An Unnecessary Dessert
LOW The new area feels disconnected from the main game.
WTF So this is Priscilla, Maria, and a Cleric Beast all at once. Got it.
DLC in the modern era of gaming often feels like content removed from a whole and then offered solely for the purpose of squeezing a few more dollars out of the consumer. The Souls games have bucked this trend as each piece of DLC has introduced something amazing, be it a new area, new bosses, or pieces of lore that enrich the main game.
Unfortunately, the first expansion for Dark Souls 3, Ashes of Ariandel, falls well short of its predecessors.
The entirety of the DLC takes place in the Painted World of Ariandel, a name that should sound familiar to Souls veterans. As in the similarly-named area in Dark Souls, the player is dropped into a snowy hellscape filled with new, stronger enemies. While nothing in the base game is similar in appearance to this ice world, the area is unremarkable beyond that fact. The enemies are only slightly modified versions of those seen before, and the scenery can’t cover up a lot of bland level design. The Painted World, while beautiful, contains few places that are worth exploring.
Further, the connection between Ariandel and the main world is unclear, even considering the generally vague nature of Souls lore. As stated earlier, Souls DLC has generally been great about bringing something fresh to the table, but Ashes of Ariandel feels like a set of discarded assets cobbled together to make something fit for sale. Apart from one certain boss encounter, everything else felt extremely phoned in.
However, about that boss……
The final battle of the DLC is one of the most over-the-top, grandiose battles in the series’ history. To say much more would be going into spoiler territory, but its presence makes an otherwise-lackluster experience more tolerable. Saving this fight for a more salient piece of content would have been a wiser move, but regardless, From’s boss design still remains top notch.
Dark Souls 3 was a wonderful coda for the series, revisiting the best parts of Soulsborne while skillfully buffing over the pieces that didn’t work. Still, the Souls tricks and tropes that have become hallmarks are no longer groundbreaking, and there isn’t much left for Souls proper to achieve. As such, the run-of-the-mill quality of the experience offered here just doesn’t cut it anymore. While I still hold some hope that the second (and final) piece of DLC will be more substantial, Ashes of Ariandel illustrates exactly why Souls needs to end for the foreseeable future.
Disclosures: This DLC was obtained via retail and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 7 hours were dedicated to completing it once, with all time being spent online.
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