I wrapped up The Ringed City expansion for Dark Souls III a couple of days ago, but I wanted to think on it a bit before writing a post about it.
So, the good, because that’s a great place to start: It’s a beautiful piece of fan service, with some throwbacks to earlier games in the series and some of the best environments from any of the Souls games, and the new enemies are wonderfully nasty and fun to fight. One of my deaths was to a big nasty who swings at you multiple times with a giant machete-cleaver thing (I dodged all of these), then jumps into the air and lands hindquarters-first on the poor player who is just patting themselves on the back for dodging all of the sharp-edged nastiness being thrown their way.
Yes, I got killed by a butt. I’m not even mad.
It also sets up the series beautifully for a you-don’t-need-to-call-it-a-sequel followup. To keep this vague for anyone who hasn’t played it yet, when you kill the last boss you get an <item> and you give the <item> to an <NPC> who you have met and <NPC> tells you that they will use it to make a new world… and unless that new world is actually the Hunter’s Dream (this is a fairly popular fan theory), it is very likely that From is foreshadowing something there.
So, setting that aside, there were a couple of reasons I did not immediately rush to my keyboard and start raving about the expansion as soon as the end boss ate sand:
One: In the very first section of the expansion, there are flying angel dudes that fire orbital laser cannons of doom at you the instant you step out of cover, and they do this until you find the secret way to kill them. This got old very quickly, and it’s one of the very first experiences you are likely to have in the expansion so it sets something of a bad tone.
Two: I really disliked two of the mandatory bosses. The “Spear of the Church” boss was amazing, and I did not mind the four or five times I died in that room. That was the middle boss. The first and third bosses, on the other hand… well, the first was a fun throwback to Ornstein and Smough, in that you fight two guys, and then based on which one you kill first you fight a super powered up guy.
The difference is, when you fight O&S, there is very clear feedback as to the result of killing one of the other first, and it’s obvious that it makes a difference. With this boss, I never got the hint and it wasn’t until I summoned another player who killed the RIGHT guy first that I understood that there was a right order and a wrong order to kill them in… and now I really want to go back and do the fight over knowing the trick, but of course this is a Souls game and bosses don’t respawn.
The final boss was just, well, he made it really obvious that From did not want you playing pure casters in Dark Souls III. I had struggled with several of the bosses in the first game – notably Aldrich, who was massively magic-resistant and who I only beat by grinding up enough levels of Faith that I could equip a low-level fire pyromancy – just because I had terrible trouble finding openings to get a spell off in between dodging, but fighting the final DLC boss made those fights look ever so fair and balanced. I could not get a cast in without being skewered and thrown across the arena, and that made for some very nasty brutish and short fights.
So, a couple of sour points that really took away from the rest of my experience with the game, though to be fair I really should have respecced away from an all-in-on-INT character ages ago so I don’t know if I should really be blaming the game or just blaming my own stubbornness.
For the record, AFTER finishing the DLC, I decided to play around with a “Quality” build (STR/DEX based, with very little in casting stats), and that was… easier? Sort of, anyway. I bonfired to Anor Londo and tried a few different weapons (straight swords, greatswords, a couple of spears) against the first couple of knights, and I killed them a few times and they killed me a few times. It was not going great.
Then I had a bit of an epiphany and started looking at axes, considering I’d just played WAY too many hours of Bloodborne using almost nothing but the Hunter’s Axe. It turns out that the Millwood Battle Axe, from the first DLC, has a move set that is beautifully similar to the 1-hand Hunter’s Axe, and when I took THAT to Anor Londo and slapped the knights around, it was a much more one-sided affair in my favor. It turns out that being ridiculously familiar with the timing and reach of a weapon is the biggest advantage you can have.
So, if you’re coming from Bloodborne, I strongly recommend that bad boy make its way into your arsenal.
Oh, and The Ringed City was pretty good with a couple of low points. I probably could have left this post at that, but I like to put more words in.