Ed. Note: This is part two of my review of the DLC for Dark Souls III. You can read the first part here. There will be spoilers in this review. I feel the need to say that because the DLC dropped earlier this month and not months/years ago. If you are going to play the DLC and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this review. Then again, if you’re a Souls aficionado, you’ve probably already played it. If that’s the case, then let me know what you thought of the DLC!
It’s been a week since I wrote Part One of my review of the DLC for Dark Souls III, Ashes of Ariandel. In the meantime, I’ve finished both of my other two playthroughs, except for the extremely tough optional boss that I haven’t beaten solo. I beat him with a hellacious phantom (read about the amusing saga in my last post) in my miracle/pyromancy playthrough, but I haven’t beaten him with my melee character because I’m trying to solo him. He is the hardest boss in the Souls series, by far. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to pull it off. I’m not sure I want to continue trying. The third boss I hadn’t beaten solo in my first playthrough, I got him, well, them (Two Princes) with my melee character after much tears and anguish. I had to resort to watching videos for strategies on how to beat them, and one video had it boiled down to how you deal with most humanoids in Souls games; hug the side of the boss and smack that ass. In the first phase, it neutralizes much of his attacks. I face-tanked a lot of damage, but I had plenty of Estus to see me through this phase. The second phase is even more difficult because the younger prince climbs on his brother’s back and shoots magic at you while the older prince is whacking away at you with a big sword. Even with my fat health bar, he took off a third of my health with one swipe if I didn’t block it.
Once I learned the trick of sticking to him, that really cut down on the trouble his teleport caused me. Even when he teleported, I could sense where he was going to be. The time when I actually beat this boss, it seemed as if everything had slowed down and that the boss wasn’t doing his (their!) tougher attacks as often. That’s how it often is, though. I can feel like I’m flailing in my failed attempts, and then everything gels on the one successful attempt. I have no doubt that had I gone back for one more try*, I would have died again. Painfully. I will say that when I finally managed to kill him, I shouted in exultation. This is the second hardest boss in the game, including the first DLC, and I was pretty proud that I was able to best him on my own. Once I beat him solo, I had no qualms about summoning with my caster character. I used the two NPCs for one try, but that didn’t work well. One NPC and one human phantom did the trick, even though it didn’t feel as triumphant as beating the Two Princes solo.
On to the DLC. I played the first part of it with my melee character today. I still hate the mob of wolves that attacks you in the first part, and I just ran around them rather than fight them. I don’t know if that’s the right strategy, but they can easily swarm you and kill you by stun-locking you. I raced into the Vikings dude area to grab the Millwood Battle Axe to add to my axe collection. I’m kind of a completionist in that I want every axe in the game. There’s one more I have to get, but I think that’s it. I didn’t fight any of them because theiy hit really fucking hard, and I didn’t want to waste my time in that manner. That’s one thing about playing an area more than once–you don’t care about fighting everything the second time around. It’s more about just getting from point A to point B as painlessly as possible. I will say that it’s not as easy to make my way forward without my Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring combo. I had to fight more of the enemies, and I couldn’t sneak up on them. I do have a muffled footsteps spell, but I rather have my flaming sword (applying fire to my Greataxe) spell for this character. No, those aren’t the names, but it’s what the spells do. I will say it’s strange to have such a limited amount of spells that I can use. I’ve really been enjoying my play as a melee character, though. As I said before, that damage is pretty fucking sweet. As is the fact that I can take a few hits without getting staggered. I will say that this is less of an advantage late in the game, but it’s still satisfying to kill enemies in one or two hits.
I met the optional boss today for the second time. I summoned phantoms to help me, but it still took more than a few tries. This is one boss that is much easier as a caster, and you need what he/they have to give you if you want to do PvP in the new arena. I’m still not interested in doing it, but I was in the area so decided I might as well take out the boss. I’m not sure I will tackle Livid Pyromancer Dunnel, an NPC, again because I don’t need what he has to give me and because I SUCK at PVP. In addition, it’s not easy to reach the place where he resides, and I died several times trying to get there the first time I played the DLC. Can I just say how much I hate platforming and how much Miyazaki loves it? Having to drop from branch to branch is not my idea of fun, especially with the janky physics of the game. “That looks like it should be sa–” dead. Also, the place where the pyromancer resides has nothing else in it, so there’s no other reason to go.
I will say that I love the environment. That’s the best part of the DLC. I like snowy and cold settings, and Miyazaki does mood like nobody’s business. But, the decision to overpopulate the areas with mobs of enemies detracts from the setting. I barely had time to glance around, let alone let it sink in. Besides, I think that Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, the snowy area of the main game, outshines the Painted World of Ariandel by far, even though I raced my way through that as well. In addition, there are a lot of dead ends in the DLC, which is unusual for a Souls game. You fall through the floor in more than one place only to end up in a smallish arena with glittery objects and enemies, but no progression. I also missed two shortcuts because there were no messages indicating that they existed. Usually, someone will leave a message before a shortcut, but I didn’t see one before either shortcut. The level designs of Souls games are usually stellar, but not in this case. I got lost more than once, and the progression is more linear than in the main game.
When I first met Sister Friede, I immediately knew that she was going to be a boss. Why? I can’t exactly articulate my reasons, but it just seemed so obvious to me. She didn’t like that I had intruded upon her world, and she warned me to leave. Her knight guy, Sir Vilhelm, growled at me after I talked to Sister Friede, and then he threatened me as well. Later, I had to fight him, and I took him out rather easily with my pyromancy. That’s when it became exceedingly clear that I’d have to fight Sister Friede at some point. Her lore is rather interesting. She’s the sister of Yuria, an NPC in the main game. Yuria is a frustrating character to fulfill her questline because if you miss one small part, she disappears forever. In my first playthrough, I chose to heal the Dark Sigil because it was something new, so I had to try it, right? The next time I went to talk to Yuria, she refused to talk to me, saying I clearly wasn’t the true Dark Lord or some shit like that. Then, she vanished from my game and never returned. I was pretty upset and wondered if I should start again, but I decided I’d leave her questline for the next playthrough. Should I have been able to figure it out through the dialogue and item descriptions? Maybe. But, it’s pretty esoteric. Then, you have to complete Anri’s (another NPC) questline for the dark ending. Since I wanted to do both of his questlines, that meant I had to banish Yuria from one of my playthroughs. I chose to go dark for my caster because–I don’t remember why. That meant I killed the pilgrim in my melee playthrough (don’t ask), and Yuria left in a huff.
When I reached the end of the game and was asked if I wanted to link the fire, I double-checked the wikis to make sure I had done everything correctly. I had. All I had to do was interact with the fire, and then I’d get the alternate cut-scene. I took a deep breath and followed the instructions. To my relief, I got the alternate ending, which is my favorite by far. The other alternate ending (where you don’t link the flame) is my second favorite, and the ‘canon’ ending is my least favorite. I am ambivalent about how hard it is to follow the NPC questlines in this game. On the one hand, I love that they have their individual stories, and I smiled when I glanced over in the Yhorm fight and saw Siegward of Catarina striding in next to me, Storm Ruler over his shoulder. After the fight, when he faded away and left me his Storm Ruler and armor, I genuinely felt upset. Seeing Anri kneel before me during the Dark Lord ending was pretty cool, whereas having to kill him after he turned hollow in the ‘good’ ending of his questline broke my heart. As for Yuria, I’m curious to hear the extra dialogue when I talk to her during the DLC as the Dark Lord, and I really like her look. I want her loot, but I don’t think I can get it without killing her. Which I may do before going to NG+ because everything resets, but I don’t like killing NPC unless provoked to do so.
Big spoiler: Sister Friede was the final boss of the DLC. Kind of. This was a really cool fight, starting with the summoning of Slave Knight Gael before the fight. Instead of him just appearing, a message says he’ll show up at a future location or something like that. That was really weird to me, but I shrugged it off before going into the fight. I had the hardest time triggering door to the fight, by the way. You have to turn a crank in the basement of the church in which she resides, which is very reminiscent of how you trigger the door to the boss in the Painted World of Ariamis. In both, there’s a statue that moves (turns in Ariamis, if I remember correctly, does the same in Ariandel before moving back and revealing stairs), and then you’re able to access the boss. In this case, I walked into the newly-discovered room, and there’s a monstrosity at the other end, hovering over a giant cup of…fire? I think it’s fire. He’s asking for his flail, which I made from the boss soul after I killed this boss. It’s called the Rose of Ariandel. It’s hilarious to see my character flail herself, but you get a boost to miracles when you do it.
After the monstrosity whines at you, Sister Friede walks into the room, intent on killing you. She has a scythe and, man, does it do damage. She also becomes invisible as she teleports. Both of these things are reminiscent of Crossbreed Priscilla, the boss of the Painted World of Ariamis. I find out that the monstrosity is Father Ariandel, the titular namesake of the DLC. Anyway, I didn’t find Sister Friede’s first phase that difficult, but I decided to help other people fight her to see what else she had. During the second phase, Slave Knight Gael is summoned as Father Ariandel starts attacking as well. He’s enraged that you killed Sister Friede, and he resurrects her. This phase is pretty epic with the church ablaze and the music soaring. During one of my phantom runs (helping other players), we managed to kill Sister Friede and Father Ariandel, and there was much rejoicing. Except, what the hell? Sister Friede arises once again, only this time, she’s called Blackflame Friede, and she’s in hyper mode. She kills us in short order, and I returned to my world, stunned.
This is running long again, so I will end this here. I will write one last post about my thoughts on the DLC and the main game thus far. Until then, I bid you adieu.
*Yes, I know it’s not possible. It’s a hypothetical, damn it.