Dark Souls 2 DLC: Crown of the Old Iron King – Review

Gare – Saturday, September 13, 2014 4:03 PM
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As I started my second journey into Dark Souls 2’s additional content, titled Crown of the Old Iron King, I feared it might end up like its predecessor: a well-crafted piece of DLC that despite its additions, did not quite leave too strong of an impression on me. I’m happy to report that this is most definitely not the case.

Once more unto the breach

As the title may already imply, you’ll have to brave the halls of the Iron Keep in the main campaign and defeat its boss, the Old Iron King before you can really go anywhere. Once you do that and discover the primal bonfire shortly afterwards, keep on going to find – once again – an obelisk that will teleport you into the new area. Visually speaking, stepping into the second DLC is just as impressive as it was with the sunken city: here, a massive chain darts across the sky, leading to a vast tower-fortress of snow, lifts, deadly traps and even deadlier enemies. Much like in the previous episode, the new DLC area is very much a vertical affair as well, with players being able to look into the distance and still have that “oh, that’s an area I could go to” feeling they had in Dark Souls 1 or, more recently, Crown of the Sunken King.

Fine work, but now the real fight begins

The new area, naturally, includes a number of new surprises as well, just to pull the rug from under any players looking for an easy dungeoneering ride. Furthermore, while I did actually play both pieces of DLC on New Game+, Old Iron King, I noticed, ended up being the more challenging out of the two – which, I must add, is most definitely good news for anyone that felt the first outing a touch lacking. From fire traps through curse-ridden cellars to exploding barrels and frustratingly efficient foes, Crown of the Old Iron King adds an extra helping of that classic Dark Souls meanness and creativity that elevates it above the first DLC package in terms of providing a somewhat more satisfying and overall more challenging experience. The new areas felt fresh, their traps and obstacles delightfully effective in both surprising and, well, killing the player. No one *really* likes to tango inside a dark chasm with firebomb-throwing monsters, crafty NPC invaders and enemies that simply revive when you kill them, but Dark Souls 2 makes you do just that here. And it’s sort of beautiful. Speaking of NPC invaders, Crown of the Old Iron King realizes how much “fun” players had with the NPC invaders of Sunken King, and prepares a similar dish with a certain red phantom that simply revels in making your life a living hell – much like many human invaders would. In fact, I would say this invader in particular – along with his Sunken King equivalents – might be among the highlights of the additional content in general.

However, what really sets Crown of the Old Iron King apart from its predecessor are its new boss battles: the so-called Fume Knight in particular is probably going to win several “Jerk of the Year” awards, while another boss – as well as the enemy-filled area leading up to the encounter – provides a similar dose of challenge, requiring tight co-ordination and teamwork between online co-op partners. In short, I found the bosses of the new DLC quite a bit more fun than those in Sunken King, an aspect of the new mini-campaign that was a very welcome improvement indeed. If filling the void left by some of the lackluster boss fights in Crown of the Sunken King was From Software’s goal, I would say they succeeded for the most part.

All in all, Crown of the Old Iron King was a pleasant surprise. Both in terms of areas, enemies, traps and bosses – some blatant recycling aside –, it is, I feel, what I can easily label a definite improvement over the previous episode of the Lost Crowns trilogy. As such, this is generally a campaign I can recommend to those who, upon finishing the Sunken King content, found it slightly lacking and were longing for something more challenging, something Dark Souls-ier, for lack of a better expression. All I can hope for is that the third and final DLC installment continues this trend.

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