Dark Souls 3 DLC - Ashes of Ariandel Review
Ashes of Ariandel, Dark Souls 3's first DLC, dropped for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One overnight. If you're picking it up, you can expect a wealth of new Player versus Environment (PvE) content to explore alongside a fully functional Player versus Player (PvP) arena complete with multiple modes of play.
Since Ashes of Ariandel comes with two major new features, we are similarly splitting this review into two sections. The first covers the new PvE content, and is a reflection of the overall score we gave to the DLC. The PvP arena covered in the latter section has its own score. Refer to our unique Rating System for more information on review scores.
Ashes of Ariandel Review: PvE Content - 8/10
Overall, the new PvE content is a lot like exploring the pre-existing areas in Dark Souls 3. While poking around, you'll find unique new weapons and spells, a few extra Titanite Slabs, new enemies, and even a couple new bosses. The level of polish found in Ashes of Ariandel is easily equal to if not above and beyond that of the base game.
To iterate, the new area that comes with the DLC is the single biggest level yet within Dark Souls 3. Ashes of Ariandel has some of the best level design I've ever seen in a Soulsborne game. From Software masterfully combines a sprawling, open environment with the condensed, vertical levels they're well known for. The presentation is a wonder to behold. They've really hit the nail on the head with this new area.
While exploring Ashes of Ariandel, you'll come across various new enemies. A few of these baddies have shiny, new AI to learn and overcome. For example, the new winged monsters actually fly across chasms in pursuit rather than flutter around. Before now, winged enemies in the Soulsborne series have been cursed with only the illusion of flight.
Humanoid enemies show off new weapons and armor that you'll stumble upon while exploring the DLC. In the first encounter alone you'll see two new weapons, a shield, and an armor set. It becomes immediately clear that the new weapons aren't mere clones of existing ones. From Software put a lot of work into them and I absolutely love everything I've seen.
The 2 new bosses in Ashes of Ariandel are thrilling to fight. They took Dark Souls 3's overarching theme of posing multiple threats in a boss room and cranked it up a notch. All together, you're looking at draining 5 of those hefty health bars if you want to complete the DLC. To top it off, the final battle is one of the toughest and most exciting fights in the game.
The new NPCs found in the DLC are a breath of fresh air. Dark Souls 3 originally disappointed me with a lack of NPC recognition. Maybe I was hoping for too much, but I really wanted more from Andre, the Shrine Handmaiden, the Firekeeper, and Irina, among others. While your time with them are short, each NPC in Ashes of Ariandel feels like a real character that exists within the world rather than serve the all-mighty Champion of Ash.
From Software has always made excellent DLCs for Soulsborne games, so it comes as no surprise that Ashes of Ariandel hosts some of the best PvE content they've ever created. I sincerely hope they continue and improve upon this trend for Dark Souls 3's second and third DLCs.
Ashes of Ariandel Review: PvP Arena - 7/10
The arena is another beast entirely. First, before you may even access it, you must defeat Ashes of Ariandel's optional boss, as detailed in our guide. This naturally bars most characters from the arena until their build begins to take shape.
You can access the new arena from the Undead Match option at the Firelink Shrine bonfire. There are 3 unique arena modes to take part in. Password matching lets you to set up battles with your friends. However, as it stands, there's no way to head into the arena with a group to fight randoms.
In the arena setup menu, there's even the option to change which map you want to play on. Unfortunately, this option is currently greyed out as there's only one map. It's such a tease right now, but at least we can expect more maps in the future.
In the arena, you can reliably Duel randoms and friends without getting interrupted. Estus Flasks are forbidden and Ashen Estus are limited to half your total. Each Duel has a 3 minute time limit and the last man standing wins. Pretty standard stuff.
Next up, you can join in on no-stock, free-for-all Brawls. The match will end after 5 minutes. Everyone starts with one Estus Flask. Killing another player awards you with another Estus Flask -- but only if you're empty. If you die in a Brawl, you'll respawn a few moments later with another Estus Flask to your name. You can set up 2-Player, 4-Player, and 6-Player Brawls. The player with the most kills wins.
Finally, we have what From Software calls a Co-Op Match. It's Dark Souls 3 lingo for Team Battles. You can set up and join 2 versus 2 and 3 versus 3 matches here. Much like Brawls, there's a 5 minute time limit, and you respawn if you die. The team with the most kills wins.
The arena should have honestly been in Dark Souls 3 from the start. However, now that it's here, group and team battles are bound to evolve the PvP meta in neat new ways. Of course, Dueling will remain largely the same, but I'm excited to jump into a Brawl or Co-Op Match with a caster.
The arena feels lacking in a few ways, however. For one, there is no leaderboard to speak of, let alone a scoreboard for the match. There is no system in place for distinguishing team members at a glance -- instead, your covenant phantom colors are used. And unfortunately, there are no tangible rewards whatsoever (in the form of souls or covenant items). There is an honor system, though I've yet to figure out how that works.
Despite all that's missing from the arena, it's a long overdue and welcome addition to Dark Souls 3. With easy access in Firelink Shrine, I anticipate spending many-a-day duking it out with the lot of you.
The Ashes of Ariandel DLC adds a wealth of welcome new content to Dark Souls 3 -- and the patch which released alongside the DLC also adds a bunch of changes fans wanted. Not only does the Ashes of Ariandel DLC bring even better PvE content than we previously had to the table, it introduced a suspiciously missing arena. Whether you're a fan of PvP or just a sucker for the game's single player adventure, there's bound to be something in store for you with Ashes of Ariandel.
How are you enjoying Ashes of Ariandel so far? Have you had a chance to try out the arena? Let us know what you think of Dark Souls 3's first DLC in the comments below!