Posted on 11 Jan 2017 by Sawyer Scherbenske

Dark Souls III – Ashes of Ariandel

The Defence

Developer: From Software
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: Action, Role Playing
Platform: Consoles, PC
Review copy: No
Release date: 12 Apr 2016

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i3 3.1 GHz
AMD FX 3.6 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 750 Ti
AMD Radeon HD 7950
HDD: 25 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 60
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core i7 3.5 GHz
AMD FX 4.0 GHz
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 970
AMD Radeon R9 290X
HDD: 25 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 60

The Case

While the Dark Souls III base game had you plundering the depths of Lothric Castle, exploring turgid swamps, and running away from crabs, the games first of two planned DLC’s, Ashes of Ariandel, returns players to the Painted World, and oh what a world it turned out to be. Ashes of Ariandel is good, there’s no question about that, but does it continue the Souls DLC legacy of containing bosses and environments that beat out the base game’s content?

The Trial

Dark Souls fans should remember the Painted World of Ariamis as the dark, corrupted prison of Priscilla hidden away inside a painting located in Anor Londo, but the painted world is a very different place in Dark Souls III. Now instead of a bonus area of crows and fluffy tails, it’s been stuffed full of pyromancy trees, Vikings, and wolves ready to demolish you.

It's a winter wonderland AND a winter of your discontent!

It’s still covered in snow, and just like in DS I, is one of the most beautiful locations of the entire game, completely unique in its openness. There are branching paths seemingly at every turn, and at the start you’re immediately dumped into an open field with no obvious direction to go. Unfortunately, many of these side-paths are short and lead towards the same places, however, rewards and enemies encountered on each path are completely different.

These rewards are mostly common souls or upgrade materials, but ten new weapons, three armor sets, three spells, and an unlockable PvP matchmaking mode are hidden away too. All of these weapons have brand new weapon arts, some more inspired than others, and every piece of equipment has lore that builds on characters from DS III and the Souls series in general.

As you’d expect from a Souls DLC however, all roads lead to your death. While the DLC is shockingly short, the enemy variety, beautiful landscapes, and final boss turn a short two hour stroll into a five to ten hour package. Remember Artorias? Remember The Nameless King? The final DLC boss fight has both of them beat in terms of difficulty, and amounted to three hours of my seven hour playtime. The new enemy types help pad this time as well, the frost wolves and new crow enemies being standouts in the “cool” department with their speed and agility.

Don't let the baddies get the upper hand on you.

Strangely enough, Ashes of Ariandel feels more like a Bloodborne DLC than a Dark Souls one with its blindingly fast enemies and plague-swept zones. The bosses in this DLC in particular require more dodging than blocking, and feel like fighting Bloodborne’s Lady Maria with half the agility that Bloodborne’s “Hunters” had.

The Verdict

As expected, Dark Souls first DLC, Ashes of Ariandel, is amazing. Enemy variety is great, boss fights are intense, and the locations are gorgeous. While I’d argue that Ashes of Ariandel is the worst Souls DLC package in the series, that’s like comparing diamonds to platinum. It’s still one of the best DLC packages ever made despite its short play time.

Case Review

  • Beautiful: The Painted World’s snowy landscapes and decrepit filth are always awe-inspiring.

  • Bosses: While few in number, both bosses are great. Particularly the smackdown of the final boss.

  • Lore: Pontiff Sulyvahn, Priscilla, the Sable Church, and other entities are all further built upon in the DLC for followers of the lore.

  • New Equipment: Ten new weapons is a lot for a Souls DLC, especially for one as short and as concise as Ashes of Ariandel.

  • Challenging: Souls fans should find Ashes of Ariandel’s DLC a fresh challenge to face, but other players might need help for the bosses.

  • Playtime: Six hours is the shortest playtime for any DLC package in the Souls series yet, but it’s packed with excitement on a minute to minute basis.

4.5 Score: 4.5/5
Plenty challenging, and a good omen of things to come.

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