Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel
Hands-On Preview
"...Ashes of Ariandel looks to be a solid, if somewhat safe, addition to the Dark Souls universe."

Ah, Dark Souls. You can keep killing me, but you canít keep me away. This month, I had the chance to spend a little hands on time with the first of Dark Souls IIIís DLC: Ashes of Ariandel. As soon as I entered Bandai Namcoís offices I was told the difficulty was on par with that of Dark Souls IIís DLC. So donít say I didnít warn you.

Ashes of Ariandel begins from a new NPC around halfway through the areas available to explore in the base game. If youíve played Dark Souls I you might be familiar with the Painted World: a huge painting that hung on the wall of Anor Londo castle that you could enter inside of Ė yes, like Super Mario 64. The land of Ariandel is entered through a similar way and once again features a frozen wasteland filled with devious, sometimes frustrating, enemies to defeat.

Itís worth noting that I had to play with a pre-provided character that was severely under-levelled for the adventure. As such, it was difficult to properly gauge the difficulty for players, like myself, who will start the DLC after already beating the main game. As you could guess I died frequently, though mostly due to my lack of skill or levels rather than cheap enemy tactics.

Ashes of Ariandel wastes no time in throwing the big guns at you though. After fighting through a frozen wasteland against knight-like enemies youíre confronted by packs of wolves, then giant wolves, then a giant club-wielding humanoid with lots of health, then a pack of giant club-wielding humanoids with lots of health. Iím not ashamed to say I ran past a few of them. While I didnít get far enough to encounter any bosses, I was informed there would be two in the DLC. If the mini-boss style regular enemies are anything to go by, theyíre likely to be fairly challenging encounters.

The level design felt similar to the Boreal Valley of Dark Souls III, partially due to the same cold climate. Ariandel has some fierce snowstorms though that occasionally obscured my distance vision, plus snow drifts that could collapse beneath you (no fall damage though, donít panic). Thereís crumbling buildings, towering castles and stunningly large ice crystals that set the frozen mood well. Exploration is rewarded through hidden items, as always.

While I didnít have the opportunity to see it in action, the new DLC will also introduce an arena-style PvP feature so players can see just how good their skills are. Hopefully, weíll be able to cover this feature further in our review once the DLC has been released.

Essentially, Ashes of Ariandel looks to be a solid, if somewhat safe, addition to the Dark Souls universe. If you enjoyed the setting of Boreal Valley and are itching for some new Souls action, it certainly looks like Ariandel will be time and money well spent. Just, you know, prepare to die.

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

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