Ed. Note: There will be spoilers galore as I delve into the final piece of the Dark Souls puzzle, The Ringed City DLC for Dark Souls III. I will be revealing locations, items, and boss names, so if you haven’t played it yet and want to be unspoiled, do not read this review.
I have finished The Ringed City DLC for DS III, and I have many complicated thoughts about it. I actually finished it a few days ago, but I’m currently trying to solo the final boss with my tank character who is NG++. I also have the optional boss to do with her, but I’m not sure I need to face that particular delight for a third time. I’m getting ahead of myself, however, so let me start at the beginning.
When The Ringed City released, I downloaded it immediately, but I hesitated to play it for three reasons. One, Dark Souls DLC are known to be brutal. Yes, I know the games themselves are renowned for their difficulty, but that’s nothing compared to the DLC, including the DLC for Bloodborne. Artorias of the Abyss, the DLC for the original Dark Souls, is legend for how much it will spank your ass the first time you play it. Many in the Souls community were not happy with the sequel, but they loved the three DLCs that came out with it. The first DLC for DS III, Ashes of Ariandel, was short and felt rushed, but the final boss of that DLC was phenomenal. I knew The Ringed City was going to be harder than the main game, and I don’t play the games for the sheer brutality of them. I hated DS II‘s DLCs the first time I played them because they felt hard for all the wrong reasons, and I was steeling myself for what The Ringed City would throw at me.
The second reason is because I’ve taken my two favorite characters through NG++ to the end, and the other two I had taken through NG were kinda hodge-podge characters. One started as a dex character, but I’m crap at dex and switched her to an all-around caster. The other is a faith caster, but with enough intelligence to do pyromancies. In other words, they’re very similar. One I’d taken through the first DLC and one I hadn’t. The one I hadn’t ended up being the better overall character because she has the Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring, which masks her footsteps, and it’s essential to my play as a caster. I did try to take her through the first DLC at some point during the second DLC, but it was cut off to me. It’s unfortunate, but I’ll get into that later. I wasn’t going to play the DLC on NG++ my first time through, so I started with one of my utility casters. I had a hunch it wasn’t going to end well.
The third reason is purely a personal one. I hate the end of things, and this was the last new Souls experience I was ever going to have*. I haven’t watched the last season of Prime Suspect for this very reason, even though I love it and Helen Mirren. I knew once I finished The Ringed City, there would be no new Souls,** which was almost unfathomable for someone who’s been obsessed with the games for the past few years. Yes, I can keep playing the old ones and probably will, but this is the end. No more. It was hard to wrap my mind around that idea. I checked a few Steam reviews, and they were glowing. With that, I took a deep breath and took the plunge.
Once I decided to play, the first thing was finding how to start the DLC. FromSoft is notorious for making the starting points difficult to find, but this one was relatively easy. There’s a bonfire that warps you there in two different places. Once I started, I was immediately destroyed. The enemies in the DLC hit a million times harder than the enemies in the main game, and my fragile caster was not having a good time. Even with my beloved Hidden Body/Slumbering Dragoncrest Ring that makes me nearly invisible–well, except to–I’ll get to that in a second. One of my biggest gripes is that the DLCs of Souls games HATE casters even more than the main game does. You have to remember that the sacrifice I make as a caster for having magicks is that I don’t have much strength and/or dexterity. Therefore, my main weapon is usually pretty shit. Focus points (FP), the thing that fuels magicks, runs out, and I eventually have to use my weapon to attack characters. In the case of this character, I had enough str/dex to main a Black Knight Sword, which I fully upgraded, which gave me better damage than my usual Battle/Brigand Axe, fully upgraded. Still. My preferred method is to hurl pyromancies/spells from afar to minimize danger.
In the very first area of The Ringed City, there is a new enemy that is easily one of my least-favorite. They’re called Angels, but I just called them the laser angels of death. There is one per area, and they are utter bullshit. They scream, then emit lasers of death that can perma-stunlock my caster, depending on how many lasers they emit, and there’s not a damn thing I can do as I watch her die. In addition, they emit a miracle curse that is an insta-kill if your meter completely fills up, so you can’t hide in one place for very long. In further addition, Hidden Body doesn’t work on them, so you can’t even stealth around them. This was fixed in a patch, but it was too late for me. I had to do the entire area without being able to stealth, which was shit of the bull variety. It’s completely RNG whether the laser angel of death will allow you to traverse an area or not–at least if you have minimal health and endurance as I do.
I don’t mind dying if I think it’s my fault; I DO mind dying when I feel there’s no way I can avoid it. I spent most of my time in the first few areas of the DLC just running around trying not to get killed. I’m going to say something I have difficulty saying about a Miyazaki-created video game experience: I hated this DLC with all my heart when I first played it. I could acknowledge that it was breathtaking and objectively a good game, but I. Hated. It. By the time I reached the first boss, I was worn out. I tried them/him a few times, but I didn’t even come close. I did get them down to very little health, but I suspected it was only phase one. I put down my White Sign Soapstone summons sign and was summoned to another world to help someone else beat the boss. Just as I suspected, after you beat the Demons in Pain & the Demon from Below, the Demon Prince arises, and it’s round two. It doesn’t help that they’re all made of fire, of course, so they’re resistant to fire. That’s one of my biggest complaints in the DLCs of Souls games–all the spells/miracles/pyromancies become much less useful. I will say that I got a cool new pyromancy in this area, though. It’s called Flame Fan, and the second picture in this article depicts me trying it out, cosplaying as Desert Pyromancer Zoey, the NPC you have to kill in order to get the spell.
About the same time, I decided to try out my tank in NG++. Yes, it’s NG++, but being a tank mitigates a lot of what makes the DLC hard. I was able to breeze through the same area in much less time, and I know it’s partly because I already knew what to do, but it still underscored how much of a disadvantage it is to play as a caster. In addition, I started looking up things in the wikis, which I normally don’t like to do on a first playthrough, because I knew there had to be a way to kill the laser angels of death, and I didn’t have the patience to figure it out for myself. As I did, I read that you’re supposed to be between levels 90 and 120 to play the DLC. My caster was 95, so I was at the low end of what was required. 120 made much more sense, but that would have meant a lot of grinding to acquire an additional thirty levels. My tank beasted her way up until the boss, and then I decided it was OK to use the two NPCs to beat it. I did in a few tries, which still took less time than my caster on NG with two human phantoms.
I should have just played with my NG++ tank, but I’m a caster at heart, and I’m stubborn. I’ve always played the initial playthrough of a Souls game as a caster, and that’s how I wanted to finish the DLC. So, after beating the Demon Prince, I took my embered caster with the bonus HP to the next section, and was promptly invaded by another player. BIG shout-out to the person who camps out right after a boss in the DLC a day after it’s released in order to be a dickhole. You are the best! And by the best, I mean, fuck off and die. I hate PvP to begin with, and right after beating a boss is the worst.
You know what’s even worse than the worst? The next section, the Mausoleum Lookout. The beginning of this section is utter bullshit, even more so than the previous bullshit, and I actually cried while attempting it the first several times. There’s an enemy called the Judicator Giant, who instantly became my new hated enemy, taking the place of the laser angels from death, who no longer appeared. You see the first of these assholes in the distance from the Mausoleum Lookout bonfire. As you cautiously make your way through the graveyard, he summons Ghost (Ruin Sentinel) Archers who shoot flame arrows at you. Now, if you’re a fragile caster like me, you cannot block those damn arrows because they will drain your stamina like nobody’s business. There’s a pattern you have to run, from gravestone to gravestone, then jump off a ledge, then climb up a ladder, and you’re right next to the Judicator Giant. You have to attack him as fast as you can because he will keep summoning those asshole archers, plus a knight with a big hammer who HITS YOU VERY HARD. I can’t tell you how many times I had to do this bit until I killed the Judicator Giant. Then, like an idiot, I sat at the next bonfire before going back to collect the shinies I had ignored in my mad dash to kill the Judicator Giant. Guess what? He was back. I don’t know why I assumed he was a single spawn, but I was so, so wrong. I almost quit then and there, but I didn’t. I killed him again, collected my shinies, then went on my very glum way.
I did the same area as my tank and made it through and killed the Judicator Giant on my second try. Stamina, endurance, and poise for DAYS, yo! Do not even try to tell me that casting is easy mode. Don’t even.
At this point, I decided to switch off between my two characters, always keeping my caster slightly ahead. I really should have just used my tank to explore, but as I said earlier, I’m stubborn. I’m ride-or-die for casting, and that’s how I was going to end my Souls experience, for better or worse. The problem is, it definitely made the experience worse. I missed a shit ton because I was just rushing through, trying not to get killed. I found out I missed two major secrets, but I was able to remedy that before it was too late. One is the story of Amnesiac Lapp, an NPC you meet who doesn’t remember who he is. I immediately knew he was Patches, the character who’s in every Souls game (and Bloodborne), even if he’s called Pate in DS II. He sits the same way Patches does; he sounds like Patches; and he simply was Patches. You have to meet him several times in order to use him as a summon as Patches for the second boss fight, and his questline is pretty cool. The other was a hidden area with a ladder that drops down if you do a specific thing. It’s pretty cool, and doing it allows you access to an NPC invasion by Silver Knight Ledo.
The Silver Knights are Lord Gwyn’s knights and are legend. The ones that went with him to the Kiln of the First Flame got charred, which is how they became the Black Knights. They’re even more legendary. Silver Knight Ledo is an eccentric wandering Silver Knight, and he’s the apparition that the Judicator Giant I previously met summons to beat the shit out of me. His weapon is a big-ass hammer that you need 60 strength to wield. To put it in context, my tank has 55 strength and can wield any other weapon in this game. She had 53 when I got Ledo’s Great Hammer, which means even with the ring that gives you five extra strength, I couldn’t wield it except for with two hands. I specifically put two points into strength just so I could try Ledo’s Great Hammer with the ring. It’s amazing, but goddamn that’s a high requirement.
In addition, Slave Knight Gael, an important NPC from the first DLC, shows up in this one, putting pieces of his red cape to indicate where you should go. His apparition appears and points at seemingly a death fall, and then you read the dev’s note telling you to take the plunge. You can summon him for the first boss fight, which is pretty cool. He’s the summon I used to beat the final boss of the first DLC, and Uncle Gael is a fucking badass. It made me smile to have him help me through the second DLC, and I thought it was a nice touch to tie the two DLCs together. He’s one of my favorite characters in the entire game, and with that bit of foreshadowing, I’ll end this post. See you in part two!
*I have not played Demon’s Souls or Bloodborne because I do not have a PS anything. I would love to play the games, but only if they come to the PC which is highly unlikely.
**At least not with Miyazaki at the helm. He’s said there may be Souls-related games from FromSoft in the future, but not by him. I have no doubt Bandai Namco will do some kind of knock-off game–they’ve already used ‘Prepare to Dine’ as a tagline for another game of theirs. Ugh.