Published on April 8th, 2017 | by Sean Warhurst
Dark Souls 3 – The Ringed City PS4 Review
Summary: If you’re a souls fanatic, then getting this is a no-brainer and, in terms of amount of content, by all reports it’s almost double that of Ashes of Ariandel, making The Ringed City even better value for money.
Time is a Flat Circle...
In what is apparently the final foray into the Dark Souls universe, at least with Miyazaki at the helm, The Ringed City has the unenviable task of closing out the highly revered series with content that is both fresh and exciting whilst also paying tribute to what has come before.
After the lukewarm reception to Ashes of Ariandel (I haven’t actually played it yet, so I can’t comment), From Software really had to pull out all the stops and give gamers something more akin to the Artorias of the Abyss DLC for the first game, which is often hailed as the greatest part of an already classic game.
So, did they succeed? Well, personally I think The Ringed City serves as a fitting swansong for the series, with some hair-raising boss fights, a welcome expansion of the lore and a handful of new areas, but I also have to admit that From has somewhat lost their vision of what makes Dark Souls such a fantastic series (Hint, it’s not the difficulty).
One can’t help shake the feeling that From has bought into their own hype and focused too much on providing extreme difficulty for difficulties sake, without the sense of a coherent flow and dynamic flow of challenge present in their other efforts, such as Bloodborne’s sublime The Old Hunters.
Of course, this could be due in part to me tackling The Ringed City on NG+2, as I had rolled over my character and had to play through until the end again to access the bonfire that grants you access to the DLC, but I also went through The Old Hunters in the same manner and didn’t feel like the game was ever unfair, whereas there were moments in The Ringed City (Laser-Angels, I’m looking at you) where the game clearly has an advantage, striking down even highly-levelled tank characters with three or four blows.
The beginning of the DLC sees players finally getting to explore the Dreg Heap, that Escher-esque backdrop to your final confrontation with the Lord of Cinder. Whilst definitely one of the most visually interesting environments in the game, the actual act of traversing this area is a little underwhelming.
The level design generally on par with From’s usual efforts but the player rarely has time to sit back and appreciate any of it as they’re often forced to sprint through the areas, avoiding projectiles and seemingly endless waves on enemies.
This frenetic pace is also somewhat at odds with the considered and careful approach that many gamers adopt whilst playing a Souls game; whilst it’s nice to have brief spurts of high-octane chases, such as avoiding the flames of the Dragon bridge guardian in the first game, when it’s delivered in an unrelenting manner such as it is here it can feel a little exhausting.
One of the main draws for the series for me, personally, is of course the boss battles and, although one could argue that they’re mostly just variations on previous Souls bosses, I personally enjoyed my time with them, although they never quite reached the heights of, say Sif or even Fume Knight from Dark Souls 2.
There are four in total here and each offer up their own unique challenges and additions to the lore; those expecting a definitive wrapping up of what is one of the most obtuse, lore intensive games of this generation will of course be disappointed, but honestly was anyone expecting everything to be laid out clearly at the end anyway?
Dark souls was never about the story, which at a base level doesn’t really deviate from the established tropes of fantasy-fiction. It was the word building, the sense of Lothric and the other lands of having existed long before your character ever ventured on to the scene. It’s in this respect that The Ringed City hits out its best notes, giving gamers once last glimpse into a decaying world preparing itself for the renewing of an endless cycle of conflict forevermore.
Playing through The Ringed City was a bittersweet experience for me; it felt almost like I was lamenting the end of the series whilst playing rather than allowing myself to truly immerse myself in the content. The Souls series has become one of my all-time favourite gaming franchises and, whilst I commend From with having the plums to pull the plug whilst they’re still arguably on top of their game, there’s a little piece of me that dies inside every time I hear that the Souls series is now considered complete.
Despite the brick walls in difficulty, I did ultimately have fun with The Ringed City and, as I mentioned earlier, see it as a great chance to return to the world Miyazaki created for one last time. If you’re a souls fanatic, then getting this is a no-brainer and, in terms of amount of content, by all reports it’s almost double that of Ashes of Ariandel, making The Ringed City even better value for money.
I’d be interested to play through the DLC on a NG run and see if my main issues with the DLC – The high damage rate and massive health bars of enemies – is mitigated somewhat, but even if it’s not I still have no qualms recommending this to the Souls converted.