Dark Souls III: The Ringed City review for PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: From Software
Medium: Digital
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

The Dark Souls franchise has been one of the highest points for video games in the past decade. I have spent ten times more hours exploring Hidetaka Miyazaki?s various worlds than I have any other game world. There is something about the Souls games that keep me coming back for more, no matter how many times I have died, or how many times I have completed the games. There is always something else to find, some new way to tackle a challenge or something I want to go back and re-visit. When I heard that The Ringed City was going to be the final piece of Souls content, the swan song for both Dark Souls III and the franchise as a whole, I was both excited and worried. That is a lot of pressure for a piece of DLC, so in the time leading up to this launch I constantly questioned whether it could live up to the expectations that the community and I had for it. I am beyond thrilled to report that I could not be happier with how the age of fire has come to a close.

The moment I stepped into the starting area for the DLC I was astounded by the sheer size and scope of what lay before me. This entire world is a noticeable departure from Ashes of Ariandel, which was admittedly not the largest or strongest entry in the series.  If you were a bit disappointed, or felt that Ashes was lacking, you will find that The Ringed City is quite the opposite, and hits all of the right notes that might not have been present before. The Ringed City is the greatest piece of Souls content since the original Dark Souls was released, and it feels like a ?greatest hits? with all of the best parts of the previous entries present. Enemy design, level design, the environment, the puzzles, the bosses, it all adds up to a perfect addition for Dark Souls III.

If you are expecting the story of the franchise to get tied up nice and neat with a clean and easy to understand ending after all is said and done, you will be sorely disappointed, and have probably never played Dark Souls before. However, if you are someone familiar with how the story in these games works and how to dig and find answers then The Ringed City will probably be the most satisfying and lore heavy area you have ever encountered. Item description coupled with the areas, enemies and NPCs shed more light on the foundation that these games are built on than anything that has come before. If you take the time and do the work, most questions you might have will have some kind of answer.

Enemy design has always been a highlight of the Souls franchise, and The Ringed City is no exception. New battle mechanics and brutal, merciless foes will test you every step of the way. You will have to play differently in different areas and certain mechanics presented early on can be downright daunting if you are not prepared. Shortly after figuring out how to get through an area and starting to feel like things are going to get smoother, an incredibly brutal and memorable boss fight is there to start the cycle all over again.

Boss design in The Ringed City is second to none with four bosses in total, three mandatory and one optional. If you are connected to the online servers, one of these boss fights will summon another player to take the role of the boss, complete with unique abilities and a boss health bar. This is not foreign to the series and is something long-time fans will get a kick out of. With that mechanic in play it is a great boss fight and can be a true highlight of the content, but if you are playing offline or happen to get to the fight when a player is unavailable and you have to fight the NPC in their place, you will be sorely disappointed. The fight is simpler than most NPC invaders and can be finished in less than 30 seconds with ease. Throughout the rest of the boss fights however, multiple phases, multiple enemies and some incredibly unforgiving mechanics will test the mettle of even the most hardened Souls players.

The Ringed City features environments and mechanics from every game that came before it and puts them to incredible use. Nothing feels stale or overused and as soon as you begin to grasp an area or a mechanic the game changes it up on you. I never felt safe or comfortable in my time with The Ringed City, and that is how it should always be when exploring new areas in this franchise. Ambushes abound and I quickly found myself glancing around every so often waiting for an attack that I could not yet see.

Puzzles make a fantastic return in true original Dark Souls fashion and I spent hours chasing down little details and seeking out hidden corners with loot and lore. Some of the most in depth and well-designed secrets find their home in The Ringed City. The world is rich with content and places to search for it, but it never feels like a chore.

This is, in my opinion, the culmination of everything that has come before it. Boss design, enemy design, lore, environments, mechanics, it is all pulled from the games that preceded this and it all has its own unique spin. It is truly bittersweet to come to the end of this journey that started in February of 2009, but I can think of no better send off for the series than the one it receives in The Ringed City. This is a perfect piece of DLC to round off a great game and a once-in-a-lifetime franchise. I could not be happier with how everything falls into place at the end of the world, and I would highly recommend the trip to any on the fence about taking it.

Grade: A+