs and some weird-skinned crow things that crawl along the ground and are easy to kill; there are also some larger crow enemies that can jump around like they have no stamina bars and are reminiscent of the nimble phantoms from Dark Souls II.
Much like any area in a ‘Souls’ game, you steadily work your way through the area, unlocking shortcuts as you go and pushing forward towards a boss fight at the end. The DLC has two bosses to contend with – first up to access the new PvP, once you have been to the chapel, hack at the bridge to make it collapse and climb down (the same as you did to get to the Smouldering Lake), work your way down over and there is a boss fight that has an enemy similar to a standard phantom and a few wolves. Then, when his health gets to the halfway point, he will summon that annoying large wolf you may have already encountered. Once taken care of, you will receive an item that you burn in the Firelink Shrine Bonfire, and you can then access the PvP arena.
If not interested in PvP, head down the sliding ice ramp to the village below, which in turn will take the long way round to the eventual final boss of the area.
Now, here is the thing – I fully explored the area and believe I have collected everything available. The entire area took me around three hours start to finish, so for a £12 asking price, that is not a great deal of content.
If you aren’t interested in PvP at all, you can shave off at least another 30 minutes exploration and omit the optional boss fight.
I have to admit, that I have not enjoyed this DLC all that much, the difficulty feels artificially inflated to prolong the experience. As an example, within the first 10 minutes, due to the misty opening, I missed a gang of enemies on the small hill to the right, ventured forward to take out the torch-wielder and ended up having at least five enemies on me at once. Then just past there, I dropped down and headed right – a single wolf is there, closed in fast but it started to howl. Seconds later, three wolves came running in, followed by the rest of them from the area; around nine in total.
This happens numerous times during the DLC, making it quite annoying and not very enjoyable. I can appreciate the whole ‘die and learn’ from your experience, and have done on numerous occasions. While playing all the ‘Souls’ games and Bloodborne to date, this just feels really cheap and padded out to slow you down. Another annoyance is that larger Viking type enemies and the armed crow type enemies. Fair enough, throw in a challenge, but when a huge dude is jumping around with massive axe, shield and in full armour and is unforgiving with attacks, again, it is unfair on the player. You have a stamina bar you must manage throughout the entire series of games. Therefore, the larger non-boss enemies at least should fall victim to stamina usage also.
Once you have worked your way through full circle, a final task before the boss is going below into a pit. There are at least 20 of the fly-type enemies. Move a bit farther forward and, literally, you have a swarm on you. All this just to turn a wheel that rotates the statue opening up the boss…
The final boss isn’t too bad, but again it feels a bit cheap. It has three phases in total – first up is Friede, then Friede and her father, and finally, a more brutal form of Friede. It isn’t a bad fight, but I had to summon a few people to get through it. Once complete, nothing happens at all. Zippo, that’s it, the person you rescue upstairs by the painting has a few words but that is it. So for three hours that felt like a chore from the get-go, it finishes off with no fanfare.
PvP has 3 modes: Co Op, Duel & Brawl
Co Op is 2v2 or 3v3 battles – basically kill the opposing team
Duel is traditional 1v1 combat, with a 3-minute time limit to stop things being drawn out.
Brawl is aimed more at veteran players: You get 5 minutes to rack up as many kills as possible – literally a free for all, and you get 1 Estus flask per life.
To sum up, I have to say I was disappointed. This is all we get after seven months? Hopefully, the second and final DLC will be something more spectacular and not so cheap with its tactics.
Thanks to the Youtube channel FightinCowboy5 for the gaming footage.
- Developers: Developer: From Software
- Publisher: Bandai Namco
- Players: Single, Co-op & Multiplayer
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!