REVIEW: Dark Souls III: The Ringed City

Monday, April 10th, 2017

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Dark Souls III: The Ringed City Title Image
Title Dark Souls III: The Ringed City
Developer FromSoftware
Publisher Bandai Namco
Release Date 3/28/2017
Genre Action RPG
Platform PlayStation 4
Age Rating ESRB M for Mature
Official Website

Like many other Souls fans, I approached this DLC with a lot of trepidation. Sure, I was very excited to get my hands on it, just like any other FromSoftware release. But hearing that this was the final DLC for their final Dark Souls game left me feeling almost like I didn’t want to play it, only because I didn’t want this amazing series to ever end. There is also the sense that because they are culminating in this particular release, it must be a perfect conclusion for the story. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending, this is Dark Souls III, after all. Thankfully, I would say that for the most part, FromSoftware did stick the landing on this one. Dark Souls III: The Ashes of Adriandel was a good bit of DLC, but there is no question in my mind that Dark Souls III: The Ringed City is the superior of the two.

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City | Character

This was my character and build for my NG+3 run through The Ringed City DLC.

Actually, I really only have one complaint about The Ringed City DLC, so let me get it out of the way first. This DLC is freaking brutal in difficulty, occasionally to a very frustrating level. Do not approach this content with anything but your big boy pants on. The Ashes of Adriandel was oft criticized for being too short and too easy (other than the 3 phase final boss), but neither of those issues remain with this content. I’m not one to ping a game too much for being difficult, but when it becomes frustrating because it feels unfair, then a game will lose a little bit in my eyes. Granted, it does increase the pleasure response for when you actually finish that part of the game, but after a certain level of annoyance it merely feels like you are happy because you don’t have to go through that again. Also there is one other issue I have with the difficulty level: I feel like it was a bit front loaded in nature (the first half of this DLC was much more difficult for me than the second half), and it prioritizes some builds more than others (good luck if you are a low stamina build, because you will be doing a ton of running, and good luck if you are a strict pyromancer, because 3 out of 4 bosses are almost entirely immune to fire and dark).

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City | Entry

This is one of two entry points for the DLC.

There are two entry points for The Ringed City: one is a bonfire point right next to the final boss fight in the regular game, and the other is in the back of the final boss room for the previous DLC (which is next to a statue that has been a very large source of discussion ever since that DLC was released). Both of those locations make sense from a development angle, both due to the difficulty of the content and because this is basically the story finale for the entire series. But I thought that the Friede room bonfire was mostly there just for people who finished the last DLC and didn’t want to have to go back through the entire rest of the game again, and the final bonfire before the last fight would be the canon location. It turns out that is the opposite of what was intended, as The Ashes of Adriandel location is the canon choice for reasons which will become obvious in the very last section of The Ringed City. If you didn’t finish the first DLC, you will be missing a lot of what happens at the end of this one. Gwyn, his children, and the City of Londor do play a very large part in this final story (unfortunately the dragons largely don’t, contrary to what many people wanted), but what was surprising was how much The Painted World affected the main world’s story.

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City | End

This is the dumping ground for all worlds, the true end of all things.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

The first section of the DLC is like the famous ending of The Hollow Men, by TS Eliot, put into form. All the various worlds and ages have fallen into ruin and all the flame into ash, and they have been dumped here at the end. I thought this first area was the actual Ringed City, but it turns out that the city lies beyond the end of all things, and is actually fairly pretty in places. I would have liked to avoid stating the reason why it still maintains its beauty even after all things have fallen to despair, but all the trailers and promotional material already spoiled the fact that Gwyn’s final daughter (the one that has been conspicuously hidden from the world in all previous lore) is located there. Even her final cosmic egg is slowly falling into ashes, but she has an entire legion of Ringed Knights who are protecting her. As far as who they are protecting her from, that part I will not spoil; thankfully the final boss of this content (and really the whole series) has been kept under wraps.

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City | Angels

Very few of the hunchbacks (thankfully) found their final ascendance.

In the previous DLC it felt a little lackluster that there were only 2 bosses plus a hidden boss that really just unlocked the new PVP arenas. This new DLC feels much more meaty both in length (I finished it in around 6 hours), and in the fact that there are 3 boss fights and 1 hidden boss. Also the hidden boss fight is actually pretty easy to find, because a servant of the final goddess gives you a very strong hint as to his location. This is something I definitely appreciated, especially since it will be a few more days until more information and playthroughs start going up all over the internet. If you have played through Demon Souls and all three Dark Souls games you are going to get even more out of these locations and these boss fights. One early example of a callback location (so I’m not spoiling too much) is the screenshot above, which takes place in an area from Dark Souls II that ended up falling down here to the dumping ground of worlds. But my favorite callback has to be the 2nd boss fight, which FromSoftware only talked to the press about under strict secrecy leading up to the game’s release. It is a callback to possibly the most famous boss fight from Demon Souls.

Dark Souls III The Ringed City | Doors

You may see some door cosplay in future conventions.

That’s enough about the story for this DLC, other than to restate that it ended up being a really quality ending to the whole series if you payed a lot of attention to all the previous lore. The other half of playing these new content additions is getting your hands on all the great new loot. And, if anything, that even exceeds the story in adding quality to the series. The first bit of excitement in new gear that I had was when I started picking up +3 versions of all the best rings in the game (obviously you will need to have been to +2 on those rings already). Then there was some great new additions to both pyromancy and dark sorcery builds. It should be noted that the bosses here are mostly immune to those builds, but for trash mobs and for bosses in the main game, those new bits of gear and spells are invaluable to those players. For strength builds there are some fabulous new shields (3 of them by my count), including those ridiculous and powerful double door shields that you see above. There are also some new STR weapons such as a massive new hammer and huge dual-wield greatswords. For dexterity builds there is only one major new weapon (I was not that fond of the small lightsaber styled dagger other than it’s looks), but a great new one it is: possibly the best katana in the game is a potential reward for trading in the soul for the secret boss. For armor, almost all of it can be found scattered throughout the world, and really only the Ringed Knights set is something you will want to farm for (but it does look amazing). There is even a former boss from the main game that you will find just wandering out in the world (and who still hits like a freaking truck) that will drop his full armor set for defeating him a second time.

Dark Souls III: The Ringed City | Boss

They increased the first boss’s difficulty quite a bit from the original press build.

So really my only complaints are the sometimes unfair and sometimes random difficulty spikes. But that’s definitely not enough to sour the overall experience of this DLC. You just need to plan on running a lot to get through certain areas, something I tend to be loath to do in any game. They still kept a lot of the lore subtle in this content, but it was much closer to the surface than pretty much any other time in the Souls series. They really want you to know what is happening here, which may lead to some confusion if you didn’t know what was happening before because you previously never cared about the lore. But they even improved the music: this entire DLC had my favorite music of the entire series, and the last boss fight in particular has a song that I would like to get my hands on an official download for. There isn’t really any question about whether this DLC makes the season pass worth it, or worth the $9.99 price of purchasing it separately. I would really consider this content to be necessary to the main game, and especially for long time Souls fans. The only real question that remains is whether you have mentally prepared yourself for the brutal ass whipping coming your way when you begin this journey. You will whimper, even as the world ends.

Review Score

Review Copy Purchased by the Reviewer

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.