The Souls series has some of the best expansions I’ve played in my life as a gamer. They expand on the world and introduce new events integral to the series lore, add new difficult enemies and bosses, and are generally well designed and a frustrating joy to play though. Unfortunately, Ashes of Ariandel, the first DLC expansion (out of two) for Dark Souls 3, doesn’t quite measure up to this standard.
The expansion introduces players to the Painted World of Ariandel, a world that exists inside a painting. The inhabitants of the world use it as a refuge from the evil rampaging in the outside world, but it seems like Ariandel isn’t the sanctuary it once was. There’s a running gag about how the story of Dark Souls can only be found on YouTube videos, where fans try and explain it. For the most part this is an exaggeration, and players usually know where they are going and what they need to do when they get there. That’s not the case with Ashes of Ariandel. The plot is unclear, and I found myself wandering around this new snowy world without really understanding what I’m doing, who I’m doing it too and why. The confusing ending did help either.
The fact that the expansion is really short doesn’t help either. There’s only one new area for you to explore, and you can get through it in about two hours, and the two new bosses will add maybe an hour or so of gameplay. The first boss is actually optional and isn’t all that interesting, so you won’t lose anything by skipping it (apart from the challenge, of course). The second, however, is absolutely great, and is one of the most challenging and rewarding bosses in the Souls series. It’s clear that the developers has invested all their creativity in the second boss, at the expanse of the first.
The main issue I have with Ashes of Ariandel is the level design. It’s usually a really important aspect of the Souls series, but this time it really feels like someone dropped the ball. The environments are maybe pretty, but the snowy landscape is boring to trudge through and don’t create an atmosphere worthy of the Dark Souls title. The enemy design is also a bit lacking, as there are just a handful of interesting new enemies, and you rarely encounter them. Most of the time you are fighting the same standard enemies.
There are a few good things to say about the expansion, apart from the excellent final boss. The new weapons have a very Bloodborne feel to them, and are fun to use if you know how. There is also a new PvP arena that provides new ways to take on other players – an additional the online community will undoubtedly appreciate.
I can recommend Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel for those who are willing to look past the boring narrative and levels to fight against one of the best bosses in Dark Souls so far. Online players should also find the new arena a welcome addition. However, the rest of you might want to hold up on the first Dark Souls 3 DLC until the inevitable DLC bundle that should arrive with the release on the second DLC pack. Hopefully by then, the developers could learn from player feedback and make the final piece of Dark Souls content a memorable experience.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.