With the release of this last DLC to what is allegedly the last installment of the Dark Souls franchise, The Ringed City is for many players, the final plunge into this world of Undead. With naturally staggeringly high expectations, and innumerable questions left to be answered, The Ringed City somehow manages to give seven years of gameplay and storytelling a fitting conclusion.
In many ways, The Ringed City is a direct continuation of the plotline from the first DLC, Ashes of Ariandel. Picking up directly where that adventure left off, or alternatively, at the very end of the base game. Here, eons past and at the close of the Age of Fire, all of time and space collapses in on itself to form the Dreg Heap. This tumultuous and cataclysmic pile of rubble and ash straight out of an M.C. Escher besieges you on your journey to the end of the world; to the Ringed City.
Incredibly powerful foes, some new and some old, lay around every corner pushing you back and asking much of your combative and survival skills, and all the while the dreaded new Angels present a unique challenge. Diving behind cover and evading the sightlines of these aerial foes is demanded of you, as the painful screech and resounding blast of holy light when they see you will tear you limb from limb. These new foes offer unique gameplay the franchise has rarely trifled with, affording a quite markedly different style of traversal, however short it may be.
The Ringed City is substantially longer than Ashes of Ariandel, featuring twice the amount of boss encounters as well as plenty of room to explore the zones present and find many secrets therein. Some of these secrets can be downright baffling however, and if you thought the hints and guesswork needed to progress in From Software games was cryptic enough before, just you wait friend-o.
Fortunately these are largely optional, and the main path to progression is largely straightforward; if not heavily arduous and challenging. Some of the new foes, from the Ringed City Knights and the Harald Knights are a joy to fight, with radical movesets which test your mettle in stylish one-on-one’s, though when later on the game sees fit to throw two or even three of the sons of bitches at you, it gets a bit tired and ridiculous. The level of challenge present here in comparison to the main game is very much akin to The Old Hunters DLC from Bloodborne, and that at the least is a compliment.
For those who have been following the Dark Souls franchise for years, The Ringed City offers an astonishing amount of depth and clarification to some of the longest, most contemplative questions abound, answering questions about how this world and the Age of Fire truly began, and just what exactly we can expect from its end.
In more ways than one, the answers present are befitting of the vague, open-ended interpretations the franchise is well known for. The DLC does answer far more questions than it raises, which is a welcome change of pace, and very much appreciated from our last taste of the Dark Souls universe.
Aside from new enemies and new lands to explore, there are a plethora of new, interesting weapons and spells; as well as a new covenant with a delightful throwback twist for longtime fans. As players are ken to expect, The Ringed City‘s bosses are challenging and unforgiving, and two of the best fights the series has to offer are present here… and potentially one of the worst fights in the entire franchise. Go figure.