After being mildly underwhelmed by Ashes of Ariandel, The Ringed City DLC for Dark Souls III shows the series at its absolute best, offering what is probably my favourite slice of content from the whole game.
The Ringed City is the home of the Pygmies, ancestors to humanity. Located at the end of all things, The Ashen One is transported to the blasted Dreg Heap and instructed to make their way to the mythical city and discover the secrets within. If Dark Souls III was apocalyptic, The Ringed City goes beyond even that. The Pygmies are a much discussed element of Dark Souls lore and we find a bit more about them and the way they lived. This DLC also provides some closure for characters from the main series, as well as tying back to the Ashes of Ariandel DLC. The Ringed City evokes perfectly the feeling of arcane ruin the series is known for and, whilst it doesn’t clear anything up (nor should it), it does feel like a good way for the series to end.
The Ringed City is structured as a descent, from the valleys surrounding the Ringed City which give it its name, down to the city itself and then further into its depths. The stunningly clever verticality of the level design has long been my favourite thing about the Soulsborne game and was something that Ashes of Ariandel lacked somewhat. The feeling of opening a shortcut back to a bonfire after a long and terrifying run and finding yourself back where you were several hours ago will never get old. Where Ashes of Ariandel lacked in boss fights, The Ringed City has four, and they’re generally really good. I won’t spoil the identity of the final boss of the DLC, and possibly the series, but it was one of my favourite boss fights both in the series and possibly of all time. The foe is fast, terrifying and humanoid; my favourite kind of Soulsborne boss.
The sound design and voice acting is as unsettling as ever, but it’s the way The Ringed City looks that took my breath away. This is only a DLC so we only get to see a small portion of it, but what we do is genuinely stunning. I’d love to have explored more of this place. I mentioned in my Ashes of Ariandel review that I think the series fares best in city environments and I think this DLC proves that.
The Ringed City is a perfect way to, perhaps, wrap up this series. It feels like the right time too, with Bloodborne paving a way to show how you can craft a different experience form the same template. Whether it’s Bloodborne 2 or something new entirely, I can’t wait to see where FromSoft go next.