From Software’s army of Dark Souls fans have been asking for DLC ever since the games release, their argument being that Dark Souls is a game with endless possibilities of expansion. Being a die hard Dark Souls fan, I eagerly jumped back into my character’s boots, absurdly sized sword in hand, ready to face the multitude of new challenges ahead and was immediately perplexed upon realising I had no idea how to access the new content.
It’s not exactly clear, I emailed Namco in fact to get a better idea and, as it turns out, there’s a list of tasks you need to complete before you can even get started. These include: Killing a Hydra and defeating two Crystal Golems in separate locations. Doing so awards you with a Broken Pendant that allows you access to all the new content via an ominous black portal (for some reason).
The little run around you have to do won’t be so taxing if you’ve completed the game once before, but it may be frustrating for players that had already beaten the game and just wanted to get straight into the new content.
Once you get pulled through the portal (by a very large and gruesome looking hand) you’ll find yourself stuck in the Royal Wood, a lush environment full of tall trees, odd looking plants, twisted rock formations and plenty of opportunities to die in the form of brand new and interesting enemies, including tree people trimming hedges, attacking you with shears, giant Stone Guardians with even bigger hammers that’ll pound you into the ground and some fearful new bosses as well. The first of which you’ll encounter is a fast moving and deadly Chimera, a Lion, Scorpion, Griffon and Goat all rolled into one.
As with all things Dark Souls, dispatching these bosses is made much easier with the help of anonymous online players. After wandering about a bit more (and probably dying several times) you’ll soon find yourself face to face with Artorias the Abysswalker aka Knight Artorias, a fabled hero who’s name you might recognise from the main game. He’s a legend of Dark Souls lore and a formidable foe as well, especially one on one.
It’s around this time that you learn you’ve not just been transported to another world, you’re in a completely different point in history. Suddenly everything seems familiar, places and monuments you’ve passed on the way all recognisable from the main game, except newer, yet to be ravaged by time. Time Travel isn’t what i expected but it’s an awesome inclusion to the series. Artoria’s faithful wolf companion Sif, also makes an appearance only this time as a puppy, you save his life in fact, which is ironic since he grows up to be one of the larger and more difficult bosses you have to kill upon returning to the present.
The DLC is more than just a simple expansion to the main game, it also adds a PVP area where players can compete one on one, in Team Deathmatch mode, or in a 6 man free for all. It’s something completely different and entirely welcome to the franchise, and I personally hope that it’ll keep some of the more bloody thirsty players from invading my game all the time when I’m more interested in fighting bosses. Thankfully you don’t have to travel great distances each time you want to access the PVP, once Artorias has been defeated a nearby Bonfire will allow you to Warp then from any other location in the game.
Artorias of the Abyss also brings with it a number of subtle changes that most players may not necessarily notice at first. General weapon balance has been altered, nerfing the more over powered swords and magic, defensive items have also been made more effective. On their own these changes may not seem all that substantial, but when combined it dramatically improves the general online experience, defanging a number of the exploits that players had discovered.
Graphics: 4/5 - A more lush and vibrant environment than we’re used to seeing, but still recognisably Dark Souls.
Sound: 4/5 - Intimidating enemy noises and suitably epic music.
Gameplay: 4/5 - More of the same, although it is a bit of a pain actually finding your way to the DLC. The addition of the PVP arena is a great move that’ll hopefully distract some of the more… aggressive players from invading weaker players’ levels.
Longevity: 5/5 - Hours of content that will extend the gameplay experience significantly.
Overall: 4 out of 5
For the affordable price of £10 you get 10 extra hours of gameplay with new enemies, new secrets, new weapons and of course lots of new ways to die. It’ll take you a while to find and appreciate all that this DLC has to offer, these mysterious new lands make you feel like a rookie all over again, and that’s what makes it worth it.
- Adam Radcliffe