Huge thank you toBandai Namco for providing us with a review code for the Ringed City!
Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City is first and foremost FromSoftware’s love letter to the Souls series. As the last piece of DLC for Dark Souls 3 and the last entry in the series for the foreseeable future, The Ringed City has a lot to live up to. There are punishing but fair bosses, increasingly annoying enemies, and big ol’ swords to flourish. In other words, everything a Souls fan would want from a DLC. But does it deliver on these expectations?
Even entering the DLC can be a challenge, depending on where you are in your game. If you haven’t bought the previous DLC, Ashes of Ariandel, you will have to reach the final boss before you can gain access to the bonfire that will take you to The Ringed City. If you have Ashes of Ariandel, you only have to beat that DLC’s last boss, who happens to be one of the hardest bosses across the series. Not impossible, but certainly a bigger challenge than one might expect when trying to access the new content. This is also a less tha1n subtle way to tell the player that this expansion is going to be tough. Really tough. Punishingly tough in a series whose tag line is “prepare to die”.
The events of The Ringed City pick up where the player follows the trail of Slave Knight Gael, the red caped warrior encountered in Ashes. Explore the ruins of an ancient city where pieces of the world have converged in one place and time.
Do you take the plunge?
The Ringed City begins with a leap of faith, dropping the Unkindled through the stained glass window of a massive chapel that lies in ruins. Most of the world in The Ringed City is in ruins, but in the Souls universe it’s almost rarer to find something not destroyed. As the player descends, through environments lifted directly from Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2, the game constantly reminds you that you are headed somewhere that is pre-Dark Souls lore.
The Ringed City is a pretty straightforward expansion whose only purpose is to push the player forward as fast as humanly (or Hollowly) possible. This is caused almost exclusively by two new enemies that force the player to constantly move to avoid dying. A nightmarish angel reminiscent of the creatures that float in the distance at the Grand Archive and a giant who summon an army of ethereal archers that sends waves of arrows down in rapid succession.
Calling them unfair would be appropriate, but with this being a Souls game, the fanbase would likely swoop down with all the “git gud” memes the internet has to offer. But this is a fair accusation as far as the Souls games are concerned.
Just about every enemy or boss has a pattern that can be learned and avoided. Some bosses might take more time to learn their pattern, and others might change up these patterns across transformations or power-ups but otherwise it is a balance of learning, dying, and conquering.
This underlying theme of the Souls series is broken when enemies must be avoided in order to progress. It isn’t inherently bad to break these established rules but it does make for a very disjointed experience for the player.
Between these enemies, the player finally gets a chance to admire the absolutely stunning environments, all bathed in the half light of a bleeding eclipse. The city was built for an ancient race and it is long since seen it’s prime. Much of the city is covered in gravestones, evoking questions as to what happened to the citizens and who was left to bury them. Recognizing the areas you’re traveling to serves to remind you that you truly are at the end of existence as you know it. There is plenty of lore to discover in the game, but the answers to some of the more pressing questions are left unanswered. While most of the plot of the Dark Souls series you have to figure out on your own, having someone just sit you down and explain some of these concepts would have been nice for once.
“The blood of the dark soul”
It wouldn’t be a Souls expansion without some truly awe inspiring bosses. There are three main bosses and one optional one in The Ringed City, and of course the optional one is one of the most challenging one in the game. Perhaps one of the most rewarding boss fights across the Souls universe is at the end of the DLC, so much so that I purposely died just so I could fight him again. While the bosses alone doesn’t make the expansion these four are certainly a convincing argument.
The Ringed City is a nice present for Souls fans, a vague mass of questions wrapped in perseverance…with a tidy, blood-drenched bow on top. Despite some out of character enemies The Ringed City is a stunning send off to the series and a fitting end to the Souls world. Hardcore fans of the series will find little secrets in every corner that will keep them coming back for more while more casual players might be frustrated at the level design and steep uptick in difficulty that The Ringed City brings to the table.
- Stunning visuals
- Punishing but fair bosses
- Ringed Knight Paired Greatswords might be my new favorite weapon
- One of the most frustrating enemies in any of the Souls games