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While the DLC won't be released until next week, publications have apparently had the okay from Bandai Namco to publish their reviews for Ashes of Ariandel, the first of two DLC for Dark Souls III. Reviews seem to be tepid, with most complaints focusing on the length of the DLC, which is apparently relatively short.
The Painted World of Ariandel presents a land that’s both enticing and dangerous, and there’s plenty of challenges to face even if you won’t have to face them too many times. However, unless you really love dueling in PvP arenas and can find sustained interest there, this adventure may serve as more of an appetizer than a full course meal.
Destructoid's Chris Carter argues that Artorias of the Abyss is still the gold standard, 7/10.
You don't really need Ashes of Ariandel unless you've squeezed every ounce out of Dark Souls III already or thrive on PVP. I think the concept of splitting up their resources took away from the sum of both parts, but there's still plenty of challenges and surprises to warrant another bloody good time. Or a future Game of the Year version bookended romp.
Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel is a short but sweet experience. It contains at least one boss that holds its own in a universe packed with memorable clashes, and a rather appealing setting that will bring upon nostalgia for a game that was only released five years ago. There are even some fantastic new weapons and spells to collect, along with the PVP arena making a grand return. Unfortunately, Ashes of Ariandel isn’t without its problems. As mentioned before, this is a short package that takes roughly three hours to complete with a couple of off the beaten paths to explore. The world itself feels underdeveloped, with the “town” setting may as well being a semi-large farm, and the cliffside having shortcuts relatively close to one another. There are some terrific new enemies, such as the Nordic Vikings and the frostbitten Ents, but the wolves are repackaged dogs and the random crabs are exactly the same, just with an ice element. Despite its issues, Ashes of Ariandel is still worthy of any Dark Souls III player as it’s more of what we’ve come to love with a couple of nods for long time fans.
All things considered, the first expansion for Dark Souls 3 is kind of a letdown, particularly if you don’t enjoy fighting other players. If all you’re looking for is a new region to explore, enemies to defeat and bosses hard enough to make you swear at the TV (or monitor), it might be worth waiting for the next round of Dark Souls 3 DLC to emerge before diving back in. There’s no guarantee the second expansion will include any more solo content than the first. But at least then you’d have twice as much to explore when returning to the game. There’s enough in Ashes of Ariandel to keep PvE players entertained for the better part of a day, maybe a weekend, but anyone with a decent build and some patience will overcome its challenges pretty quickly. You’ll get extra mileage out of the expansion if you enjoy PvP, thanks to the new PvP map and team battles, but even then I’d imagine most people will uninstall Dark Souls 3 again within a week or two. What’s present is enjoyable. I just wish there’d been a bit more of it.
Finally, PC Gamer has a preview:
Unlike in the main game, bonfires are hard fought for in Ariandel – you’ll often need to toil through a handful of tricky encounters before you find one. As for me, I was mauled by a pack of wolves and splattered by a party of giant iron-clad soldiers before opting to run away… straight in the arms of an angry, murderous tree. That second bonfire proved a very long trek indeed.
Though the early areas of Ariandel appear to sprawl in every direction, they’re really just swollen pathways towards an inevitable centre. When those swollen pathways are populated by so many enemies, though, it’s easy to gain the impression that you’re lost. It doesn’t help that some parts of the terrain collapses beneath your feet, and while you won’t fall to your death during these mostly scripted tumbles, it contributes to a sense of disorientation.