Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel on PlayStation 4
The Dark Souls games have always had some of the best DLC of any modern franchise, with expansions such as Crown of the Ivory King and Bloodborne’s Old Hunters offering the best in recent memory. Much of what makes this content so fantastic is that it not only gives players more Dark Souls to play, but builds upon the mechanical foundation in interesting ways. Aiming to continue this trend, Dark Souls III’s first expansion, Ashes of Ariandel, aims to deliver new encounters while setting it in a rather familiar setting. Even though this DLC emerges with a few wounds, it still offers up an entertaining if not short experience.
Set in the Painted World of Ariandel, players are sent out to reignite the fire and burn the rot that has infested Ariandel’s world. In true Dark Souls fashion there are just enough bread crumbs for players to follow so they have a general idea of what has happened. It’s only when you talk with NPCs, explore hidden areas, and read item descriptions that the depth of this story begins to form. The problem is that Ashes of Ariandel’s story has some genuinely interesting moments, but the expansion just never offers enough time to fully flesh out these ideas. This can be especially troublesome for those who aren’t familiar with the Painted World’s first appearance in the original Dark Souls.
In fact, the entire expansion was surprisingly short and my play time clocked in at around 4 hours with me scouring every nook and cranny for items and lore. There are no NPC side quests and Ashes of Ariandel only offers two bosses, one of which is optional and can be overlooked quite easily. This is a shame since the Painted World offers some truly interesting possibilities, especially when you begin to interact with some of the side characters scattered about this snow blasted landscape. Though the change from gothic cathedrals and foreboding woods is a nice change of pace for Dark Souls III.
Traversing through a blizzard with your visibility hampered makes for some tense moments, only coupled by dangerous environmental hazards such as snow banks breaking underneath your feet. You’ll come across a variety of snowy areas such as a large wooded forest, precarious cliff faces, and even a decrepit settlement that takes inspiration from the Undead Village. It works within the context of the story, though if you’re not a fan of the snow aesthetic then you will grow bored with Ashes of Ariandel quite quickly.