Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel

"Ashes of Ariandel is perfect if you're itching for more Dark Souls III content — just don't expect more than a few hours of entertainment."

Before I begin my review in earnest, I'd like to correct a statement I made in my Ashes of Ariandel preview: I had been told that the difficulty of the DLC was on par with that of the Dark Souls II DLC. Now that I have played Ariandel all the way through, I can say this is definitely not true. It can be, in fact, significantly easier. We'll get to the details in a moment.

Ashes of Ariandel is set in another "Painted World" like the Painted World of Ariamis in the first Dark Souls game. You can access the DLC less than halfway through the game, though you can also come back and tackle it after you beat the main story. The snowy world of Ariandel has little variety in locations to explore, though there are the abandoned village, chapel and cliff-side style areas we've seen FromSoftware use elsewhere before. There are a few tricks up Araindel's sleeve, though, like snow drifts that collapse beneath your feet or slippery ice to slide down. As always, you'll fight (or run) your way through dozens of enemies, search for hidden items and cross hazardous terrain as you die again and again.

Except, I didn't die. Well, I did, but only a handful of times across all of Ariandel, including the bosses. When I previewed the game, I was given a severely under-levelled character and found the DLC an almost overwhelming challenge. With my own post-game character, though, the enemies are pushovers: one or two Great Soul Arrows and they are dead. There is a good variety of new foes: trees that look like part of the environment but that come to life when you move too close, packs of fast-moving wolves and huge Viking-like foes with massive weapons. Combat remains unchanged from the base game, so if you enjoyed it there, then you're sure to feel the same as you fight through Ashes of Ariandel. The difficulty level will absolutely vary based on when you decide to attempt the DLC, so keep that in mind.

On a similar note, I was surprised when my adventure with the DLC came to an end after less than four hours — and by that point I'd done even the small amount of optional content. There is one main boss to fight at the end of the DLC, plus another optional fight off the beaten path. The main boss is a fun, sometimes stressful, three-part fight that becomes more difficult and exciting as it goes. The optional boss is far less interesting and feels like a glorified regular enemy. After the final boss, there isn't even a cutscene or a finishing part of the story to indicate that you are actually done. Personally, I ran around the boss room for a while trying to find where to go next before looking it up online and realising that was it. A truly underwhelming end.

Ashes of Ariandel does bring an exciting new addition though: a PvP arena. Unlocking it is a rather convoluted and unclear task, but once you have done so, you can engage with other players online in an arena-style fight to the death. Unfortunately, I am not a PlayStation Plus subscriber and therefore can't play online. As a result, I was unable to play the PvP and cannot comment on it in detail for this review. I do apologise for that.

Ashes of Ariandel is perfect if you're itching for more Dark Souls III content — just don't expect more than a few hours of entertainment. There are a few new spells and weapons to play around with, but Ashes of Ariandel largely remains a risk-free addition to the Dark Souls universe. I very much enjoyed my time playing through the DLC, but given its short playtime, it's hard to justify the price.

This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.

© 2016 FromSoftware, Bandai Namco Entertainment, FromSoftware. All rights reserved.