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Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: From Software
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Yes
ESRB: M

Dark Souls III’s First DLC, Ashes of Ariandel released just a few days ago, bringing with it a whole slew of new content for players to delve into. How much time you will spend with this content however depends entirely on how much you enjoy the PvP elements of the Souls games. If you are here solely for the PvE, you may be a bit disappointed. The story content is pretty short, especially for a Souls DLC. I spent the entire first day with this content and managed to finish the story portion of the DLC to completion three times with three characters. With one optional boss, one mandatory boss and only four real areas to explore it feels a bit lacking. The amount of content in these short areas is not easy by any means, but the inclusion of several bonfires and shortcuts make it feel even shorter and not quite as daunting.

The introduction of new enemies and environments will give even the most veteran souls players pause, as there are new tactics that you will need to learn to survive the painted world of Ariandel. Millwood knights litter the land, giant hulking men capable of doing obscene amounts of damage very quickly if you aren’t prepared. If your playstyle relies on blocking and parrying you will quickly adapt to a new style of play. Wolves are fairly common and easy to defeat when you fight one or two at a time, but if you let one howl all hell breaks loose and you will quickly find yourself fighting a dozen of them at once. This can prove overwhelming and force you to search for tactical positioning before approaching a wolf fight.

Dark Souls III_AoA-Bridge

Right when you begin to understand the mechanics for fighting these enemies you come to the Corvian Settlement where you are faced with entirely new foes. The Corvian bird people are pretty simple, slow weak fodder that lulls you into a false sense of security. Right as you start to let your guard slip a Corvian Knight shows up to remind you that you are in fact playing Dark Souls. These are extremely fast opponents armed with claws that inflict bleed damage that will quickly end your life if unprepared.

The boss fights here manage to hit both ends of the Souls spectrum. The optional boss (which is required to defeat to access the PvP content) is almost insultingly simple. No special tactics required and no real difficulty on any of my characters. In case you are curious, I played through with a strength build, a dexterity build and a pyromancer. All three of these made quick work of the boss during both “phases”. The final boss however, was a challenge to be remembered. This boss fight *spoilers* uses three phases, all of which vary from the previous. My strength build mopped the floor with all three phases, but my dexterity build and pyromancer has some serious issues. The satisfaction is no less upon completion however, leaving you with that exuberant feeling that only comes from completing a steep challenge.

Dark Souls III_AoA-PvP_area

Overall the story content only takes about three hours to complete. If you ignore exploration and optional content it takes even less. This is definitely the shortest DLC of the Souls games, but as I stated earlier has plenty to do in terms of PvP. The new arena introduces a whole new element to that aspect of the game, team battles of between 2 and 6 players, free for all’s, group duels and the ability to include modifiers in your matches. You can turn healing on or off for the match, and there is a spawn camping deterrent that I will let you discover for yourself if you choose to play that way.

All in all, Ashes of Ariandel is a great addition to the Dark Souls III main game with my only complaint being that I wish there was more to do in this beautiful new world. The new area and weather effects and unique enemies are all incredibly well made, as well as difficult yet balanced. The amount of lore they are able to pack into this small area is also impressive, but must be sought out as always. The new PvP elements add something to the multiplayer that continue to push it further out in front of any other multiplayer game out there in my eyes. If you only came for the single player however, you may feel that $14.99 is a bit steep for what you get.

Grade: B