Ah Dark Souls 2. Brilliant, forgettable, game of the year and a quick and soulless money grab that took a lot of people a long time to make. It was all of these things and more. Which raises the question, do you actually want more of it?
Of course you do.
Do you want more of it, which is just as brilliant but ultimately flawed as the base game was? Maybe not, but this is exactly what you get.
Crown of the Sunken King is the first of a series of short DLC packs that will be coming for Dark Souls 2. While more “Souls” is always good, this pack feels more like a quick taste rather than a full blow expansion like the first game received. For your money you are getting:
- Three bosses, one of which is half good.
- A small series of new items, none of which seem particularly useful (one pretty cool sword aside)
- Three-ish new areas, none of which are particularly memorable, but do have some interesting points if you dig around.
- One cool section with some large, interestingly designed monsters, reminiscent of a certain lave filled section in Dark Souls, but much better done.
Is that enough for $25? The whole thing only lasts a couple of hours (4-5 if you take your time) but I would have to say no at this stage. By the time the other packs arrive? Sure… but you would hope at least one of them brings something special to the table.
The problem here is nothing really stands out and any interesting ideas, such as the level altering pillars or new ghost enemies are gone before they really start to become interesting. The DLC itself is like that at a large scale. Just as you start to enjoy yourself and wonder what is next? The boss door appears, the DLC ends and you are left just chasing up the “optional” section, which is actually really poor.
The areas and monsters? You have seen it all before, even if nothing is all that bad. There is no Ash Lake here, it is just drab and boring environments, generic zombie/monster dude #36 and a couple of larger beasts that will never get close to you. I’m not asking for a rainbow themed world exactly, but if the series persists on the lifeless ruins and caves? It really needs to bring back the general atmosphere from Demon Souls. By this stage you are already a legendary badass, not much can touch you and you just have to wonder why you would bother going through these places (which is never really clearly explained by the way) when there is probably a nice beach somewhere to settle down.
For example, hitting switches in the first area will cause large sections to rise and fall. This opens up all sorts of opportunities for secret passages, hidden loots and some devious traps. The issue? There is nothing worth finding in the whole area. Worse, besides killing one enemy and providing the final path, there really is no reason to hit them at all. Of course you don’t know this when you are first playing it, but it leads to disappointment and sums up the whole theme of the outing. Fine, but nothing special.
On the plus side, people who called for a more “connected environment” will be please with the design here. The three sections twist around themselves so you will organically return to different locations several times until the end (the first few moments tease where you will end up). On the negative side, this means you spend the whole DLC basically running around the same spot, which is just about as unexciting as it sounds.
Note that like any Souls game, the experience you get will depend a lot on what level you are and what build you take into it. I had a level 230 Hex class, which wasn’t really suited to the adventure (certain enemies are very resistant to these spells). But by and large I got through it without too many problems. I feel reports of the difficulty have been a little exaggerated, with only the main boss putting up any real fight (more a case of extended fight length rather than real danger) and the rest of the enemies falling easily to the same old tactics or better yet, a trusty bow (which the game helpfully gives you early on).
So ultimately I’m left feeling pretty ambivalent about the whole experience. Some enjoyable game play? Yes. A welcome diversion? Yes. A special experience that I’ll return to again and again (or at least a few times), no, not at all.
Let’s hope the next pack really brings something special.