Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel
Game review on Xbox One
David Hull / Sat 3rd Dec 2016
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OVERVIEW The first downloadable content for Dark Souls III is one part cold, two spoonfuls barren and 1/2 a cup of tedium.
In the Cathedral of the Deep, you come upon a kneeling man who scoops you into his fragment of a painting (with consent... sorta).
Similar to a former artistic plane of existence in Dark Souls, players are transported to a world separated from Lothric and must act as saviour to this frosted realm.The Painted World of Ariamis from Dark Souls, but with NPCs and more ground to cover is the best way to describe Ariandel.
When players enter Ariandel, the only information they have to go on is find Friede and show them Flame. Typically vague and mysterious, this tiny directive is what normally gives Souls games strength, however without any narrative pressing you on, a somewhat dull environment eats away at the momentum to complete your task.
Enemies fling between tedious and frustrating, much like the base game. A lot of what made combat exciting in the former instalments, including Bloodborne, is treading dangerously close to "hard for hard's sake".
Many deaths will arise from that one gigantic man with an axe, or the NPC with a black fiery sword flattening you in one swoop. This isn't new, but combat feels less and less like a back and forth between competitive players and artificial intelligence, but more like a one sided MMA fight with one person picked from the crowd.
There's a few new tools to make use of however including a total of 16 new weapons and shields, five new armour sets, four new spells and a fancy ring to keep away the cold.
Miracle users will rejoice at the prospect of having a new way to go on the offensive with the Way of White Corona, a simple disc of light that you can frisbee at enemies for damage once, then again on its return trip.
The two bosses to conquer are a mixed bag, and are unfortunately at the very end of your play through. The primary boss takes three forms.
and are ultimately three separate fights that must be restarted should you die. The second is completely optional but, without fighting it there's not much else to do.
The lack of boss encounters until the end is part of what drags down the fun. Typically bosses are a possible threat at every turn, the idea that you could walk into a boss fight unprepared and lacking supplies after a heavy fight to reach it, is missing.
After an entire game of greys and stone, it's unfortunate to be met with yet more white/grey snow and stone.
Dark Souls has presented a variety of locales in DLC before, from the perilous walk across the thick chain in Dark Souls 2 to access Brume Tower, or the underground Pyramids of Shulva. Ashes of Ariandel however, whilst altered in some ways, is essentially treading the same old ground. Even the final boss is shades of what has come before.
On the plus side, regular enemies are a much better addition than content in the previous instalments. You aren't just fighting Hollow Man Version 2.0, instead you face off against giant clawed monsters, insects that spit worms, wolves and what can be best described as Vikings that are unique to the DLC which is exciting.
And when the old does make way for the new, there's that bizarre Dark Souls madness to be found just when you start to feel safe.
AUDIO Traditionally in Dark Souls, you'll only encounter any substantial music during boss encounters and in this case, they're quite subdued. Melodic, sombre and "wintery" both themes fit the frosted, rotting Ariandel to a tee.
Despite the complaints, Ashes of Ariandel is indeed well crafted, at least compared to many other video game series.
Compared to previous Souls entries however, the imagination feels lacking and too much time is spent just wandering around, wondering when something might happen.