Check out our Dark Souls 3 review. Our Dark Souls III: The Fire Fades Edition review will cover the downloadable content: Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City.
I jumped back into Dark Souls III after months of not playing, near the fight with Dancer of the Boreal Valley. After repeatedly failing the fight and realizing how badly I had specced my character, I decided to start over from scratch. I did a little research into what I wanted to play, and I began to fly through the game, though I stumbled on bosses more than I care to admit. The refresher was welcoming, because it more or less prepared me for what was to come with Ashes of Ariandel and The Ringed City–as prepared as a casual could be, I suppose.
Ariandel is a beautiful snowy zone, but it’s rather small. Even with my stumbling around and silly deaths, I managed to clear it out in about four or five hours. Readers should know that this completion time was buffered by my silly deaths more than the game itself. Ariandel only has two bosses, and while the fights themselves are challenging–the second one more so–they don’t take a great deal of time. I learned that the Gravetender fight is more about micromanaging the two enemy types, and the fight with Sister Friede is one of stamina.
Overall, I enjoyed these fights, but they didn’t take me more than a few attempts to surpass. If I hadn’t gone through the entire game in a week’s time, then I might not have been as prepared. Sister Friede stressed me out the most, simply because my first attempt went on for so very long. I took way too long to attack her openings, and the fight went on long enough for me to get anxious and make crucial mistakes. Still, after some cussing and spiking my controller into the recliner, I overtook her and–after a small stress break–moved on to The Ringed City.
The look of the Ringed City is much more akin to what one would expect in Dark Souls: dilapidated buildings, oozy terrain, and peculiar creatures. However, the general hue of the game is more golden, which thematically works well when constantly going up against angelic enemies.
Speaking of those angelic enemies, they’re frustrating beings to contend with. They have a worm-like partner that must be killed in order for the angels to disappear, but getting to those partners is the challenge. The angels float in the air and bombard holy light on you constantly, so most of these sequences are spent going from one hiding place to another with a sprinkling of assumed deaths along the way.
There are more bosses to be had in The Ringed City than there is in Ariandel, and most are Grade A fights. The first one, however, is rather disappointing. You’ll either get put up against a rather generic NPC or another player. There are pros and cons to both, but the biggest one is that enemy players will have their normal health. This means that it’s like being invaded more than like a boss fight. It’s not a bad way to get started, but it’s a rather quick endeavor.
The rest of them are engaging from the word go. The fight with the dragon, Darkeater Midir, is troublesome due to camera locking, but all dragon fights in this franchise have had that problem; I’m not denoting the issue, because it’s a real issue, but fighting something so big without the camera locked is almost beneficial anyway. The Demon Prince is a good fight, fielding two enemies at once that switch between aggressive and paced attacks, but the true gem here is Slave Knight Gael. He attacks quickly and often, but the way he attacks is what makes him such a challenge. Most bosses follow standard choreography, but Gael is a bit harder to read. He uses structured combos, but the delays before and between attacks leave a lot of room for user error, and each error is fatal. I got pissed at him a lot–like, A LOT–but he stood out for me in a history of challenging franchise bosses. Souls fans looking for a fun challenge will find it in The Ringed City.
PS4 Pro owners will be happy to know that Dark Souls III received a modest, yet effective compatibility patch, and the results are quite welcome. The core experience on a standard PS4 has frame rates locked at 30, which is a design choice to ensure that gameplay remains smooth and consistent. The PS4 Pro patch offers a little more than that, eliminating the frame rate lock and slightly increasing graphical fidelity. Standing still, the game will look basically the same on both PS4s, but what makes the patch worthwhile is how the frame rate and graphical changes work in tandem. In motion, attacks and effects are silky smooth, and this remains true for most of the game. Many fights and more hectic situations will lower frame rates momentarily, but this patch ensures that Pro players have access to better fidelity and frames without sacrificing response time or game speed.
The Fire Fades Edition offers a great deal of content for a game that already had a great deal in it, but this package isn’t for everyone. In particular, fans who own the game without DLC would be better off buying the season pass, because this edition is targeted to those who haven’t jumped into Dark Souls III yet. This is a deal that’s hard to pass up, but the target audience is very specific. Nonetheless, Ariandel may only add a bit to the package, but The Ringed City is a fine ending to a memorable franchise, making the Fire Fades Edition a must-buy for anyone looking to jump into it head first.