A year ago one of the most iconic, and synonymously difficult RPGs released by the name of Dark Souls. The lonely PC gamers begged for a version of their own, and alas, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition released this past August, with a slew of new content, including new bosses, areas, and weapons. Console players went months without any new content, but now it’s our time to explore new grounds, and try our hand at Artorias of the Abyss.
Everything you’ll see when that black hand from the past grabs you will be new, but not unfamiliar. At first glance, you may be a bit disappointed, and yell out “Recycled!” I can assure you, this world may be familiar, but with good reason. If you follow the lore at all, you’ll realize the meaning behind everything, and a lot of subtle differences from the world you once knew will be alarming.
New NPCs flourish the unexplored territory; introducing two of the knights of Gwyn, whose rings were in our possession from previous playthroughs. Chester, a merchant at the central gateway to every area of the new content, is a sly talking, mask wearing hollow just like you, with no idea how or why he is in the past. He’s nearly the only NPC you’ll come across with no obvious connection to the world you came from, besides his mutual experience with you, and he sells many useful items for a pretty fair price. His armor is quite nice too, but don’t ask why my character wears it now…
Around every corner is a new pick-up, and nearly every pick-up is something substantial, such as a new weapon, new armor, or the new dark sorceries, which are some of the most powerful in the game. Where they shine in damage points, they lack in accuracy, and this balances out nicely in a good PVP match fairly well. If you got the moves, you can dodge easily, but if you’re not on your toes, you’ll get stepped on.
The bosses, oh the bosses. If you thought Dark Souls was hard, you need your opinion realigned. These bosses are absolutely no joke. Four bosses, one being an optional event, and every single one do not hold back whatsoever. As someone who went through my first time doing a Soul Level 1 challenge, each boss took me anywhere from 2-8 hours to finally slay. Their attacks are not easily read, and while learning them is possible, they’re so fast, you will need to be utilizing every ounce of attention you can muster for each of these battles. That said, they’re easily some of the best in the game, and I’d go as far to say that one is my absolute favorite in the entire series. They’re a joy to face, and while tortuous, seeing the newly reinstated “You Defeated” splash across your screen has never felt better.
Along with all the new single player content comes a new matchmaking-esque system called ‘the Battle of Stoicism.’ In this new arena style PVP, you can choose to duel another player online, team up with another hollow for two versus two, and a deathmatch free for all pitting four players against each other. One map, Ruins, places each player in a giant open area with a few podiums, and an upper level completely naked of anything but ground and the swords you wield. With each victory, you are granted a +1 to your streak, which shows up on “Plaque of Legends.” Unlike the traditional PVP style of invasions, neither souls nor humanity are rewarded. The ideas behind this whole dynamic are fantastic, on paper, but let me delve into why they simply aren’t.
Deathmatch is a blast. It’s hectic, and sneaking up behind someone mid-backstab is thrilling, but all the more frightening awaiting the next in line to backstab you. The problem lies with actually pitting against four different people. I sat for nearly two hours and managed to get into two four person matches, six minutes a piece. It’s unfortunate, and a lack of population more than likely the most viable reason for this, but the DLC is nearly a week old, there has to be more than four people at any given time trying to get into a match around my soul level (the standard 120). It’s a shame what a blast the couple matches I managed to get into were, because the desire for more is just unrealistic unless you’ve got an hour to burn for six minutes of fun. The exact problem exists with the two versus two playlist, which I’ve yet to have a proper go at.
Dueling is another story. Finding someone to duel with, namely on the much more populated Ruins map, is much easier. It’s rare that you’ll spend more than five minutes searching for someone, but unfortunately issues that existed with PVP in vanilla Dark Souls still arise. You’ll still be somewhere different on your opponents screen than on your own, and you’ll still find yourself being backstabbed from the front, taking damage from many strides away, and all the other latency related problems. It’s a shame their framework can’t be better worked, but in its current state, PVP in the Battle of Stoicism is just not a method of serious Dark Souls play.
All in all, you’re going to get a metric ton of new content for $15 USD. I spent nearly 15 hours on all of the new areas, and still missed certain items. The new multiplayer ideas introduced may be executed poorly, but reinvigorating the feeling of finally defeating a difficult boss is well worth your money. New items to discover, new areas to explore, new enemies to slay are all the more reason to play this expansion. It is a definite must-have.
[+Reimaginings of areas once explored are eloquently executed][+New bosses are so hard, but among the best][+Tons of new weapons, sorceries, items, armor, everything][-Battle of Stoicism just isn’t well executed]