When I first stepped into Ashes of Ariandel, the recently released Dark Souls 3 DLC, I enjoyed my time exploring the added areas and fighting through all the new enemies that occupied it. But, as I continued working through the challenges in the Painted World of Ariandel, I was met with a quick but beautifully designed ending that left me wanting more.
Ashes of Ariandel brings Dark Souls 3 players to a new standalone area called the Painted World of Ariandel. Like the Painted World of Ariamus from Dark Souls 1, the Painted world of Ariandel is a cold and harsh location that exists within a painting, created for those who have no place to call their own in the real world. As such, you’ll be encountering a plethora of different enemy types with varied backstories and fighting styles.
Take the Millwood Knights, who are gigantic, Viking-like warriors that can dish out ridiculous amounts of damage with their axes and bows. If you aren’t appropriately leveled and covered in armor to defend yourself, these guys will kill you in seconds regardless of the weapon they use.
In many scenarios, these enemies are accompanied by environmental dangers from the Painted World itself, where trees can suddenly come to life and attack you with fire and frost, or giant snowbanks can collapse out from under you only to drop you onto a pack of enemies. These encounters are fantastic, but unfortunately, are few and far between as you push deeper into the Painted World of Ariandel.
This was the biggest problem I had with the different areas present in Ashes of Ariandel, which, while beautifully designed, were entirely too limited in size. Nearly every time I began digging for secrets in a new area, I would be met with an abrupt end that prevented me from going further, forcing me to turn back and head back to the main hub of the Painted World to look for a new path to navigate through. This didn’t make them “bad” per say, but instead made them feel like a teaser of a complete location within the Painted World.
These areas were also accompanied by a few too many bonfires which made them feel even smaller compared to some areas present in the base game. I never felt like I was actually in danger during my time navigating through the Painted World once I reached the bonfire in the Ariandel Chapel, because it gave me a central location where I could respawn and head to every area in the DLC surrounding it.
The two new boss fights present in Ashes of Ariandel help to alleviate the lack of difficulty present in the new areas though, with the final boss fight serving up what I believe is the best one yet in Dark Souls 3. Nothing prepared me for the final boss encounter with Sister Friede, which just kept on going no matter how hard I fought to defeat her across her multiple phases.
As an entire package, Ashes of Ariandel is a decent chunk of downloadable content loaded with wonderful design and plenty of new items for you to bring back with you into the base Dark Souls 3 experience. With two excellent boss fights that rival those present in many other From Software titles, the addition of a dedicated PvP arena, and a handful of small but detailed areas, it’s a solid addition to the base game that lives up to the From Software name despite its shortcomings.
Photos via Nicholas Bashore