- Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
- Developer: From Software
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
- Release: August 26, 2014
The struggle continues in the next DLC of ‘The Lost Crowns’ trilogy, Crown of the Old Iron King, where death lurks at every corner and usually occurs before you are able to even utter out a curse. But death always has been an integral part of Dark Souls‘ gameplay, as any seasoned player would know. So, is the new content just as good as the last? Well firstly be rest assured, you are at least guaranteed to die just as much as before against the new challenges that await you.
If you have played the previous DLC it should be pretty straightforward how to find access to the new area, otherwise you can simply inspect the key item you receive in your inventory after loading the new content, as its description hints where you should go. It is also worth mentioning that in order to experience all of the new content you will need a key item obtained from the main game.
Your perilous adventure begins through a chamber of inscribed stone tablets that heed warning: “Trespassers will face adversity befitting a monarch,” you then pass through double arched doors and soon find yourself crossing a giant chain connected between gigantic, skyscraper-like towers overlooking volcanic dunes. Sitting on-top of one particular tower lies a throne submerged in ash, beneath lies multiple floors filled with chained elevators, dark corridors, monstrous creatures and hazardous traps. This is Brume Tower.
The designers from ‘From Software’ seem to have no limit to their creativity and imagination, Brume Tower is filled with captivating environments that are both exciting and dreadful to explore. From the ashen fields of half-buried human bodies, to the blazing furnaces within the tower depths which create dancing shadows, to the large counter-weight statues of the chained elevators which disturbingly appear as hanged humans, to the peculiar shrine of Samurai armor which radiates unknown red energy; every rich detail invokes a strong sense of history of a place that was exposed to grim circumstances. There may be fewer areas to explore this time around, but everything feels much more condensed, which in-turn equals out to be the same amount of content as before.
You will hear an eerie voice whispering through-out the environments you explore, emanating from shrines which you can seal away by finding a certain item scattered around areas. It would be a good idea to do too, cause they can summon pillars of flame on you, or undesirably buff nearby enemies, including bosses.
There are an assortment of new enemies to face, the majority of them uniquely designed and complimented with nasty move-sets and abilities, especially the bosses which are as formidable as they look. The designers made obvious efforts to make them as challenging as possible as some enemies can be genuinely difficult to analyze and predict how they will act, they seem to be just as capable as you to mix things up with different styles of attacks. To make it all the more complicated their attacks can vary in speed too, from fast to delayed types, which is likely to throw you off. It won’t be an uncommon scenario for you to strike an enemy who appeared to have been left vulnerable, only to discover you were successfully lured into their ruse, an always costly mistake. Exercising Patience and timing is important as ever before.
Although sometimes it can be beneficial to avoid combat altogether. The new environments offer opportunity to eliminate enemies through the use of hazards and traps. The fire spewing horse-head statues for example can be struck to move it along its rails towards unsuspecting enemies further ahead, or the enemies that carry the large barrels can be lured into the giant headless soldiers which spew fire from their shoulders to explosive effect. Observe and utilize any possible advantage, you will need it, as the monster density and the setup of combinations can be potentially overwhelming.
If there ever was a hell that existed in the Dark Souls universe it would be ‘Iron Passage’, an area consisting of tight, cramped areas clustered with dense mobs consisting of nasty enemy combinations. You will face groups of melee-wielding undead soldiers, casters that constantly cast a spell that impedes your movement, ranged enemies perched atop high ground where your character cannot reach, giant headless soldiers that try to crush you with their massive blunt weapons, and then red phantom versions of said enemies, which deal and take more damage than their regular counterparts.
There is an alternative path you can take which avoids these encounters but it’s just as perilous, involving you to run through continuous gauntlets of narrow corridors, dodging oncoming fireballs before a gate ahead of you closes in an Indian Jones style death trap. Failing to get past the gate in time means being at the mercy of a small army of undead soldiers you lured while running through, which leads to a likely scenario ending in tragedy. Not even the two NPC (Non-player character) phantoms you can summon will even be much help. Frustration is in full force here, and it all culminates in an anti-climatic boss fight with a recycled enemy from the original game. Fortunately however, this area is optional, and isn’t necessary to complete the DLC, unless of course you are a completionist. Recommended only for the bravest and boldest adventurers, insane masochists need not apply.
There are some new cool armor sets, weapons, rings and spells to obtain in the new content, some of them are appropriately powerful, especially the weapons you can craft from the bosses. There are also a few weapons you can find that make a welcome return from the first game. Some of the new rings give nifty effects, including one that reduces stamina depletion when blocking with a shield, or another that turns you invisible as you dodge, appearing as if you’re blinking around your enemies, which will likely find utility in player vs player situations.
Crown of the Old Iron King is another strong addition to the core game. From the areas, monsters and loot, everything is worthwhile to experience as long as you stand the traditional frustration of Dark souls‘ gameplay. Just remember to stay calm, and praise the sun!