Dark Souls is in a strange place. With the series coming to a close—or at least going on hiatus—following the March 27 release of part three’s last chunk of DLC, we’re seeing the last gasps of a brand that’s delighted fans for nearly a decade. Even so, Dark Souls 3 doesn’t stand as the strongest note to go out on; while most would agree it’s a fine game, From Software’s fatigue from developing five huge RPGs in eight years can be seen in its weaker moments.
A Tall Order
The first DLC for Dark Souls 3, Ashes of Ariandel, saw some polarizing reviews when it released back in October. Needless to say, The Ringed City has a lot riding on it. Not only is it asking an audience to get jazzed for additional content a year out from the core game’s release, it also amounts to the Souls series finale. Luckily, based on what I played at a recent Bandai-Namco event, The Ringed City could shape up to be a fitting farewell to Dark Souls.
My time with The Ringed City added up to around 20 minutes—as expected, the “YOU DIED” text pops up pretty often with any Dark Souls experience. But, even in this relatively brief period, I could tell The Ringed City definitely cuts a unique profile. In essence, the journey to the titular Ringed City takes the form of a descent. The intro to this DLC paints a surrealistic picture, with a backdrop that evokes the work of M.C. Escher. It feels like a convergence of many realities, with architecture smashed together chaotically in a gravity-defying ways.
The Ringed City also isn’t afraid to borrow from other From Software creations. One segment of the intro section borrows from the set piece in Bloodborne in which you have to haul butt from point A to point B while a distant turret takes potshots at you. In The Ringed City, this concept takes the form of a massive butterfly firing projectiles as you dart between pieces of debris for some much-needed cover. Instead of being just a rehash of an old Bloodborne idea, the butterfly feels like an entirely new take, one that adds a bit of fast-paced action to the typically methodical (yet enjoyable) pacing of a Souls game.
It’s tough to say anything definitive based on a small sampling of The Ringed City, but what I played certainly feels like quality Souls content. And, if anything, From Software uses their DLC to address criticisms and learn from past mistakes. Since many complained Ashes of Ariandel was too short and linear, From is promising just the opposite with their second and last dose of DLC. And who knows: with no announced projects current in the pipeline, it could be all hands on deck at From Software to give the Souls series a fitting end. Hey, we can only hope.