Dark Souls 2 DLC: Crown of the Ivory King – Review

Gare – Wednesday, October 8, 2014 1:50 AM
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As September ends, so does the saga of the Lost Crowns, the three-month period of three separate pieces of Dark Souls 2 DLC being released one after the other. The latest and final addition to the trilogy is titled the Crown of the Ivory King and – very much living up to its name – takes its adventurers to a land covered by blinding white snow and freezing storms, drawing a sharp contrast with the raging, fiery pits of its predecessor, Crown of the Old Iron King.

Winter wonderland

Much like the other two DLC adventures before it, Ivory King, too, will require you to do a bit of legwork before actually giving you access to the new area: this time, you’ll need to travel all the way to the Shrine of Winter and inspect the mysterious altar there to be teleported to the DLC. And when you do get there, things aren’t looking too welcoming – a massive cathedral looms in the distance, and you could stop to admire it, if it wasn’t for the blinding snowstorm clouding your vision. It’s all very oppressive and just a little bit unsettling, but thankfully, you can eventually calm the winds and have a better look at your otherwise gorgeous surroundings. Visually speaking, Ivory King is probably my favorite out of the trilogy; its far-stretching snowy wastes brimming with white wonderment and cathedrals sculpted with Anor Londo-evoking architecture all give the impression of a dangerous, yet enchanting place to explore.

But now we get to the important questions – can the last addition to the DLC trilogy show us something different once again? Does From have anything new up their sleeves? Well, the answer is yes, thankfully. While the standard enemy soldiers encountered throughout the snowy castle will most likely not raise any eyebrows, there are a number of new “friends” and cleverly positioned adversaries to look out for. We all remember Drangleic Castle’s golem switches, right? Well, in Ivory King, they’re back: here, the DLC chapter introduces what I can aptly describe as the combination of a familiar game mechanic with an unexpected twist. Similarly treacherous is a certain new enemy type that works an awful lot like the main campaign’s Bonewheel Skeletons, striking fast and dealing a dangerous amount of damage in a short period of time if one is not careful. And yet, at the end of the day, this wouldn’t really be a Dark Souls 2 DLC episode if it weren’t for NPC invaders with frustratingly brilliant AI: they are, without a doubt, the true show-stealers of the new add-on once again. And indeed, – without spoiling any of it – I can easily say they’re just as crafty and unpredictable as ever: From Software are the masters of making me feel both utterly confused and helplessly trolled with their DLC invaders, and Crown of the Ivory King may very well be the metaphorical crown jewel to that aspect of the game.

Navigational hazards

As far as bosses are concerned, Ivory King might be a mixed bag for many players. While the final boss of the DLC is a long and spectacular fight that should not be taken lightly, even by teams of three players (as it consists of both a boss and several additional enemies), the other two boss encounters offered in the new area felt forgettable at best – in fact, both pit the very same enemy type against you, reused and recycled. What does, on the other hand, deserve a special mention is the so-called challenge area leading up to the DLC’s optional boss fight – the Frigid Outskirts. Some may love it, others will hate it, but one thing is for sure: it’s vastly different from everything else you see in the DLC. To put it simply, the Frigid Outskirts is a fairly large open area covered by snow and ravaged by a perpetual snowstorm so fierce that it practically blinds you. The winds do let up every few seconds, allowing you to re-position yourself, frantically looking for a landmark – a hut, a ruin, a familiar hillside – in the distance that might give you an idea of which direction you should set off in. This area will put you on edge and make you feel cripplingly vulnerable, disoriented and hopelessly lost, dreading the blinding storm and the relentless monstrosities that dwell within its ivory void. I would go as far as saying it could very well be one of the most memorable bits in the DLC, and definitely one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome.

All in all, despite its somewhat lackluster boss fights, Crown of the Ivory was still packed with just enough surprises and Souls atmosphere to – once again – make the overall journey a worthwhile one. And so ends the trilogy of crowns lost in faraway places, and with it, the saga of Dark Souls 2, its DLC content now completely exhausted. Worry not, though – February of 2015 marks the release of Bloodborne, From Software’s next attempt at driving you insane and making you love every second of it.

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