Dark Souls 3’s first planned DLC, Ashes of Ariandel, released on October 25 for $15. With quality DLC in previous games like Dark Souls’s Artorias of the Abyss and Bloodborne’s The Old Hunters, there was a lot to look forward to in FromSoftware’s latest content: Ashes of Ariandel. Unfortunately, it didn’t entirely deliver.
Spoilers, Skip to the end for the Recommendation
For the most part, what FromSoftware provided in this DLC was pretty good. The Painted World of Ariandel was a well designed area with a good mix of enemies to fight through. The snow setting was definitely cool as it featured snowy areas with low visibility and lightly packed ledges of snow that would collapse when you walked onto them. The level of immersion was excellent. You definitely felt like you were in a very cold corner of the Souls universe that lacked the fire that the rest of Dark Souls 3 is center around. On the whole, the DLC was very reminiscent of the Painted World of Ariamis in the original Dark Souls from the concept to the world to some of the smaller details spread throughout the DLC.
The biggest criticism of this DLC is easily the bosses. Just about all of my excitement with any new Souls content is what the new bosses are going to be like. If you go through all of the bosses in the Souls series, you’ll notice that a lot of the top tier bosses have come from DLC. Knight Artorias and Manus were two absolutely badass boss fights in Artorias of the Abyss and outclassed just about every boss fight in Dark Souls. The Old Hunters introduced us to some of my all time favorite bosses in the series like Ludwig, Lady Maria and Orphan of Kos. And that doesn’t even include the other bosses introduced to us in those DLCs as well as the ones from the Dark Souls 2 DLCs. Ashes of Ariandel gave us… two.
Ashes of Ariandel features one optional boss and one boss at the end of the Painted World of Ariandel. I’m reluctant to even count the optional Champion’s Gravetender and his Greatwolf as a boss. It’s really not much more than a glorified PvE invader fight with a giant wolf that you have already encountered two times previously. It exists for the sole purpose of housing the Champion’s Bones item to access the new PvP arena. As for Sister Friede, now that’s a boss fight.
I’ve seen a lot of Souls fans calling Sister Friede one of the best bosses in the series and I don’t entirely disagree. The fight is more of an endurance battle with a boss that drastically changes tactics. It’s challenging but rewarding in that you may have to change your playstyle to accommodate the boss. I play Souls games like a chicken with its head cut off so these slower and more methodical battles are real tough for me. However, it feels like FromSoftware made this fight just a little too long with the third phase. I feel like the first two phases could have been merged together as the first phase was basically just added into the second phase anyway. The third phase was great but by the time you got there you basically had to beat it untouched because you probably used most of your Estus Flasks by that point. If Friede was a two phase boss and we got another boss at an earlier point in the DLC, I’m not sure I would have any complaints.
If you’re into the story and lore of Dark Souls and you’ve already beaten the Ashes of Ariandel, I can’t recommend VaatiVidya’s YouTube channel enough. I don’t think there’s anybody that does a better job of doing it.
With the Painted World of Ariandel being a relatively small area and only one and a half boss fights, it’s hard to argue that Ashes of Ariandel is anything but overpriced. If this were a $10 DLC, it would be fine but it’s not. But if you’re a Souls fan, it’s about what you would expect from FromSoftware. It’s an interesting world with a great little backstory and it features the kind of boss fight everyone plays the Souls series for. If you’re someone who only buys a couple games a year or you only buy one or two pieces of DLC a year, I probably wouldn’t recommend buying it unless you’re a huge Souls fan. But if you buy a ton of games and DLCs a year, I think it’s good enough to justify purchasing, especially if you gain a lot of replayability from Souls games.
I’m not big into the Dark Souls PvP scene, I’ve only dabbled in it a bit for some fun. But if you are into the PvP, this DLC is definitely for you. The addition of the arena now allows for people to engage in duels without the interruption of invaders or trolls, which is a welcomed addition. I love little player made arenas but they were too often the victims of griefers. The focus on PvP in this DLC is probably why the PvE side of it is so short, but if you’re into the PvP then your perspective on this DLC is likely much different than mine.
I’ve seen some people try to justify the length of the DLC by saying that FromSoftware has a second and longer DLC coming for Dark Souls 3, which may end up being the case, but that doesn’t mean a shorter DLC should be sold for the same price. It’s not egregious, but this DLC really should have cost less than $15. It’s still good, quality Dark Souls content, there just needed to be a little more of it.