I’ve been a fan of From Software’s Souls games since Demon’s Souls on the PS3. With in-depth combat, challenging bosses, interesting lore, and often beautiful, atmospheric worlds, Demon’s Souls, its spiritual successor the Dark Souls series, and my personal favorite, Bloodborne, have a vast and dedicated fanbase.
So when Dark Souls 3 was announced to be the last of the series, fans were dismayed. The only glimmer of hope for more Dark Souls after the release of the game was held within the two promised DLCs set for release over the months after the game itself.
So now that the first of Dark Souls 3′s DLCs has arrived, how does Ashes of Ariandel fare? Is it a worthwhile investment? Content worthy of the Dark Souls name?
Well, sort of.
It’s complicated. Ashes of Ariandel is an absolute godsend for PvP players at least. Many people who were interested in PvP prior to the release of the DLC were either forced to sit outside a certain boss bonfire and spam their summon signs until someone called them up for a friendly match, or set up a fight club elsewhere. Even then, trolls, hackers (on PC) and smug pricks gathering “gank squads” just to frustrate people looking to fight. Now, there’s no need for that. After beating a certain DLC boss, you can enter the “Undead Match” from the Firelink Shrine bonfire, allowing you to match up in duels, free-for-alls, and team battles without fear of dealing with most of those. As someone deeply invested in trying out dumb PvP builds, this addition is well worth the $15 I paid for the DLC. Don’t despair if you’re still more into joining fight clubs with online communities like Reddit’s Dark Souls subreddit or 4chan’s /dsg/, you’ll still find plenty of those.
Although if PvE is more your forte, you may be somewhat disappointed. The level design in the DLC is indeed incredible, and there’s a lot of entertaining enemies to take on, including the absolutely insane Corvian Knights, which will shove your own ass down your throat multiple times if you’re not careful and prepared for their vicious assault. The issues come mostly from the length of the DLC. It’s fairly short, lasting only a few hours at most if you jog your way straight through, but if you explore to find the multitude of weapons (which I’ll get to later), you can squeeze around 6 out of it.
The real disappointing aspect though are the small amount of bosses scattered throughout. There’s only two, one of which is completely optional, and the final boss of the DLC, which has three phases and is probably one of the best in the series, so you could perhaps claim that makes up for the small number. Players who want to unlock the arena will very often want to seek out the optional boss, who is actually pretty bad in comparison to the other one, being relatively easy. You’ll also unlock a particularly cool weapon. Either way, I feel like one amazing boss really doesn’t make up for the small number (and the other boss being rather poor).
The new weapons are ultimately where the DLC really shines. From the Faith/Intelligence scaling Onyx Greatsword that glows with black fire, to the Valorheart, a weapon consisting of a shield and a short sword in one, adding block frames to your attacks, almost every weapon has an awesome moveset and cool gimmick. There’s even some dual-wield action going on with a special scythe that gives you a whole new unique special moveset, full of anime spins and frosty auras.
Ashes of Ariandel is awesome for a lot of reasons, easily beating out a lot of Dark Souls 2’s DLCs, but if you’re uninterested in PvP, or the new weapons, then it’s probably not worth the purchase. The level design is truly amazing, but level design alone probably isn’t worth the money, same with the one good boss. If you are into PvP though, or find the new weapons interesting, I encourage you to definitely pick it up. There’s a lot of good in this small package.