Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City Review
The second and possibly final DLC for Dark Souls 3 feels less like a grandiose adventure and more like a haunting descent into madness, which is a fitting way to end the revered trilogy. With its two new locations, four new bosses and dozens of new weapons and items to collect, The Ringed City DLC provides a good chunk of new content to an already outstanding game. But does this horrifyingly challenging new chapter deliver enough to warrant taking the journey into its spiraling depths?
Like the majority of Dark Souls games, what you get out of the story depends on how involved in it you want to be. The primary objective is to make your way through the fabled Ringed City in order to chase down the Slave Knight Gael and defeat him at what appears to be the literal end of the world. There are a few cut scenes and some general story information that is thrown directly at you, but most of the narrative content is tucked away in the lore. The overall tone dips deeper into the horror genre than before, especially in regards to the enemies. This was only intensified by the dread-inducing sound design, which was filled with ghastly shrieks and indescribable sounds of lurking monsters eager to destroy you, all of which were rendered in great detail.
“I often found myself pausing for a moment to simply to gaze out into the distance from one of the many vistas.”
Once again, both the enemy and boss designs are outstanding from a conceptual standpoint and provide varied combat experiences. Each enemy has its own deadly abilities or fighting tactics that will keep you on your toes at all times. Of the four bosses, a few of them felt a bit too similar to previous ones I’ve encountered in Souls before, but they all had small flourishes and details that made fighting them feel distinct and enjoyable.
The levels themselves feel like their own entity entirely. From the snowy heights and crumbling architecture of the Dreg Heap to the wide-open sandy dunes of the final area, each locale was a marvel to look at. I often found myself pausing for a moment to simply to gaze out into the distance from one of the many vistas. The design of the maps was also good, but a bit more linear than I would have hoped. Whereas many past Dark Souls levels have intersecting paths or hidden doors that demonstrate their interconnectivity, in my play through, I only discovered one shortcut and a handful or hidden areas.
Gameplay is still essentially the same as it’s always been, which is to say it’s both brilliant and punishingly hard. The new enemies you’ll encounter also feel extremely powerful and deadly. One of the most interesting new enemies is a giant shrieking angel creature that fires a barrage of energy projectiles with surprising accuracy every time you enter its gaze. Though the challenge this enemy presented forced me to rethink my approach to navigating the level, the only way to avoid its attacks seemed to be spamming the roll button for long stretches at a time, which left me wondering if this was truly how the developers wanted this encounter to play out, or if it was simply an oversight.
“There are a few segments and bosses that feel damn near impossible without the help from a friendly phantom.”
Once again, Dark Souls’ quirky approach to multiplayer is back, and the formidable level of difficulty had me utilizing its co-op more than ever. There are a few segments and bosses that feel damn near impossible without the help from a friendly phantom. However, even with the extra support, there is still plenty of challenge to be had. The DLC did add one unique multiplayer component that hasn’t been seen before by incorporating a PvP element into one of the boss fights, which was a neat feature and one I did not expect.
If The Ringed City really is the last time we’ll see any new Dark Souls content for the foreseeable future, players can rest assured that their final endeavor will be a worthwhile one. Though at times it can feel even more punishing than the main game, the thoughtful level design, fun boss battles, and a more horror-inspired tone make The Ringed City a worthy add-on and will give any Dark Souls 3 fan a reason to jump back into the madness.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Beautiful level design
- Fun and interesting bosses
- Good amount of new content
- Can be overly punishing at times
- Areas don’t feel very connected