For years, the Dark Souls franchise has been a punishing trial for sadistic gamers across the globe. Since From Software’s original release of Dark Souls in 2011 (excluding spiritual precursor Demon’s Souls), the trilogy has taken many on a difficult ride through Gothic inspired worlds of macabre themes and grotesquely wonderful monsters.
Dark Souls is widely acclaimed as one of the more difficult yet rewarding series to touch the world of action-oriented RPG’s, the Souls series has done its part in opening the eyes of game developers everywhere. Now, with the release of a second Dark Souls 3 DLC, titled The Ringed City, the Souls series will finally bring a close to an age of fire.
For those unaware, the Dark Souls series has always played prophetically with the themes of light and lark, largely in relation to fire being a central component in the bringing or vanquishing of life. In the last installment of the franchise, the player is referred to as the “Ashen One,” literally being born/reborn from the ashes in the opening scene of the game. As the player progresses, more and more lore is cryptically revealed through NPC’s, item descriptions, and environmental clues. Depending on their character’s actions, the player is left with a variety of end-game options, dictated completely on what to do with the fire that shapes the world. The importance of fire, both being ignited and extinguished, becomes more apparent as one progresses through the game.
In the first DLC of the third installment, titled Ashes of Ariandel, the player is transported to a “painted world,” a cold place that acts as home for forlorn souls, intent on escaping Lothric (the world of Dark Souls 3). While the gameplay is punishing and the story remains engaging, the events and actions taken in this “painted” realm seem to have no bearing or impact on the overarching world in which it sits. As such, there is no sense of weight or finality, leaving some players sour. And even though this painted world was a beautifully crafted snowscape of challenges, it left the player wanting a more concrete ending to such a beloved series.
Hidetaka Miyazaki, the game’s director, knew from its inception that there would be additional DLC, thus this lack of weight and finality was deemed justified. Here enters The Ringed City, From Software’s final DLC for Dark Souls 3.
“The close of the age of fire,” begins the recently released announcement trailer. The line is ominously narrated over a fading “Darksign,” an in-game item that grants rebirth to those afflicted with (carrying) the item. The narration continues, mentioning The Ringed City as being “at [the] world’s end. Past this heap of rubble.”
What is interested to note is that when this last line is spoken, the scene presented is one of twisted and crumbling buildings, much like the environment of the Kiln of the First Flame (the final area of Dark Souls 3). There are striking similarities regarding this area and the environment teased in the announcement trailer. So, should these two environments be one and the same, there is a promising chance that The Ringed City may take place partially, if not entirely, in the world of Lothric. That hollow feeling (pun intended) left after Ashes of Ariandel may be satiated, as this time players won’t be diving into “painted” alternate realms
It should also be noted that if The Ringed City has roots in the final area of Dark Souls 3, then accessing the DLC may require the player to follow a specific story line for a unique ending.
The trailer goes on to display a few unique monsters and weapons, a glimpse at a probable boss, and a rather large woman woefully embracing what appears to be the shell of a hatched egg. As with all announcement or teaser trailers From Software releases, so too come theories.
This woman, donning a white gown and simple circlet, is thought to possibly be Gertrude, a divine character that has yet to appear in the game, aside from snippets of lore. Other theories predict that she may be tied to Crossbreed Priscilla, an optional boss from Dark Souls, who has partial dragon parentage. This could also tie into the egg she is holding, as dragons are hatched from eggs in the series. Regardless of the theories, there is no surefire way to pin down her identity, nor the origin or importance of the hollow egg she holds.
Regardless of the verdict on The Ringed City, March 28th is set to be a bittersweet day for the Dark Souls community. Whether you were intent on stubbornly braving the trilogy alone or invading others to shove a dagger through a back, Dark Souls will remain a great example of teetering on the line between reward and punishment.
The Ringed City is set to be $14.99 at release, but only the bundled version is currently available at $24.99. The bundle includes both DLC’s and is available for purchase for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.