The Ringed City, the second and final piece of DLC for Dark Souls III, marks the end of an era. From Software president Hidetaka Miyazaki, while not completely ruling out returning to the franchise at some point, has said he believes the series will end after The Ringed City releases. So how is this last foray into the world of the First Flame shaping up?
My time with The Ringed City began on a precipice with a harrowing view of the Dreg Heap, a gigantic melted pile of cities, forts, hamlets and churches from every corner and era of the world. The general aesthetic may be familiar, but the form the environments take is unlike anything I’ve seen in a Souls game. At times it felt like I was traversing an M. C. Escher artwork. Dropping down quite a way into a pile of ash (thankfully negating any fall damage) I’m quickly beset upon by a large number of ghostly skeletons. Yep, it’s more Dark Souls alright.
I was able to play up until the first boss which, depending on your skill level, will probably take around an hour or so. Naturally, the combat remains as engaging and intense as ever, made even more so by some truly claustrophobic arenas. There were several encounters near the start that had upwards of ten creatures coming after me. One room seemed to just endlessly respawn skeleton warriors, so much so that I ended up fleeing. These enemies may be weak, but they have a few surprises up their sleeves, sometimes transforming into giant magic missiles that looked like a demonic, blue Falkor. The first time this happened I nearly had a heart attack. Another new enemy is a rotund warrior in a suit of armour wrapped up in tree roots, with a swirling void where its head should be. While their visual design is impressive, actually fighting them didn’t harbour any surprises. Thankfully, the Dreg Heap is home to another unholy monster, one that killed me more times than I’m comfortable admitting.
Picture the Xenomorph from Alien, but it’s bone-white and looks like an angel of death. This thing is huge and floats in the distance, screeching as it shoots bolts of energy from its wings. You’re forced to run, cover to cover, trying to get away from its constant barrage. Several times I reached shelter only to be ambushed by something lying in wait. This place definitely keeps you on your toes and you never feel truly safe. To kill this winged horror you have to destroy its corporeal form, which are these twisted fleshy statues that die quickly but are tricky to find. After making my way through a poisonous swamp, with another death-angel bombarding me the whole way, I made it to the first boss: The Crimson Bat. Click here to check out one of my attempts to kill the thing.
It was a short session, and it’s hard to say how long the full DLC will end up being. I didn’t actually reach The Ringed City itself, which hopefully means there’s plenty more yet to uncover. The frosty environments in Ashes of Ariandel were rather drab and the Dreg Heap seems to continue that trend, but there are some screenshots of more lush areas to explore. The Ringed City is more Dark Souls which can only ever be a good thing, but I haven’t quite seen enough to say whether this final chapter will be a fitting end for the Unkindled Ones. Here’s hoping From Software pulls out all the stops and gives Dark Souls a farewell to remember.