Release Date: October 24th, 2016
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel – Review
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game.
Ashes of Ariandel is the first DLC release for Dark Souls III and it takes place in the new area known as “The Painted World of Ariandel”. Immediately upon entering the new area of the game I was impressed by what I saw. We are presented with a beautiful snowy landscape filled with blowing snow and just an eerie sense of it all. You exit through a cave and find yourself smack dab in the middle of a small clearing with a hill off to the right, the sounds of enemies in the distance and the ever blowing snow concealing things from view.
It should be known that Ashes of Ariandel is my first forray into a Souls related DLC since Artorias of the Abyss. I loved Dark Souls II but never really had a chance to sit down and play the game’s additional content (someday). In Ashes of Ariandel you’re transported to the new land of the Painted World of Ariandel after talking to a praying man at the Cleansing Chapel bonfire before he sucks you into a scrap of painting and you’re dropped into this cold, frigid world.
As mentioned above one of my favourite take-aways with this expansion is the landscape and the overall tone and setting. It really sucked me in and made me want to continue to progress through this new area and see what it had in store for me.
The enemies in Ashes of Ariandel are pretty cool, but they all seem like something we’ve seen before in the past. You’ve got wolves who act similar to dogs but they feel a little more lethal and their howling seems to attract the other wolves in some rather frustrating pack mentality and they ripped me apart on a few occasions. The main force of foes you’ll be taking on are Farron Followers who wield a variety of weapons and from my experience with the DLC, two of those weapons are acquirable. I don’t want to spoil much in the terms of weapons and armor sets but there’s some cool gems in here and I reckon we’ll be seeing people adapting these weapons into their PvP builds, as they seem incredibly useful and viable.
Not to mention the addition of the frost based sorceries, the new pyromancy and miracles. These too all feel at home in the game and they really suit the expansion and setting. You’ll also notice that the pyromancy added was one we’ve seen in the core game and it’s finally nice to be able to use that pyromancy for ourselves.
One the topic of enemies you have two new bosses added to the game in the form of the Gravetender’s Champion/Gravetender’s Greatwolf and Sister Friede. Both of these bosses are pretty cool additions to the game with the former being the more interesting of the two, in my opinion and the fight and arena itself may remind you of a certain boss fight in the first Dark Souls game. The only downside is that we do just get two bosses in this expansion, and it would have been cool if it could have been rounded out to three bosses but the fact that there’s only two new bosses to take on isn’t much of a downside considering each boss has two foes you’re pitted against at certain times.
There’s a familiarity to Ashes of Ariandel and that’s not a bad thing in the slightest.
However the real meat and take-away here in Ashes of Ariandel is the PvP arena that can be accessed through the Firelink Shrine bonfire after killing a certain boss in the DLC. The arena is a really cool idea and pits you against other players in a variety of modes. You can tackle it in teams or have free-for-all brawls of up to six players going at each other in a fun and solid PvP environment modeled after the Kiln of the First Flame where you fight the Soul of Cinder at the end of the core game.
I played a few matches of this mode and it was quite the blast, and I actually seemed to be able to hold my own unlike in standard PvP where it involved player hosted fight clubs and the standard invasions. This area of PvP seems more open to everyone and the fact that Estus Flasks are restricted in various ways here is a nice touch, no more Estus chugging while taking on other players.
For people turned off on the concept of massive group battles in this area, don’t fret as you can still do your typical one on one duels here as well and the match ends as soon as one person is killed. I really enjoyed my time spent in the arena and I can for sure guarantee that I’ll be tackling it again as soon as I publish this review. Will the arena take over the standard PvP practices Souls players are used to? Of course not, but they’re a welcome addition in my book and breathe a new life into the Dark Souls PvP scene.
Ashes of Ariandel is a great start to the expansions set to release for Dark Souls III and will have a little something for every Souls player out there. Whether you’re more engrossed in the PvE side of things you’ll have a cool new area to explore with beautiful level design and tough enemies to tackle in your adventure, or whether you’re more a PvP kind of person you have something as well in the form of the Undead Arena which even at the moment has one level I assume we’ll see more in the future in the next expansion or even in free updates.
It may feel a little lacking in some areas and be quick to complete in terms of PvE, there’s still a lot worth checking out in Ashes of Ariandel. This was one of my favourite areas to explore in the entirety of Dark Souls III and I wouldn’t complain if we got some more snow related content.
In the end, Ashes is a solid first entry into the Dark Souls III expansions and hopefully things only go up from here.