(I know it’s crazy for a “Literary Pedagogue” to feature a video game as the first review on a new website, but hey…)
The first of two DLCs for Dark Souls III came out this week, and like many Dark Souls veterans, I couldn’t wait to rekindle my love for these games all over again; new bosses, weapons, and spells awaited!
I was a bit apprehensive about Ashes of Ariandel because my experience with From Software’s frozen wastelands had been traumatic; I still dream of two giant, snow cat-manticore-things mauling me after a long trek through a blizzard—the only boss battle in the Soulsborne series I have not completed. (*SPOILERS REGARDING ENEMIES*) In Ashes, I thought the monstrous trees were a nice touch, and the wolf packs nearly provoked an, “Oh no, another dog-pack in Dark Souls” response, but it was pulled off cleverly, as the wolves weren’t too annoying. The first time a momma wolf jumped down from her perch high above the land to ravage me, I had yet another PTSD flashback to my struggles against Sif from the first Dark Souls, and I was ready and willing to see YOU HAVE DIED flash across the screen yet again. Sadly, momma wolf only killed me once, as the second time around she proved to be a pushover. Sif she was not.
The first of many disappointments.
At first, I began to fall in love with the setting. Overlooking an icy valley, I gazed upon a tidy little town tucked into the frigid waste. The old adage in the Dark Souls series—if you can see it, you can probably get to it—caused a bit of salivation, especially after I dropped in with a bit of hero-esque flair down a badass ice slide. The gothic undertones were a nice departure from the rest of the Dark Souls world, but some of the textures and ideas in the setting reminded a little bit of Bloodborne’s DLC, The Old Hunters; and this wasn’t the last time I found a similarity between the two.
The weapons and environments are neat, but I think the community as a whole, or at least reviewers, drastically overrated the challenge. Three to four hours for a veteran player, probably less than that if you are a faster player (I keep seeing “four to six”). If you include the PVP arena, which is a great addition, the amount of hours added to the DLC is uncountable.
The Dark Souls community is an attractive component to the game, and I think overall, the DLC is a great add-on for a community-based game because of the PVP arena. But I truly did feel ripped off, and this is mostly because From Software has spoiled me. Artorias of the Abyss, the DLC for the first Dark Souls, absolutely exceeded what most people come to expect from post-launch DLC. Then, we were treated to three DLC packs for Dark Souls II, each of which is relatively expansive in size. Bloodborne’s DLC, The Old Hunters, was a beautiful way to conclude a story, and that game feels absolutely complete because of it.
From Software garnered a reputation for creating an experience that rewarded the players time and time again, which is why I am baffled that Ashes of Ariandel was released as it is. A part of me feels as if this is a Call of Duty-esque mode that was tacked onto the game for fifteen dollars, which, when you put into perspective, isn’t a bad deal if you really want to play PVP. But Dark Souls II had arenas in the vanilla game, and Artorias of the Abyss provided memorable fights against bosses that play a huge role in the Dark Souls mythos in addition to the PVP arena.
Game Informer’s review called the game a “meaningless experience,” and I can agree. (*BOSS SPOILER*) I was actually a bit angry about the Friede boss fight, because it seemed to have been a Lady Maria ripoff; From seemingly attempted to duplicate a boss fright from the Bloodborne DLC that was full of context, a fight that players who managed to piece together the story were thrilled with. The battle against Friede felt like a cheap knockoff with a resurrection gimmick. I did not care about the fight; it meant nothing to me. When the fight was over, I shook my head. Really, From? (I also know that there is more than one gimmicky boss in the series, but these are points of contention in the community, and this, I know, is simply the opinion of another Dark Souls player).
Ashes of Ariandel had a lot of potential, and faithful fans like myself have picked it up or will eventually play it, but I feel like From expected that. I know I will certainly play the next DLC for Dark Souls III. It’s hard for me to justify buying DLC for any game, and Ashes of Ariandel is sort of a step backward for a company that has always delivered exceptional content. If Ashes was the very first Dark Souls DLC, it would probably rate a bit higher. If Dark Souls III really is the last Souls game, the final DLC should be as epic as anything they have produced to date. You would think…