From the moment I stepped foot into The Ringed City, the final downloadable expansion available for Dark Souls 3, I was continuously impressed by the new locations to explore and the numerous secrets hidden about the landscape that tied into the lore of the Dark Soul’s universe. This time around, I wasn’t met with a quick or unsatisfying ending to my journey as I was in the previous expansion Ashes of Ariandel either, which inspired me to immediately begin a brand-new character for another go once I completed the DLC.
Like the first downloadable expansion, The Ringed City introduces an entirely new region to Dark Souls 3 for players to work through. Inside you’ll find two standalone areas linked by bonfires, the Dreg Heap and the Ringed City, both of which serve as your personal path to the very end of the world while searching for the Slave Knight Gael who went off to find the Dark Soul of Humanity.
Accomplishing this task isn’t an easy feat however, which is good news considering that The Ringed City is the final journey in the Dark Souls series. Enemies within the depths of both new locations are extremely dangerous, deadly, and remorseless, willing to kill you continuously and give you no room for error. Take the Angels for example, that you’ll encounter during the first few minutes of the DLC. These gigantic, winged creatures will continuously pelt you with dangerous beams of light. Instead of being able to deal with them directly, The Ringed City actually requires you to head off the beaten path and locate their host bodies, which you can then eliminate to bring the Angels down from the sky for good.
Many of the other enemies you’ll encounter deeper in the DLC echo a more familiar design choice, one which requires you to take a step back and learn their moves before exploiting them to kill your opponent. Thankfully though, every enemy within the Ringed City can kill you in a few quick hits provided you aren’t prepared to move out of the way, which keeps tensions high throughout the entire expansion for characters of even the highest level. Enemies like the Ringed Knights, Harald Legion warriors, and NPC invaders consistently kept me on my toes while I was exploring the new locations, often making me reconsider my approach to combat entirely as I was pummeled repeatedly back to my last bonfire.
While frustrating at first, these extremely difficult encounters proved to be some of the most gratifying ones throughout the entire series, often resulting in my clambering from my desk with job as I made it through to the next area. As you might expect, each major type of enemy also comes with a weakness too, although The Ringed City does a great job of hiding it from you as you fight your way through the environment.
But no matter how challenging the regular enemies scattered about The Ringed City became, nothing prepared me for the four major boss encounters present throughout the DLC. These encounters are not only some of the most frustratingly well-designed ones available in Dark Souls 3, but what I believe to be some of the best boss fights available in the entire Dark Souls series. Each battle is a large spectacle packed with intense music, tantalizing combat mechanics, and a unique set of animations.
Take Darkeater Midir, for example, who’s the optional boss present in The Ringed City. You’ll first encounter this massive dragon above the bridge leading from the Abyssal Swamp, where you’ll have to whittle him down by hitting his feet to knock him down into the chasm below. Later, you’ll encounter him the second time for a fully-fledged boss encounter, where he has a whole unground cavern to fly around and pelt you with fire from above. Completing this fight took me roughly three hours due to his heavy defense, unpredictable moveset, and the game’s awkward camera angles, but boy did I walk away feeling accomplished, wishing I could do it one more time with feeling.
Honestly, that feeling of looking back on the series is something which is present throughout the entirety of The Ringed City, and in a good way too. There are dozens of lore references to characters from the very beginning of the Dark Souls series, throwbacks to infamous encounters From Software has created in the past, and powerful equipment you can obtain which brings back memories from previous trips through the games. As an entire expansion, The Ringed City feels like a carefully crafted love letter to the Dark Souls community, and it’s one which is certainly worth reading if you’re looking for an excuse to dive into Dark Souls 3 for one final journey.Photos via Nicholas Bashore