A big victory in Dark Souls III elicits the sort of reaction from me that I’d be frankly embarrassed to reveal to people that don’t orbit the realm of videogames. As the boss goes down, I just stare at the screen for a second, not quite believing I made it. Then, all of this bottled up emotion, this maelstrom, shoved down before to allow me to focus, it explodes. I find myself sitting on the ground just laughing. Elated. Exhausted.
It’s a shame, then, that The Ringed City’s brisk pace just isn’t enough to give these new ideas the attention they deserve. Just as each new concept starts coming into view, you move on. An undercurrent of weighty themes and a dense overworld more than compensate, however. As a send-off for this trilogy, The Ringed City has to tie a lot of disparate threads together, and it manages this by focusing on its characters.
CITY HAS A TOTAL OF FOUR UNIQUE BOSSES — MORE THAN ANY OTHER SUCH ADD-ON FOR ANY GAME IN THE SERIES — AND EACH IS A BLAST.
Figures like Patches–a deceitful, murderous thief–conclude their arcs here. People in the Dark Souls universe fade as their will does. Over time, they lose their minds and go “hollow.” Throughout the series, this little bit of lore has been leveraged as an analogue for the player. If the game gets too hard and you give up, your avatar could be thought of as “going hollow” within your game world. It’s telling, then, that on the precipice of the apocalypse, the folks who made it are dogged, albeit with banal drives. These games have always used conviction of purpose as an analogue for how a weak-willed person can persist in spite of suffering. Patches, while he lacks compassion and strength of character, lives on through greed and suffering–tortured though his soul may be. Unearthing what sorts of karma this world holds for cheats becomes one of many lenses The Ringed City holds up for you. In effect, it asks you to look back on your time with these characters and stories and reflect on what they’ve meant to you.
Those less interested in dissecting what it all means will have plenty to chew on as well. The Ringed City has a total of four unique bosses–more than any other such add-on for any game in the series–and confronting each is a blast. Nothing here is half-done, and it shows. As with the rest of the expansion, bosses here remix classic ideas and incorporate a bevy of new twists.
You start off as a weak, undead wanderer and eventually grow into a being that can kill god-like monsters, and it’s not because the game’s narrative needs you to be that powerful, but because you’ve worked so very hard to get to that point. It’s an incredible feeling, and makes Dark Souls III an incredible game.