Dark Souls III - Ashes of Ariandel
Ashes of Ariandel offers a satisfying blend of lore, boss fights, and exploration that Souls fans love, but fails to shake some of Dark Souls 3's problems.
The final boss fight is challenging and worth the DLC, while the PvP arena will keep fans busy for some time, but ultimately the world of Ariandel is bleakly beautiful if unsatisfying.
From Software plays to its strengths with Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel giving players more difficult content to progress through in a big new area to explore. While a little light on big boss fights, the new multiplayer Arena mode has the potential to keep the fun going long after players have mastered and discovered all the new secrets and items this content has to offer.
To me, Dark Souls 3 was a good curtain call. Ariandel, however, feels like perhaps the series has come out for one round of applause too many, and my hands are starting to hurt now from the perpetual clapping. The combat and visual design are fantastic – that was never in question – and I enjoyed Ariandel for its short runtime of four hours, but it’s engulfed in the shadow of its predecessors’ far meatier expansions.
Some will be disappointed by The Ashes of Ariandel, for obvious reasons, but I relished jumping back in to a game I adore, with one of the greatest bosses of the series.
Ariandel is polished, but the entire package can be sped through in a way that’s uncharacteristic for the series.
Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel misses the mark. It fails to fill a large, fresh environment with tangible reasons to stay there any longer than a few hours, and although the new weapons and gear are some of the best in the game, you'll want to play about with them somewhere other than The Painted World. Each boss battle feels generic and produces a dead end, feeling unrelated as a result. The experience constantly builds itself up but never climaxes, falling flat without spectacle leaving you to lug your new arsenal of weapons and gear back to the Firelink Shrine, your work in The Painted World apparently complete. The Arena finally constructs a functional environment for something long curated by the community, but removes something in the process thanks to reward-less matches that fail to emulate the underground fight club feeling found in the main game.
The new Painted World looks gorgeous at times and exploration feels rewarding as you discover more shortcuts and pathways. The multiplayer arena seems unusual at first, but it is an interesting take on the game's PvP. Only hardcore fans will stick around for the long haul, though, so the DLC's main appeal comes from an awe inspiring boss fight at the end.
Ashes of Ariandel is a good time for those looking to give themselves an excuse to boot up Dark Souls 3 again, as if that is even necessary.
Ashes of Ariandel is a well-designed, 4-5 jaunt through another painted realm, with a structured PvP annex that to some may be worth the admission price alone. But it’s missing the superlative spark of previous Souls DLCs.