By: Jeff Cater
In a sharp contrast to its current atmospheric bed, the first DLC for Dark Souls 3 places you in the cold, snow-ridden peaks of The Painted World of Ariandel. In Ashes of Ariandel, you will take your hero to an alternate dimension that exists only in haunting paintings. The dangers are very real in this world, however, and will provide a test to blood-soaked newcomers and veterans alike.
In order to access the new area, you’ll need to have at least beaten the Deacons of The Deep in the Cathedral. Using the “Cleansing Church” bonfire, you’ll find a new NPC, Slave Knight Gael, in prayer to the right of the altar. Engaging him in conversation, he reveals a shred of a painting that you place your hand upon and are suddenly transported to an icy nightmare.
According to the grim account given by one of the first NPCs you meet in the new world, you task is to find a bed of moss to rot upon comfortably. Of course, it’s not really in your destiny to just hang around inside a painting, so you venture off into the Snowfield and soon get a taste of what this world has in store for you.
You’ll first run across a group of Farron Followers, souls lost to the blinding white wastes that are bound to the wolves in the area. The wolves are quite difficult to deal with as their numbers seem to multiply without warning, and they can zone you quite well if you aren’t careful.
There’s also deadly flora in the form of trees with long, spiked branches for arms and a woman’s torso and head forming the body. These cold-hearted ladies can grab you up without warning and apply some serious frostbite damage.
Without revealing too much of the cryptic story, Ashes of Ariandel has added a feature requested by the community for years, a dedicated PvP arena. If you progress into the story and complete some optional tasks, you will be rewarded with an item called Champion’s Bones. Once you take these ashes back to Firelink Shrine and burn them in the bonfire, you will be able to access the Hollow Arena.
In the Arena there are two options: Duels and Brawls. In a Duel, it’s a one-on-one fight to the death without any aid of estus flasks allowed. Brawls take the form of matches between teams of 2-6 players with resurrection and estus use allowed.
The PvP mode of Dark Souls has always had a dedicated following, to the point where certain areas of each game became impromptu PvP arenas. Now these players have an official area to test their skills, builds and theories with like-minded players.
Of course, what would an expansion really be if it didn’t cater at least a little bit to the Fashion Souls community? While there are only five new armor sets, there are 16 (!!!) new weapons and shields to find and wield. Also there are four new spells and a new ring to equip.
Most importantly, Ashes feels like it belongs. Some were worried upon seeing the reveal trailer that there was a focus on the PvP. Don’t get me wrong, the PvP element of Dark Souls is utterly necessary for the tone of the game. I was just worried that maybe the single-player adventure would have suffered, which it truly did not.
Thankfully, the Painted World of Ariandel holds many secrets and items that instigate speculation and theory, be it a blatant description on a sword or helmet you find, or just by observing your surroundings and constructing the history yourself.
Ashes of Ariandel allows you to explore a chilling area where nature itself is a key enemy. You can ponder the connections between this game and its prequels, find secret areas that tell so little but tell so much, and jump into an arena with a few buddies. It’s great fun and overall enhances the game as a whole.
Wanna explore Ariandel for yourself? Then simply post your @Twitter handle in the comments section below along with your platform (XB1, PS4, Steam)!