Dark Souls 3 – Ashes of Ariandel (Video Game DLC)


Ashes of AriandelDeveloped by FromSoftware, Inc.

Published by Bandai Namco Entertainment

Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One

Rated M for Mature

Despite giving Dark Souls 3 a positive review, I was rather lukewarm about it personally. As a Souls game, I’d still rather play it than 95% of games out there, but it’s also the one I‘m least likely to pick up again when the craving strikes. A good friend of mine who I talk to about all things Souls has a phrase for this, “I love all my children, I just love some a bit more.”

Dark Souls 3 was just too easy. This is going to sound like insanity to everyone that got into the series with this console generation, since the game is still harder than most freshman at their first frat orgy night. For those of us that started with Demon’s Souls, the slide into casual is tangible. It’s not always a bad thing, as I think there might be a record of me saying that my favorite Dark Souls title was 2. Bloodborne would have to be my extended family favorite, as I’m a slut for blood and otherworldly screams.

Ashes of Ariandel

Decaying nightmare flesh beasts with knives for fingers? Count me in!

All of that being said, I was really excited for the Dark Souls 3 DLC. In previous titles, the DLC was incredible. From the Prepare to Die edition’s Artorias of the Abyss to The Old Hunters, FromSoftware DLC has managed to unilaterally buck the trend of DLC being tacked on bullshit. Even my opponents across the aisle that hate Dark Souls 2 will admit that its DLC suite was badass.

So now the first piece of Dark Souls 3 DLC is here with Ashes of Ariandel. After Dark Souls 2’s “Crown” series, expectations are high. There’s no definitive statement on how much DLC there will be, but we know that this “Season Pass” is a two-pack. It’s unclear at this point if they are telling an additional story like they did in Dark Souls 2, or are just adding stuff like they did in Dark Souls. With how popular these titles have become, I wouldn’t discount a second DLC season.

Alright, cool, details established. Now I can move on to criticizing it! I’m actually really sad to be doing so. The DLC is usually when I evolve from loving these games to full on creeping out strangers with my photo album and papercraft models. Honestly, I feel 50% of that tug with Ashes of Ariandel. But just like the main game, there’s another 50% of glaring flaws that hold me back from calling it great.

I’m going to go chronologically here, since most of what I liked presented itself early. Right off the bat, the DLC is positioned in a way that makes it easy enough to access without feeling forced. A lot of games will put their DLC in a menu, but that’s not how FromSoftware does things. This time around, you’ll have to make your way all to the Cleansing Chapel bonfire. A new NPC can be found next to the alter, prostrate and mumbling in typical Dark Souls fashion. You might want to think twice before actually jumping in, as the content is designed to challenge higher level players. You can certainly struggle your way through it earlier, and frankly isn’t that what Dark Souls is all about?

Ashes of Ariandel

Funny enough, getting warped to a demon dimension is one of the least bad things that can happen when touching a homeless man’s dirty rags.

Warping into Ashes of Ariandel, fans will immediately get a Bloodborne vibe, specifically the “Nightmare Frontier.” You find yourself in a cave, with your only company a feeble wretch telling you of a wonderful bed of rotting flesh. Alright, Hidetaka Miyazaki, I get you would rather be working on Bloodborne 2. I promise I’ll buy it when it comes out. Stepping out into the cold and barren landscape, I had some horrifying flashbacks to the Crown of the Ivory King’s Frigid Outskirts. The moment a nightmare reindeer busts out of nowhere and kicks me in the face, I’m out.

Luckily, it would not prove to be so brutal. The only enemies in this first area are some decently armed soldier type undead. Their attacks are middling in effectiveness, hard hitting enough to require your attention but easily avoided. Working your way past them, you walk to the edge of a cliff only to find that it collapses beneath you. This is where the DLC begins in earnest. All around you, a chorus of howls signals the coming of the wolf hordes. These agile doges are more of an annoyance than actual threat, but can overwhelm you in numbers. More importantly, they can distract you from the looming frosty trees waiting to unload a barrage of fireballs on you.

Ashes of Ariandel

If you look hard enough, you can see Slenderman.

From here, you can either work your way through the doom-trees to the nearest bonfire and the rest of the DLC, or go fight a bunch of giant vikings for some fat loot. There’s a giant wolf guarding the viking area, so I recommend doing the bonfire first before trying the vikings. Similar to other large foes, the viking enemies possess some brutal charge attacks that even leveled my heavily armored ass. They are far more agile than your average large foe, but telegraph their attacks significantly. They can end you quick if you panic, so keep your head on your shoulders and dodge roll like a professional.

It’s really the next area that drives the Bloodborne comparison home, as you reach the City of the Creepy Rotting Bird Things. Covered in blood and rot and practically begging to be killed, these meager foes offer little threat even in great numbers. More deadly, marionette-like versions are roughly 10,000x deadlier, and will jump, spin, dash, pirouette, and leaping dagger you into oblivion. Disgusted by their weaker brethren, they also walk the streets of the town killing the mewling poop-birds. So yeah, very Bloodborne.

Ashes of Ariandel

I’d actually feel bad about killing it if it wasn’t just begging for the sweet release of death.

More importantly, the design of Ashes of Ariandel is what feels most “Bloodborne.” The winding and overlapping streets of the village feel like a condensed version of Yharnam, while the treacherous frigid forest harkens back to the sprawling Forbidden Woods. New weapons like Valorheart, Crow Quills, and Friede’s Great Scythe are closer to Trick Weapons than the typical Dark Souls armament. This still is definitively Dark Souls 3, so there’s still a fair amount of shields, spells, miracles, staves, and other such weapons to fit into your build. It feels like a marriage of the two, mixing the best concepts of both to deliver some quality items and areas.

So why am I shitting on it then? Well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but there are only three other areas after the poop-bird village, one of which is entirely optional and missable. There are only two bosses, one of which is in the aforementioned optional area. Start to finish, it took me a paltry 3 hours to complete everything. There might be some secrets I missed, but aside from some ridiculous “walk off the ledge and there’s an invisible bridge” shit, I doubt it.

Ashes of Ariandel

I figured there might be some bell ringing secret to tie it back into the first game, but I was mistaken.

For $15, 3 hours of content is short even for an indie game. This is Dark Souls 3, a game that can take upwards of 30 hours for new players to beat. Maybe this was my fault. I went into the DLC with my NG+ lv 106 character. Equipped with my Dragonslayer Set and Fume Ultra Greatsword, every enemy was in the 1-4 hit range. The tougher enemies were admittedly difficult, but too few in number to really offer resistance.

This is exactly the same problem I had with the main Dark Souls 3 game. As polished as the content is, it’s just too easy. I’m going to factor length into difficulty here, since the fundamental mechanic of Dark Souls has always been “learn your shit.” When there are only a dozen enemy types and two bosses, there’s only so much shit to learn. This is somewhat mitigated by a final boss that has three distinct forms (and I mean REALLY distinct, not just a few new attacks), but even that I beat after a couple tries.

Ashes of Ariandel

As is law in Japan, the strongest being in the land is a frail girl in religious garb that obstructs her vision.

There’s something to be said for making a package tight. At no point in Ashes of Ariandel did I feel like it was the “filler” part. Even if that’s what they were going for, they still failed to deliver a robust chunk of content. I’m forced to look back at packages like The Old Iron King.
That whole DLC felt like one long, varied, and cohesive gauntlet of challenges. Ashes of Ariandel by contrast feels like a series of quality, yet conflicting ideas. Stapled together, it keeps you guessing, but it doesn’t have a consistent flow. Then, right when you feel you’ve just begun to unravel its hidden threads, it’s all over. It went from being an interesting and mysterious tapestry to a wet rag in an instant.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this honestly feels like it should have been free. Dark Souls 3 is 8 months old now, and is on the borderline of when DLC still feels relevant. For players to come back after over half a year, you have to offer something great. And this was great, as a little tempting extra to bring you back. The new areas are great and items cool, and certainly warrants a new playthrough. With the new PVP additions (which I won’t review, since honestly they should have been part of the game a long time ago), it certainly should please fans. But at $15, it just isn’t worth it.

  • DLC
User Rating 3.5 (6 votes)


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