In many ways, the Dark Souls games are ideal for post-release DLC: there’s no need for a hastily churned out supplementary narrative, nor is there any expectation to introduce some grand new gameplay mechanic. All Dark Souls DLC needs to do to is give us more of the same thrills and challenges delivered by every game in the series. Let us explore a new land and be torn to shreds by some fresh nightmarish beast, sure, but as long as there’s more of that rewarding and fascinating Souls magic, From Software can’t go wrong. At least, this is what I thought before I played Ashes of Ariandel.
Upon installing this DLC and visiting the Cleansing Chapel bonfire, you’ll soon arrive in the Painted World of Ariandel. Tis a cold and barren land, filled with ferocious wolves, hulking warriors and screeching crow-fetuses. Yep, sounds like Dark Souls alright. As to be expected, the reason for your being in this world is never made explicitly clear. There are a number of friendly (or, at least, they don’t attack you on sight) people to meet, all with a few lines of classic austere Souls dialogue. Some give solemn warnings:
“I trust you’ve learned your lesson…
Inside the cold painting, curiousity could be your cross…”
Others provide some vague guidance, before chuckling their way into silence:
“Make the tales true, and burn this world away.
My Lady must see flame, and you have only to show her.”
The Painted World is admittedly quite large, but due to it being compiled mostly of rock, snow and ice it’s also very drab and uniform. Compared to some of the haunting and beautiful locales of the base game, Ariandel is nothing to write home about. There are a handful of new enemies to face, some of which would fit right in with Bloodborne’s menagerie, others simply ‘frosty’ versions of similar enemies from Dark Souls 3. Perhaps I was a little rusty, but I felt several of the encounters were needlessly frustrating. Climbing a narrow tower staircase while trying to fend off enormous shielded enemies who will happily charge straight at you, while definitely difficult, was not at all rewarding.
All in all Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel feels a little meandering, both in level and encounter design. There are moments that recapture the highs we all know and love from the series, but they are limited in number. It’ll scratch that itch if you’re simply looking for more, but its overall quality isn’t quite worth the price of admission (currently sitting at $22.95 AUD on the PSN Store). Hopefully the next DLC, due out in early 2017, will be a little more enticing.
Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel was reviewed with a PS4 code of the game, provided by the publisher.