End of an Era
Dark Souls III's final DLC has the hefty task of providing a satisfying conclusion to the series, beloved for bringing challenging gameplay back into the Mainstream. The Ringed City has been subject to months of speculation as to what the grand ending to the series would entail, with theories regarding lore implications, returning characters, final bosses and locations and now that the DLC has finally dropped, fans will be satisfied with the content, at least most of the time.
The content matches its quantity with quality as this is some of the most unique Souls content ever produced, all while servicing many of the demands fans have made up to its release. The Dreg heap area offers an area twisted and merging itself, like we see before the final boss of the main game, except it's now fully explorable. This area has some interesting stealth sections, that encourage players to stop and analyse the environment. It's an excellent change of pace, introducing mechanics not present in the main game.
The area ends with a call back to Earthen Peak from Dark Souls II. Its great to see the series pay homage to an area from a previous game, while elevating the gameplay to a new level.
The second area, The Ringed City itself is fantastic, crumbling kingdom, punctuated with sprawling plant life and abyssal swamps. This final area encapsulates Dark Souls' themes of beauty, juxtaposed with ruin and tragedy and is a true beauty to behold.
Challenging areas wouldn't be nearly as alluring without some sort of payoff and this payoff comes in the forms of weapons and bosses.
The weapons of DSIII address one of the base games main issues in the most spectacular way. The weapons of the base game are, largely, visual variations one a small group of movesets. TRC's weapons and shields are borderline ridiculous, in the best of ways.
Shields made of the severed heads of dragon's, flaming dual greatswords with AoE blasts, and my personal favourite, the crucifix and skeletal remains of a mad king are all present in the DLC. These weapons not only provide new playstyles, but are infinitely fun from a thematic and visual standpoint.
The same goes for the armour. New sets, like the flaming "ringed knight set" as well as returning sets like the dessert pyromancer set provide a great balance between the new and fan-favourite armours.
As is a series staple, the bosses are the true highlight of the experience and worlds above the average difficulty. The four bosses found in TRC are all entirely distinct from one another, and any main game bosses. Without venturing too far into spoilers, we have a pair of demons, dark dragon, a nod to the Old Monk from Demon's Souls, and the Dark Souls himself. These feel climactic, both in their size and lore implications.
These bosses are all distinct from those of the main game both visually and mechanically. It helps to make the areas feel like nightmarish, isolated worlds at the edge of the world. Thematically, this DLC hits all the right notes.
My issues with the DLC stem less from the amount of content, but rather the lack of a clear resolution and the execution of some of areas and enemies in the DLC. Certain areas, involving stealth feel tedious after a certain amount of retries. In these stealth sections you're meant to jump from cover to cover in order to avoid, high-damage fire from enemies, who pose no other sort of threat. Outside of the Ringed and Harald Knights, no enemies feel like they pose a truly enjoyable battle, without relying on artificial difficulty.
Some areas in the DLC, specifically from the middle to end have strange enemy placements and general designs, the black swamp area stands out in particular as it's a large-open space filled with weak enemies, a giant who summons ghosts from a previous stealth section before leading into a set piece where you're meant to avoid insta-kill dragon breath. Sections like these don't pop up too often, but they suffer in comparison to the quality of most areas, hurting the experience.
Since the DLC is quite possibly the final piece of Souls content, fans expected resolution to burning lore questions. Those who expected some sort of final resolution, blending with the main story will be sorely disappointing as the DLC poses more questions than it answers.
The story introduces new characters with significant ones like Gwyn only made passing references to. The previous DLC's story is concluded, but even this lacks impact since there's no final cutscene, alternate ending and all we get is some new dialogue from an NPC. It leaves one feeling sold short, given that the speculation surrounding the ending was far more interesting than the ending itself
The Ringed City's stealth sections can get tedious once you've had to retry them a few times. They also feel artificially difficult, forcing players to stay in cover or be killed. Very few enemies pose a fair challenge and players will feel that most mobs aren't worth their time. One area in the DLC seems like a waste, being a sparsely populated swamp, with boring enemies.
My biggest gripe with TRC is in it's lack of a defenitive conclusion. Its more interested in brining new lore to a series that needed resolution for some of its more important points. There's no real ending to the DLC and after a climactic battle with thee Dark Soul it feels as if fans have been sold short.
Final Verdict: 7.5/10
- Gorgeous new environments
- Sections that present new ideas and gameplay
- Ridiculously cool new weapons and armour
- Fantastic new bosses
- Difficulty feels artificial/tedious at times
- No resolution or addition to the main game's lore
- Some sparsly populated areas