Dark Souls 3 DLC Review

How was Ashes of Ariandel?

Pretty good. Has a neat opening where you fight a bunch of spear chucking enemies and flame breathing enemies, then you can fall into a wide area where there’s a ton of wolves that track you for really long distances and aggro the pack. Plus there’s trees that can breath ice at you or send tons of little fire bullets at you and try to blend in with fake identical trees. There’s a gnarly tree section where you gotta go down tree branches like it’s the great hollow and fight giant ice crabs at the bottom. There’s another section off to the side where you fight larger humanoid enemies with some dogs and there’s an archer up on a tower that shoots down at you with dragonslayer arrows that embed in the ground and explode a short while afterwards.

They use multiple enemies very effectively across the whole DLC, usually giving one of them some type of unique ranged attack, like the swarm of fire bullets, or the enemy that could generate earthquakes at a long distance.

My only complaint is that sometimes it was a bit tricky to figure out the way forward, like realizing I needed to cut down the rope bridge, or turn a switch in the sewer (callback to painted world from das1, but it was more clearly pointed out with a skylight in that game).

The bosses were great, though there were only 2 of them. Both were multiple enemy fights. One had you fight a bunch of wolves then a giant wolf, combined with an NPC that had some nice spells and a shield that can break your guard. Sister Friede is awesome. It’s a 3 phase fight. First phase is pretty basic, she has a few different attacks and can back off and turn invisible, and you need to watch which way the snow blows to track her, with her turning visible again when you’re close and letting you get a free combo off. Notably Friede takes normal hitstun, but has a great moveset that makes it hard to get stray hits in. Second phase she fights with father ariandel and their movesets combine beautifully. Ariandel rampages across the room while Friede launches ice across the ground that needs to be avoided lest you get frostbite. Sometimes she can also dart off invisibly then start a heal spell that needs to be interrupted. They share a health bar, so you can attack either one of them to succeed and it’s frequently to your benefit to alternate which one you target based on the situation. Final Phase is crazy as fuck, Friede moves really fast, has huge magic attacks, can dart around invisibly and you need to track her while not getting hit by her magic attacks, she can rush you and fucking execute you.

A lot of people seem to be underwhelmed by the Ashes of Ariandel DLC, probably because it was intended for mid-level characters on NG. It’s a great challenge on NG+ which is how I played it the first time. The actual design of all the areas is great, very careful planning for how multiple enemy ranges overlap and how.

I’ve never disagreed so hard than with Ashes. I LIKE multiples but Ashes was just a bunch of flat, uninteresting terrain with enemies everywhere. It never evolved past choosing whether to aggro two or ten. The final boss was awesome but the wolf in the other fight was jank as hell and a pushover.

I mean, I can see how the opening areas are flat with a ton of enemies, but the area with the archer shooting down from the tower? Or the branches you climb down? Or the bloodborne ripoff village? or the cliffs beyond it, with various close and long range enemies that can be aggro’d in groups or individually?

And even the flat areas had zoning, like one area had a ton of the spear and fire guys, one had a ton of wolves, one had a ton of trees, another had trees mixed with the giant axe archer guys. And these areas partially mixed into one another.

Fighting the whole wolf pack was pretty fun, dodging tons of crazy projectiles between the trees was fun. Dodging between trees and axe guys was fun.

How was your experience with The Ringed City?

Pretty good. It has a crazy number of railshooter sections though. The giant angels are kind of weird, sometimes they give you more or less time to run through their barrages and some sections have you run across branches where there’s no cover for long periods of time. It doesn’t totally feel like it was made with the intent that you’re supposed to be able to avoid all damage. The later section with the ghost archers works fine though. Also they have a dragon bridge to round out the souls gimmick roster. And I guess a poison swamp and controlled falling/platforming section too.

The new Ringed Knight enemies are really cool, have a neat arrangement of attacks, fight really aggressively, and have strong anti-shield tactics, like fire breathing shields, and the dragon roar. Also they have a tendency to walk forward as they do attacks, making them harder to backstab.

The fight with Midir on the bridge is possibly the best the souls series has ever done at one of these fights. Has a few too many safe zones though, so it’s really easy to avoid damage.

Surprised they tried another Old Monk style fight. It’s basically the same exact fight except painting guardians are summoned periodically in addition to the invader (which is sensibly summoned from a covenant that exists for this purpose). I guess they wanted to pack the whole souls experience into one game.

The demon prince fight is cool, the demon in pain and demon from below have an aggressive and ranged mode and each switch on a semi-randomized timer. They have good synergy together, and the ranged attacks are helpfully telegraphed in the form of a cloud of mist before they actually hit you, so you can see it without having your camera on the ranged demon. One minor thing I’d say is that there’s no incentive to kill both the demon’s simultaneously, and the only thing discouraging you from rushing one then the other when the first one’s dead is that it’s hard to continuously attack one, because they both get clumped together if you do that and are hard to fight at the same time, so you kind of need to switch as they switch modes. When they both die, there’s a second phase which generally just has good attack designs.

Slave Knight Gael is tough, not as tough as Friede + Ariandel in my experience though. First phase has a ton of great attack chains that each need to be countered in different ways, either by dodging at the right times, or getting the fuck out, or in some cases blocking. They all each have different levels of tracking on you, so your relative position matters a lot. And interestingly he has a low stun threshold, so sometimes you can get off a few extra hits or take a sec to recover stamina if you attack him successively and are paying attention. Phase 2 is intense, he varies between 1, 2, and 3 hit combos that are either thrusts or sweeps, and his cape provides a fiery followup to his sword which can catch you on dodge.

Phase 2 is complimented with his repeating crossbow which is easy to just walk out of the way of, but will murder you if you try to heal, and his energy discs, which you can avoid by either paying attention to the gaps in them or dodging through them and getting behind his back. They retract after a bit, effectively giving him area control over his front side, forcing you to either pay attention, or approach him to get on his opposite side, which is a cool move.

Phase 3 is cool as hell. He starts it off with a burst attack that unleashes a fuckton of ghosts that have weak homing on your position and land on the ground, leaving behind a mark that is later struck by lightning, so controlling lots of spots all over the place on the ground, though they’re not that hard to avoid. He does this attack periodically across phase 3, you’ll likely see it 2-3 times. He usually uses 2-3 hit combos in this phase where he dramatically jumps after you, homing on your position, this helps make his openings more identifiable. Some of his combos also unleash the homing lightning ghosts. He also fires arrows down on you during some of his jumping combos. Great fight overall. Also, the arena for this fight is bizarrely large for no apparent purpose. It’s a gigantic desert area that is almost entirely empty.

The Midir fight…

Framing the camera in the Midir fight is really hard. Midir is fucking gigantic, and to keep track of what he’s going to do, you need to see his claws, however he only has one lock-on point on his head, so if you move close to his head, you can’t see his claws very well. Frequently he moves his head up high, which breaks your lock-on. Almost all of his fire attacks break lock-on, and hit wide areas, so the best way to survive them is to block in the correct direction, but you can’t see his head, so it’s hard to judge where the fire will be coming from, and the radius is so big that frequently it’s infeasible to run out of the way, and it’s almost always impossible to dodge (unless there’s a timing window I’m missing.) So you need to block, you can’t see where it’s coming from. You can avoid a lot of his attacks by getting under him, similar to many other bosses, but doing so means you’ll have a harder time telling when he’s going to rear up and blow fire at his feet, which spreads out and will take off a decent chunk of your health. He’s technically a well designed boss, but the tendency to randomly break lock-on as well as him being so big make him more difficult than he’d normally be. Plus he deals a lot of damage, so if you screw up, you’re likely to die for it. Oddly, his fight on the bridge felt a lot more fair. Of course it helped that he had 3 lock-on points in that fight.

The abyssal swamp area is also neat, has interesting enemy arrangements and terrain. There’s a giant that summons ghostly archers in the center who you don’t want to piss off, a cathedral thing with ringed knights on it, a bunch of locusts wandering around, and a cliffside covered with the weird shell hermited enemies that make a circle of continuous damage under your feet, that can also go into their shell and start up a healing spell that damages the area around them. These guys work great with other enemies, but aren’t placed near other enemies often enough to matter much in the DLC. Plus the dragonslayer armor is chilling out in the corner by itself for some reason.

Oh, and there’s these giant axesword wielding enemies with no heads in the DLC. They’re pretty cool. Have wide sweeping attacks that are hard to dodge, can go into an extended rushing attack where they keep shoveling the ground for damage, ending with a jumping attack. They’re really tough to fight in groups, which the DLC does occasionally, pairing them with other enemies or themselves.

Cool DLC overall. Great Bosses.

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