So, here we are. The final addition to the Dark Souls franchise, in the form of The Ringed City DLC. After the previous DLC, Ashes Of Ariandel (which wasn’t well-received by players), and given that this would be the last DLC ever, From Software needed to really nail this one. Do I think they succeeded? Short answer, yes. Long answer, well you’ll have to keep reading to find out. BEWARE OF SPOILERS FOR THE RINGED CITY DLC, ASHES OF ARIANDEL DLC AND DARK SOULS III.
We’ll do something different this time, and start with the negatives, as we have a lot more to discuss. One negative that immediately comes to mind is the lack of new rings. In DKS3, rings sometimes have +1,2 and 3 versions, which improve the bonuses of the base ring. TRC is full of +3 rings, which are great, considering the difficulty (more on that later), but there are no new rings to speak of. AoA (Ashes Of Ariandel) gave us only the one, but even that is more than what we get in TRC. While the +3 rings do improve our setup, they don’t change our setup, which is a shame and would have been a welcome change. Another issue is the summoning failures and FPS drops that are persistent throughout the DLC. Granted, they’ve stated on Twitter that they’re working on a fix, but it’s annoying when you try to summon a player to help, but are greeted with an “Unable to summon phantom” everytime. Aside from these…I can’t seem to find any issues with the DLC. TRC is exactly what fans have been waiting for.
Let’s look at some of the things that make this DLC so great, and we’ll start with the world. FromSoft usually deliver beautiful worlds and landscapes, but this one stands out from the rest. The areas we see contrast, yet compliment each other well. Be it the ash-covered Dreg Heap, followed by the green of the poison swamp in Earthen Peak, or the pink flowers of the Ringed City along with the black Abyssal swamp, or even the greyness of the final boss room, set at the end of all time. Each area looks special and beautiful, and actually feels good to explore in. AoA was mostly white from the snow, which is fine, but gets tiresome and samey when it’s every area, so it’s good to see that FromSoft improved that aspect.
Next is the bossfights, and by God are they exceptional. There are four total bosses in this DLC, which may seem like a small amount, but the design and actual fight against them makes up for it – besides, it’s only a DLC, so it wasn’t expected to have a huge array of bosses. Each boss, for me, stands out as some of the best and truest Souls content. The Demon In Pain and Demon From Below come at you at the same time, and while they hit hard and have a vast array of attacks, both ranged and melee, it’s never unfair. And as the last Demon falls, you feel that sense of relief – until you realise you’re still locked on to its corpse. Suddenly it rises again, and with a brilliant flame, explodes into the Demon Prince, the last demon in existence. Then, there’s the moment you reach the final boss, as you trek across the ashen wasteland that represents the end of the world, and you find the lords of the Pygmies (essentially humans) all dead, with Gael eating the Dark Soul from one of them – the same Gael that led you into the AoA DLC, the same Gael that helped you fight Friede and the Demons, and the same Gael you called a friend. You and he are the only two people left alive at the end of the world, and you’re thrust into an epic battle with your old friend, over the Dark Soul itself. Dark Souls has always been about playing on your emotions, has taught you time and time again to not get attached, as this world is unforgiving and cruel; yet we always forget. Once you defeat Gael, and claim the Dark Soul for your own, all that is left is you, and it leaves you with a feeling of emptiness, but in the best way possible. FromSoft seemed to save their best for last, and it really shows.
Finally, before we say goodbye, we’ll discuss the difficulty. Many felt that DKS3 was too watered down in difficulty to make it more mainstream for newcomers, and the AoA DLC reinforced that. I’ll be honest, I felt cheated by the fact that all the challenge of AoA had been fueled into the final boss, and in a DLC where there are only two bosses, that’s poor. But TRC changed that. It had some of the hardest areas in any Souls game, and the strongest bosses. Enemies, even some early game ones that reappear, hit like a truck on steroids. And if you’ve played TRC, you’ll know what I mean when I say that the angels were my most hated enemy in the DLC. It’s not just the strength of our foes that made it hard either, but the bonfire placement too. Ask any Souls player what installment had the best bonfire placement, and a large portion would say DKS1. DKS3’s bonfires were too close together and too numerous – there were two bonfires literally 100m apart, with nothing in between. TRC changes that. It harkens back to the classic Souls style of bonfire placement, with a large distance between each, and shortcuts to areas from them. It gives you that feeling of relief when you finally find the next bonfire, after fighting through headless knights, magic monsters, and those bloody angels. The difficulty of TRC is classic Souls at its purest, and I am truly thankful for it.
As I beat Gael and watched him die, I truly felt empty. Not just because I was now the only living thing in the world, but because this was the end of Dark Souls, and that makes me both happy and sad. Sad that it was over for good, but also happy that it went out giving everything it had, and leaving us with a perfect end to a perfect series. FromSoft may make a new Souls game, but without Miyazaki, will it really be a Souls game? On behalf of every Souls player, I’d like to thank Miyazaki and the team for bringing us an absolutely amazing trilogy of games that’ll stay with me till the end of time.
Overall, The Ringed City is exactly what I wanted it to be. A tough challenge, with beautiful areas and incredible bosses. Sure it has its issues, but no game is perfect, yet this is as close as it can be for me. Based on this, I give The Ringed City a score of 94%.
Gamer Pantheon Score – 94%
– Beautiful areas
– Amazing bossfights
– Difficult but fair
– Emotional story
– Lack of new rings
– Connectivity issues
– Occasional FPS drops