Dark Soul 3’s Ashes of Ariandel, the first piece of downloadable content available for the game since it launched back in April, is now available. Included in that is a whole new arsenal of weaponry, two new boss encounters to complete, and a whole new area to explore. It also brought dedicated player-vs-player (PvP) into the world of Dark Souls for the first time in the franchise in the form of the Hollow Arena. Here’s how it works:
To unlock the Hollow Arena in Dark Souls 3’s Ashes of Ariandel DLC, you’re going to have to defeat the optional boss present in the expansion: The Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf. The duo isn’t an easy encounter, but if you stick to playing defensively and swinging when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll walk away victorious.
Once defeated, the boss will drop two items: Valorheart and the Champion’s Bones. Bring both of these back home to the Firelink Shrine bonfire and activate it as you usually would to travel or attune spells. Here, you’ll see the option to burn the Champion’s Bones; do so, and the Undead Match option will appear in the menu. This is how you’ll access the dedicated PvP matches added with the DLC.
Currently there are three different types of matches available in the Hollow Arena: one-on-one duels, brawls, and versus.
Duels are 1v1 matches to the death against another player. In these matches you dont receive any Estus Flask uses to heal and you’ll be limited to five uses of your Ashen Estus Flask to restore focus for magic, special abilities, and so on. The last one left standing is the winner.
Brawls are a little more chaotic and provide charges for both your regular Estus Flask for healing and your Ashen Estus Flask for restoring your focus. Instead of the one-and-done rule of duels, brawls allow you to respawn continuously until the 300-second time limit is up. You can do these one-on-one or in massive groups where everyone is for themselves — and highest score wins.
Versus features the same rules as a brawl with limited Estus use, but instead of a free-for-all, it places players in teams of two or three. You’ll then work with your teammates to kill enemy players until the time limit runs out. The team with the highest score is declared the winner.
As you might expect, the Hollow Arena is filled with excellent Dark Souls 3 PvP builds designed to chew you up and spit you back out crying. While this certainly isn’t as bothersome in a 1v1 duel, the brawl and versus modes both suffer from groups of players who gang up on a single person and smash them into the ground with powerful weapons. The arena does allow you to set password matching though, which means you could play with a group of people who adhere to a specific set of rules shared outside of the game for a better experience in both brawl and versus.
Occasionally you’ll meet up with a great group of players who tend to balance out their targets though, allowing three 1v1 engagements to share the same occupied space. Spells fling around you that you’ll have to dodge while you’re fighting another player in front of you, and friendly players work to block incoming damage with shields to keep friendly archers or mages safe. There’s a lot of team coordination present, and that’s without voice communication. It’s essentially a Dark Souls 3 version of World of Warcraft’s arena matches, and boy does it work well with the Dark Souls gameplay.
That said, the new Hollow Arena doesn’t necessarily feel complete. There’s only one map present (that we’re aware of or have unlocked) that you can battle on, and the feats you complete in the arena have no impact on your character. Take Covenant allegiance for example, which is shown on your character but doesn’t bring anything unique to the arena like rewards or certain team match ups. It doesn’t really detract from the added PvP experience, but instead feels like a missed opportunity that could have allowed From Software to expand on the current Covenant system like many had hoped they would.
Photos via Nicholas Bashore, Bandai Namco