As you would imagine, this new expansion sees fit to barrage you with adversity from the word go. The weakest enemies hit like freight trains, the environments are filled with traps and the set-pieces that will most certainly catch you off-guard. It instills a level of fear and trepidation that I personally haven’t felt since my first time playing the original Dark Souls. The new map is labyrinthian in design, with most paths leading to a gruesome demise or a powerful new toy to adorn yourselves with. There’s plenty of hidden secrets and rare items, like a variety of +3 rings and deadly weaponry to find. Which as you progress further, will be compulsory to ensuring success.
With this being the final outing for the Souls series (at least for now),you’ll soon notice numerous references, locales and set-pieces lifted directly from previous games. Not limited to cat-and-mouse encounters with dragons to dizzying falls into dark voids, this title seeks to remind us of all the “Holy Shit” moments that captivated us throughout the series. The Ringed City itself is a stunning in design and scope. A breathtaking landscape full of danger and sparse moments of tranquillity that really let you breathe it all in. Much like Dark Souls III itself, The Ringed City feels like a celebration of the series. No other area does that feel more prominent than the boss fights. Each one of them is different, encapsulating the different ways in which a Dark Souls boss can intimidate. Some depend on pattern memorisation, whilst others lean more heavily on crowd control. There’s a great balance to the bosses here that has been sorely missed in previous DLC packs.
The real sticking point for a lot of people will be the frankly sadistic difficulty. It’s a given that a Dark Souls will be hard, but The Ringed City pushes it to the very limit. Unlike Ashes of Ariandel, this expansion has been designed with veteran players in mind. With the entrance to The Ringed City only being available once you’ve reached the game’s finale or defeated Sister Freid in it’s sister DLC pack. Both of which are no easy feat I can tell you. Even the weakest enemies hit like a freight train and it’s easy to get stuck early on as a constant barrage of enemies and projectiles stands between you and the next bonfire.