- Platform: PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
- Developer: From Software
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
- Release: July 22, 2014
From Software’s ‘Souls‘ series is arguably one of the most refreshing franchises ever made within the past decade, and that is no exaggeration. Few games bravely strive to be so uncompromising these days, instead preferring to cater to the casual audience by being simple and forgiving. Dark Souls admirably abandons such modern conventions, instead delivering an experience that’s arduous, foreboding, unrelenting, and very compelling. If one can look past its notorious difficulty they will discover a series that is sublimely refined, cleverly incorporating elements from both the old-school and the new to offer something truly unique in current modern gaming.
Masochistic gamers like myself can’t get enough of it; from its strategic combat, intricate leveling system, non-linear exploration, beautifully grim and expansive environments, to the awesome imposing boss creatures to face off with at the end of areas. It all culminates into something that can’t help but put a sadistically satisfying grin on one’s face. Especially when there are so many in the gaming community that lack the perseverance to overcome its challenges, or worse yet lack the courage to even attempt them.
Needless to say it was exciting to hear when they announced DLC for Dark Souls II, especially with the success of Artorias of the Abyss when it was released for the original game. Still, there is always some reservations when it comes to DLC. It seems it’s usually hit or miss. So, does the Crown of the Sunken King fail to deliver or does it prevail?
To unlock initial access you are required to clear a portion of the original game first, and are only generally hinted where to find it. Not that it would be wise to attempt it right off the bat with a fresh character anyway, the new areas are quite treacherous, and are more appropriately suited towards the more geared and leveled adventurers.
When you do access it, you will find yourself in a vast underground cavern with a provocative view of a massive ziggurat in the distance. You will stumble across a peculiar looking statue which unexpectedly comes alive, foreshadowing a fateful encounter. Newly designed enemies, nasty traps, labyrinths and grueling boss fights await those that vigorously seek new challenge and rewards the way only Dark Souls can deliver.
In terms of challenge, does it ever deliver too. The undead enemies you initially encounter seem easy to dispatch, being slow and predictable, but you will discover they are prone to luring you into bigger groups of them, especially the annoying archers that enjoy pegging you from high ground. The melee type wield giant two-handed maces, which carry considerable stopping power and deal a lot of damage, which usually means survival becomes slim to none when a few of them are clustered around you swinging in close quarters. The ever more annoying enemies are the ethereal towering swordsmen you encounter later on, taking limited damage from your attacks while employing a large move-set with their dual wielding blades. By figuring out an environment-type puzzle you can permanently revert them to normal form which allows you to do full damage on them, but consequently they will resort to sniping you with their dual wielding crossbows whenever you re-encounter them. It’s probably worth mentioning that while you face these particular enemies you will be stuck in between hazardous spikes that damage only you if you walk over them, and casters perched on-top of high ledges who delightfully snipe you with spells.
Invading phantoms await you as well, and are sure to give you a stiff challenge just as much as the boss encounters. The designers even went as far as programming them to emote like real players after they brutally slay you, which they will shamelessly do as your character falls to their knees and groans in humiliating defeat.
Some of the bosses will be heavily reminiscent of ones you’ve encountered in the main game, but are never the less engaging thanks to new unique mechanics that add a fresh level of challenge. The final boss in particular is noteworthy, although nothing that players haven’t seen before, it still retains the traditional awe factor experienced in initial encounters. It looks all the more impressive witnessing it in action, even as it thrashes and tramples your hapless character to their death.
The design of the new areas pleasantly cater to the game’s strength on emphasizing exploration, even incorporating Zelda-like environmental puzzles to help mix up game-play. There are switches and pressure plates you can come across and activate, some to great effect like drastically moving or altering pieces of the environment, which can open up new paths to access loot, provide cover from oncoming arrow-fire, or unwittingly put yourself within a perilous trap. Things never seem blatantly obvious either, at least not until it’s too late.
The DLC does not slouch in showcasing the game’s strong artistic design and scope, as usual the areas are intriguing to observe and encourage exploration. From the ancient temple you first see in the distance and then later venturing through its claustrophobic corridors, to the corroded towers and huts populated by infected undead, to the deep cavern depths were hideous large mouthed bipedal beasts dwell; everything looks impressive and appropriately dreary, as if passed tragic events submerged everything into its current corrupted state.
There is some new loot to be found that is sure to expand your arsenal of equipment including new spells, armor, rings and a few weapons that you can craft from obtaining boss souls. There is bound to be something useful to find by clearing the new areas, as long as you’re thorough enough.
The DLC will take you a considerable amount of time to complete, depending on your skill level of course, roughly between 6 to 8 hours, which ain’t bad for its initial asking price of $10; there have been full games charged at full price that offer just as much game-play time.
Overall Crown of the Sunken King is a successfully seamless addition to Dark Souls II. If you are looking for more original Dark Souls content to experience than hesitate no further, it’s sure to satisfy your appetite for perilous dungeon crawling. Be sure to check back soon for the review of the next DLC, Crown of the Old Iron King.