Last updated on August 7th, 2015
Four community members share their experiences, opinions and conclusions regarding the Dark Souls II DLC: Crown of the Old Iron King
Ever since Dark Souls II developer Takeshi Miyazoe declared “Dark Souls II DLC is not really being considered,” only for official announcements to confirm not one but three DLC releases, players have felt both skeptical and excited, cheated and frustrated. There was skepticism this would simply be re-skinned generic Dark Souls 2 content, and while I am a longtime FROM patron dating back to the days of King’s Field, and a Souls gamer from the original Demon’s Souls, I shared that skepticism. However, the first installment, Crown of the Sunken King, dispelled many fears about a sub-par DLC. The reviews were generally very positive, and I also have personally been generally very pleased.
Enter, then, the next installment, Crown of the Old Iron King. This is the Empire Strikes Back segment of the Dark Souls 2 DLC trilogy. Set mostly in Brume Tower, this addition focuses on the expansion’s namesake, the Old Iron King, his loyal Alonne Knights, and fire. Lots of fire. While the Sunken King DLC created a tense and foreboding atmosphere, comprised of dark Mayanesque temples rising from the cold floor of a subsurface ocean, Old Iron King (OINK) presents almost the polar opposite – except for the tension.
After porting into the area in the same manner as the previous DLC, you are quickly faced with an external view of Brume. In one of the best “Great View Ahead” moments in the Dark Souls universe, you see the massive tower, brightly lit by the sun, fire visible everywhere and a big chain your only path to the first bonfire. A far cry from the dank halls and temples of Shulva, Brume tower is in every sense a vertical dungeon. Don’t get the impression you will have to do a lot of platforming a la Mario; the lifts and platforms are more shortcuts that you open up as you progress, not mind numbing jumps you have to time (though there is some of that….).
My first impression after briefly exploring the area was how many options there are to progress. While the player comes to realize the layout is less haphazard than initially apparent, a great sense of exploration and danger is created which I found lacking from the originally released Dark Souls 2. Once the final area is cleared, however, you discover how well it is laid out and, like clearing rust off an old metal tool, the logical flow of the tower becomes clear.
As you continue, the whole area builds on a distinct personality. Brume Tower itself tells much of the story, not through words but through landscape. The entire area seems to be an old forge, crafting giant suits of armor (or are they giants?) on an almost vertical assembly line. Metal, gates and strength exude from each passageway, visible from each balcony. It reminded me a lot of a certain area in Demons’ Souls (and you will know the one). All in all, the area design and quality of the setting remind me why I love the Souls games, even with their occasional shortcomings.
Similar to Sunken King and reminiscent of the first Dark Souls, OINK allows you to open up shortcuts as you progress, both in the form of elevators and locked doors, which eventually simplifying the initial complexity. While shortcuts were rendered less important with the Dark Souls 2 teleport system, these shortcuts don’t just simplify the layout, they also lead to some of the really cool new treasures featured in this release.
One of the largest additions in gear featured in OINK comes in the form of rings. Aside from the basic stat-boosting rings and a new clutch ring, there is also: a ring that changes roll animation and made me feel like a ninja; upgraded life and elemental defense rings; and also a ring to help all the shield masochists (so you can take even more of a beating before your stamina bottoms out). Rings aside, OINK introduces even more new weapons than Sunken King did – including many with very unique move-sets. Not to give too much away, there are not only more weapons but a greater variety of weapons introduced including, but not limited to, daggers, a spear, a katana, one catalyst, swords of all types, and one of the coolest ultra-hammers ever.
Anyone disappointed by the lack of new pyromancies in Sunken King will be very pleased with what OINK has for you. Even after this DLC has taken a back seat, the gear should provide ample entertainment for PvP and PvE opportunities as time goes on, without being game-breaking or “required” for success.
Of course, to get these cool new treasures you have to fight, fall, kill and die, and OINK will present you ample opportunities for each. Most of the basic enemies you fight here are tall, gangly warriors who reminded me of sanctum warriors who were left in the oven for too long and then set on fire. They hit hard, hit fast, and if you let too many of them close on you, say “goodnight.” You may even clear an area at range and then, feeling safe, go in to collect your shiny objects when, all of a sudden, more rise from the ashes. Literally.
Complementing these fiery foes are supernaturally flexible great bow-wielders, dual dagger-wielding casters, and giants with very, very big clubs… who bleed lava. Like with the sanctum warriors, you will find a good back-stab weapon to be your new best friend.
OINK does a great job combining different enemies in different settings to keep you guessing and to keep you on your toes, even after you think you have mastered slaughtering the lesser enemies. There are also several red phantoms that make an appearance, one of which is very notable because she splits after taking 50% damage, runs away to hide behind enemies and heal, forcing you to fight on her terms. Sounds familiar… Add to this the cursed-ash idols that buff all enemies near them, sometimes cast a firestorm like spell or even curse you…there is plenty to kill you here.
Lastly, one of my favorite additions is the little hollows hugging explosive drums. Not really a threat as much as a tool, you can create some serious chain pyrotechnics with just a fire arrow and some alluring skulls. Many of the enemies may be strong to fire in Brume tower, but even undead fire giants when faced with a room full of explosives will be like “Really? Isn’t this a bit much?”
While the regular enemies are always a treat in Souls games, what people really want to know is “What about the Bosses!?” In adding 3 new bosses, just like Sunken King, OINK Delivers – although only in 2 out of the 3. The main boss of the area is the Fume Knight. Wielding a great sword and a straight sword, the Fume Knight has chained attacks and multiple attack patterns, changing them up fairly quickly to adapt to your defense or offense. To add to the challenge, the circular arena also has 4 ash idols outside the arena that will constantly heal him via a warmth effect. You really want to remove these before fighting him. While his straight sword attacks are survivable, 4 of them in a row will, if not end you, allow for a follow up to kill you while you desperately try to chug Estus. His attack patterns will change half way through the fight when he powers up, not unlike Velstadt, forcing you to learn another pattern while whittling down his substantial HP. This fight took me several tries and it really gave me a rewarding feeling when I finally took him down.
The other major boss that FROM did a superb job with is Sir Alonne, of Alonne knight fame. This is one of my favorite fights in the entire Souls series. It reminded me of the False King in Demon’s Souls and Gwyn in Dark Souls. A 1-on-1 humanoid vs. humanoid fight in a simple (though very pretty) arena. To give players who have not seen pics or played through this fight, imagine fighting a supernaturally fast samurai with dark powers. Yea, that cool. Sir Alonne is referenced in several areas of Dark Souls 2 lore to be a noble and loyal servant of his Iron King and a true Knight in every sense. There are even rumors around that if you bow to him before the fight begins, he bows back. Now, I have tried once to bow to him and was without luck, but others attest to it. Whether he does or not, it is a very cool fight and well worth doing alone, just for the atmosphere. Oh, and it is possible to get all his gear. So sick. Ronin Fashion Souls here I come. While I did not find this fight as hard as Fume Knight, it is harder to get to. While Fume has a bonfire right outside, this fight requires you to travel through a surprisingly large and very well populated memory. The travel frustration and difficulty can easily make this fight on par in difficulty terms with Fume.
Now comes the last boss of the 3, the one with which FROM, in my opinion, did not succeed. At the start of this review, I mentioned player concerns about simply re-skinning original content. Here, that concern is unfortunately made flesh. Enter Blue Smelter Demon. This fight is almost identical to the regular Smelter Demon, except he is blue, so it possesses magic instead of fire, has more HP, and has a slightly larger blue sword effect. Essentially, this boss was created by changing some numbers in the code and changing the color pallet from red to blue. Even the arena is similar in size and layout. This was not only a total let-down, but a serious slap in the face. He is the optional boss, in the gank squad vein of Sunken King, at the end of the co-op area. The co-op area itself, like the Sunken King area, is possible solo, but presents more opportunities for ‘sunbro’ coolness than Sunken King did. There are even 2 paths you can take, a high road and a low road. Split up with your buddy, pick a route to focus on, both fun options. Still, this does not excuse the Horrible Blue Smelter Smurf fight.
Ultimately, whatever your feelings are on the DLC front, if you liked Dark Souls 2, you will like this addition. I bought the season pass, so I saved some cash knowing I’d be playing all the expansions, and with that in mind I have no issue with its cost. For those on the fence, if you liked Sunken King, you will love this addition. The only real complaint I have is the Smurf Fight, and that deserves complaining. Otherwise though, there is very little to be disappointed with. This DLC adds a wealth of new gear, plugs some lore holes, and is very fun and very challenging. What more can you really say?
Let me say first and foremost; I am a diehard Souls fan and when it comes to anything being added to my Souls game, I am going to be picky. I liked, but didn’t love, the first DLC, The Crown of the Sunken King. It had some parts that were lacking and was in no way amazing when compared to something like Dark Souls DLC Artorias of the Abyss. But it was a good first effort.
Surprisingly The Crown of the Iron King, to me, has redefined what DLC can and should be. It’s large, adds many new useful items, and is incredibly tough. I’m on NG3 with a 250+ soul level, so don’t expect a quick play through on any of the levels or bosses. Speaking of levels, this game has some of the best level design I have seen since Demon’s Souls. It’s natural, and feels expansive yet flows in a way that you never feel lost. You can explore however you wish, but you never feel like you’re doing it incorrectly, or that you’ll be unfairly punished later for the choices which you make. The only nagging feeling you get while playing is “Why didn’t they make all of Dark Souls 2 like this?”
Okay, now that I’ve said all of that, let me get into the actual content of what makes this a great addition to the Souls legacy. You start your story by going to the Iron Keep’s Primal Bonfire. After opening and going through the DLC door, you are greeted with a new land of falling ash and fire. You make your way up the very large chain to a Tower, which is where, other than a small detour, most of your adventure takes place. As you continue you will come upon the new enemy types who are aggressive and normally fight in groups. The standard enemy has a shield and sword, or one that wields 2 large axes and loves to do a jump attack, so be careful with that one. Be aware that beginning with NG+ the enemies and invaders (NPC) will have a large amount of health to deal with and the invaders are , for the most part, really smart. I will save many of the surprises for you to experience, but let me say it was really shocking and funny to see one of the invaders run away when it took a few hits. That came as a pleasant surprise and really added to the level of immersion that FROM Software was trying for and to me they succeeded.
Continuing on with the enemies, I really like the variety that has been included. While the sword and axe enemies will be the most common, there are several new types to deal with. One that reminded me of the Crow Demons from the Painted World in Dark Souls can teleport and try a back-stab on you. There are a couple of types of Casters, and they will spam attack you quickly if you aren’t paying attention. The variety of lightning attacks they use is impressive, and includes Lightning Spears, both regular and sunlight, Heavenly Thunder, Profound Still as well as Great Heal on themselves and nearby enemies. I can not express how fast they cast their miracles. Like most enemies they don’t seem to have stamina to deal with, unlike the player, so be careful learning their moves or bonfires after your death will be what you see most often. Of the other enemies included, one has a melee attack and fires a Great Bow that can disconnect from their body and fire over obstacles, while another is similar to the Giants from the original story and uses a giant hammer as they attack along with a lava type fire that will randomly pour from either of their shoulders. The bosses vary greatly and can be a challenge at times. None of them are what I would consider cheap, but they are lethal and will make you pay for the smallest mistake. The worst and most hated part for me was the amount of work required just to make it to the boss fights. I don’t know why FROM made this poor choice, but getting to the bosses shouldn’t be this controller throwing frustrating.
I want to draw attention to one area that made me stop playing several times just because of the frustration of having to fight the same area enemies over and over. Most of the bosses you fight are nice additions to the Souls franchise, but unfortunately we are in this DLC once again reintroduced to Mr Smelter Demon. Yes, Mr. Smelter in all of his glory is here. He may be teenage Smelter, but it’s him. The only difference is that this Smelter Demon is blue and not red. I do understand recycling this particular boss, considering the lore of the area and his importance to it, but I can’t excuse the 3 separate areas full of enemies you fight each time to get to him. When going to fight him you are greeted right away with 2 directions to go. One way requires you to drop down a hole followed by a variety of enemies using miracles, arrows, axes and swords.
The other path is easier; you can stay on ledges and can range fight the enemies, but it requires you to pull a lever, run through a gate with a lizard shooting fire at you, then a few casters and your at the boss door. Neither way is convenient. On NG+ more enemies are added in the form of red phantoms. I chose to use the lever gated path and kept enough Estus to beat the boss. I just felt on most of the bosses FROM had needlessly inserted a pre-boss fight to make your playthrough longer. This is not better in my opinion.
The remaining bosses are both new and fun to fight. I’ll give a couple of examples, with one reminding me of Ornstein with an ultra quick move set, fast recovery and an honorable style. The last boss you fight to obtain the Iron Crown offers a rewarding sense of variety. He has swords in both hands, one is a fast attack sword and the other is an Ultra Greatsword with a swing pattern reminding me of King Vendricks attack. The use of the environment for this fight was unique, and required you to do things on the outside of the fighting area before going through the Mist door. We even get treated to going into a memory, like the Giants memories, and going through what I would consider a much younger version of the Iron Keep including Alonne Knights. Several new items are available, but do know that some will require doing some unusual things, like pushing a barrel carrying enemy around to a specific wall and then using a bomb or fire arrow on the barrel to blow up the wall. All the searching and blowing up of walls will be worth it though. The value of the items that are available this time is well worth the cost of the DLC alone.
The new items include rings (one being a strength ring and another offers invisibility while rolling), pyromancies, armor and weapons. It offers such a wealth of new items that any character build should be able to find something of value to use. My personal favorite addition is the Majestic Greatsword, which is the sword of Artorias. It’s upgradable with twinkling titanite and has an incredibly strong move set when used in the left hand. The power stance attack is truly amazing with your character doing an in air roll flip.
To finish up my review let me say that whether you purchase the “Season Pass” or buy each DLC as its released, The Crown of the Iron King is well worth the asking price. I enjoyed how FROM made the whole world expansive but concise, so that no matter how you proceed you never feel as though you aren’t making progress. The bonfires all feel properly placed, and other than a couple of areas preceding some of the bosses, the DLC feels properly balanced. It’s tough, especially on NG+ and higher, but it still leaves you feeling that if you die, it was your fault and not the fault of the controls or the game. Here’s to hoping the next DLC Crown of the Ivory King will send Dark Souls 2 out with a bang.
When I first heard that Dark Souls 2 would get DLC, I was excited. Sure, there was some trepidation over how they would turn out, but I enjoyed my time playing the original game and was happy to be getting more. The time spent exploring the Sunken Crown DLC was fantastic, and a refreshing experience compared to the linear routes of the main game. So the night before, I sat my character by the primal bonfire and waited with expectations high. My hope was that the Iron Crown DLC would surpass what the first had brought to the table.
Let’s start with the general flow of the content. I found that the Crown of the Old Iron King fits in fantastically with the overall game, more so than Sunken Crown did. Rather than being thrown into an area we had never even heard of before, this second DLC takes us to an area of a known kingdom. On a narrative and lore standpoint the DLC connected a number of dots that were previously unknown. Of course it continues the story of the “children of dark” and another Queen is very much present in the form of Nadalia, Bride of Ash. Thankfully this DLC breaks the monotony fans feared would happen with these characters.
The content in this DLC is of a very excellent quality, it’s better than the main game, and, in some areas, better than the Sunken Crown DLC too. Regarding level design, this DLC doesn’t offer the same puzzling level design as the first. While the city of Shulva offers a more open area with several shortcuts, Brume Tower does not, and instead focuses on the verticality of the structure. Albeit after a reaching a certain point in the DLC, you unlock a way of ascending back up the tower and accessing areas previously unreachable. The atmosphere and the general look of the place is excellent. Your first sight of Brume at the beginning sets in a feeling of anticipation and just wandering around inside the building just exudes the idea of it being a factory.
All the enemies you face throughout are unique. Sure, this DLC has its standard enemy, being the Ashen Warriors. These do have different weapon variants. But it’s in the others where the enemy design shines. You have the Fume Sorcerers that have a few tricks that will surprise you on your first fight with one. There’s the Iron Warriors that, while big and slow, have their own little trick that will produce quite the burn. Beyond that are the Possessed Armor enemies that are quite dexterous with their sword, but also may perplex the player in the initial encounter. Lastly there are the barrel carrying hollows, who aren’t that threatening after a while. There’s a brief hesitation, but you quickly roll through them before they can go wandering into a fiery death.
Of course this wouldn’t be Dark Souls if it didn’t have its share of NPC phantoms, and FROM Software prove that they’ve been improving and experimenting with them. While this time we didn’t get to see a familiar face, we did experience encounters not seen until now. During the journey through Brume Tower, there are three invasions. I won’t spoil what exactly happens, but I will say that FROM have continued to blend NPC AI with that of what a player would do. There is an NPC, one that is located in an isolated side tower, that frustrated me and took a number of attempts to finally vanquish. In the end it was worth it though after collecting what he was guarding.
No new consumable items were introduced like the balms and brightbugs, but the weapons and armor sets are what shine in this DLC. With the armor in particular being some of best looking sets in game now. That and I can see some of the weapons will shake up the PvP.
The Iron Crown DLC offered its own specific challenge in the form of the Ashen Idols. Eleven of them are spread out across the area and each trigger something that will benefit the enemies around you. Sadly though they are not all unique and some effects are repeated, but at the least they make sense in their respective locations. At one point they can potentially trip the player into a difficult situation involving a boss, and well lets just say you best hope you haven’t used them all up by then.
As with the Sunken Crown DLC, there are three bosses that make up the DLC’s challenge. Two main ones that you have to fight to complete the area, and one optional. Let’s rip the band aid off with the latter first. It was an expected disappointment sadly, and given the nature of Old Iron King’s story it was no surprise who would turn up. I found that the boss along with the path you have to take to reach it was not worth it, and fell flat even more than the trio in Sunken Crown.
However the two main bosses more than make up for the one’s disappointment. While they don’t break the “humanoid mould” that was a common theme in Dark Souls 2, these two bring their A-game when you step through the fog.
The first that you encounter is located at the bottom of the tower, the Fume Knight. It took me several attempts to finally get a feel for this guy’s moves and by the end I let out a victorious and relieved “Yes!”. Yeah, he’s that kind of boss and I don’t mean that negatively. His move-set will likely catch you off guard, despite first appearances, and you’ll quickly figure out that he isn’t messing around. There is an interesting mechanic around his area that while not the exact same, players of Demon’s Souls may recognise from another particular Idol, so be sure to reserve those items otherwise you may find a much more difficult right ahead of you. Overall the Fume Knight was a fun and challenging battle, and a boss I personally rank up high amongst the best across the Souls series.
The second, who I won’t name for spoiler reasons, is another excellent boss battle. While for me he wasn’t as challenging as the Fume Knight, it didn’t lessen the enjoyment I had when facing off against him. He is quick on his feet and will at times only give you a brief window to attack. Unlike the previous boss, this guy doesn’t have a second phase but he can pull out a few moves you may never see until your second or third attempts. One gripe I would have with this boss is the trek you go through to reach him. I don’t feel as though it was really necessary, and was merely there to provide a second co-op area.
Now for the lore, first let me state that I’m a writer and by extension an avid lore geek, so this DLC made me very happy. As I said before, the narrative of this DLC and the lore we learn fits right in with the main game. For the most part the lore you learn through item descriptions is all about the Old Iron King. Learning of his past and who helped him rise to power, discovering what he had created and seeing a familiar enemy type as an empty shell. Even from the beginning, after you ascend the spiral stairs you see bodies that should be easily recognisable as to their origins. That alone sent my lore senses into overdrive. My piece of advice would be to look at the item descriptions, specifically because there’s an item you don’t hold on to for long and yet reveals some important knowledge about a kingdom those belfry marionettes are always yapping on about. Beyond that we also see two characters who were only ever talked about in the main game. One in particularly making me go “No way!” when his origins were revealed.
So in conclusion the Crown if the Old Iron King is another fantastic addition to Dark Souls 2. While it may have failed to meet some expectations, it surpassed them in most others. The development team behind both the main game and DLC have proven they’ve listened and been improving on past mistakes. Although they do still stumble in specific areas. Is this worth the asking price of purchase? Definitely, if you enjoyed playing Dark Souls 2, you won’t be amiss by buying this.
Players were not quite sure how to receive news that Dark Souls 2 was getting DLC. Some were hungry for more Souls, while others felt the decision to even include DLC in the first place was a controversial topic. When Sunken King was released, however, those that traversed the domain beyond The Black Gulch discovered a new location that was rich in depth and detail, humbling the level design of many of the main game locations. We were introduced to new enemies that challenged the tactics players had already learned to master since the game’s launch, and granted access to inventory and spells that allowed us to think up new ways to approach game situations and player versus player scenarios.
Crown of the Iron King continues in much the same manner. Those already familiar with Sunken King will learn quickly that this new DLC verifies what we suspected from the outset and what we can surely expect from the last add on as well. There are again three bosses (though only one is mandatory this time) and an optional co-op area that acclimatises players who do not own previous DLC and gives them a chance at new drops. The story again details a destroyed kingdom that bears eerie similarities to the trials that plagued Vendrick’s own Drangleic and culminates with the player acquiring yet another lost crown at the end. It is safe to assume at this point that the last DLC will likely maintain this trend.
You begin this new qauest by going beyond the primordial bonfire after the Old Iron King. Brume Tower is presented in one of those breathtaking view moments we get to experience periodically in Dark Souls, a ruined fortress chalked by ash and brimstone set miles above a scorching, volcanic land. You will pass through eternal boiler rooms, dilapidated balconies, and tread amongst burnt bodies lodged in banks of ash (which scatter when touched and sometimes yield items).
As with Sunken King’s Shulva, this new area is very distinct. Yet it is reminiscent of the Iron Keep, though perhaps more detailed. The excursion this time is much more straightforward. While Shulva seemed wider and more labyrinthine, this place is more vertical. The player will ascend and descend many difficult rooms and slowly have to piece together the mechanisms that will open the level up to its foundation. Being as it is, one might find their progress dependent on their ability to circumvent combat obstacles.
What this means is that Brume Tower can be a tough but ultimately shorter affair than the previous DLC or a slow, agonizing grind if you do not come prepared. Certain player builds will learn quickly how ineffective certain strategies are, as the excursion through Brume Tower is more punishing to players who do not possess the right tools (or spells) for the job. Prepare to die…and then use Soul Vessels.
Let’s talk a bit for reference. I brought a level one hundred Bandit into Brume, a character I had previously used to beat the first DLC. I went in a somewhat dexterous, power-stancing brawler with a Greatbow on backup and sporting enough faith to cast healing spells and lighting bolts. By the time this character finished the DLC, I had used two soul vessels and completely changed my approach twice. I would say that it is better to follow the same rules set forth by the first DLC and consider high progress characters for this run. I played this DLC much in the same manner as the first, as in I played online but only for the purposes of allowing invasions, as I otherwise went solo the whole run (unless when I was forced to summon, which I will get to). This reviewer is currently going through Brume on New Game plus as of the date of this writing. I did not attempt any invasions myself and this review will not speak of issues invaders may have seeking hosts for contest, though given the issues known to these players concerning the first DLC and navigation I can state that there are far fewer instances of switch-locked barriers and more automated lift systems that are in a constant state of movement, as they were in Anor Londo from the first Dark Souls.
I did not breeze through this, but I did complete the DLC in two sessions of playtime, which contradicts the week long endeavor of my slow crawl through Shulva. Much of this experience was not spent on exploration, but on the many battle gauntlet scenarios that bar your progress through Brume Tower. This DLC presents the player with situational battles where many enemies await you in enclosed rooms, though you often have the chance to mitigate these odds by careful examination of your surroundings. After three Souls games and three released DLCs between all of them, certain elements of the enemy AI presented to us in Demon’s Souls have gotten a bit stale, a bit too ordinary. While Dark Souls 2 has corrected and modified some of these traits, players are at this point quite adept at picking things up. Enter the Brume Tower horde, a compliment of scorched knights, towering giants, possessed armors equipped with flaming swords and Greatbows capable of impressive articulation over walls, roguish priestesses that can carve pieces from your flank up close as effectively as they can shock you from a distance with unique miracles, and then there are unique hollowed enemies that merely carry around large powder kegs in rooms with movable flame emitters.
Halting your progress more even than these acolytes are peculiar Idols that seem alive, but can only be destroyed by using an inventory item unique to the DLC, but of which precious few can be found. Poor use of this item can also greatly impact your ability to circumvent certain rooms or situations. What makes these Idols a priority is that they have different effects based on the rooms you find them in. Some will bolster the flesh and resistances of surrounding enemies, and some do this while they are simultaneously blanketing the entire area in a black mist capable of inflicting curse on the player. In other more infuriating ways the Idols simply heal nearby enemies in an effect reminiscent of the Warmth pyromancy, but with amplified proportions. In regards to the latter, in some cases their mere presence prevents a player from relying on age old cheese tactics such as resorting to long distant poisoning or range attacks from relative safety.
The enemies themselves, as mentioned, are formidable. Players who go toe-to-toe with the giants I mentioned earlier will find their circle-and-back-attack strategies will come with their own repercussions, as these enemies have a built in counter to those who attempt to circumvent a head-on fight. The standard knights themselves are eerily similar to those of Shulva, tall and lumbering with a variety of different weapons. They are at their most dangerous when in proximity to an Idol or when they are lying in wait for an ambush. The possessed armors, as mentioned, are dangerous at range as well as up close, boasting unique move sets and techniques in either case.
All of these things precipitate what might be, arguably, one of the most difficult boss fights the series has seen thus far. Players who find their way down to the foundation of Brume Tower will have a battle on their hands. This was the point of the DLC where, after a surprising number of deaths, I broke down and summoned an NPC ally into the fray, and even then the fight ended with my character out of breath, alone, clutching a depleted Estus flask in its hands. There are two optional bosses besides this; one at the end of the aforementioned co-op zone against a familiar foe, and one in a kind of secret location similar to the Giant Memories from the main game.
On NPCs, FROM has followed up their notable invasion sequence from Sunken King with enhanced AI attributes to the NPC phantoms seen in Brume. Friendly white phantoms now exhibit their own gestures as do other invaders, some of which seem very unique in their approach. There was a surprisingly tough lance-wielding phantom that surprised me from an ambush point and also a multiple invasion event that felt more at home in one of those Demon’s Souls moments where the game suddenly seems like it is breaking its own rules (or at least your perception of what those rules are). You may see a familiar main game ally depending if certain story segments are fulfilled prior to getting there. Yet no mercantile NPC exists in this DLC either, nor do other characters. Much like the Shulva, Brume Tower is full of lost and dark things that haunt the grounds and only the player exists to disturb their rest.
I suppose the question is, is it worth the price of admission? This player will tell you that it is as much as the first DLC was. The weapons provided are as impressive as those found in Crown of the Sunken King, a few arguably more so. The enemies will make you break a sweat, and will force old dogs into learning new tricks. Its length is that of any other additional zone, though like Shulva you may be here longer than in any one location from Dark Souls 2 (these levels feel more at home in Demon’s Souls or the original Dark Souls anyway, in terms of scope and scale). The co-op addition is better defined this time for the uninitiated with a very obvious and suggestive presentation before the new area actually begins. The other strong point would be gleaning the new lore, as there is much to know about the lost lands once ruled by the Old Iron King and what perils befell him and his people. Those that appreciated the fallen knight aspect to Artorias of the Abyss will enjoy a relatively unexplored yarn from the main game that reveals a different point of view on Vendrick’s royal Aegis. Also, for those that uncover the hidden area the origin of the eastern preferences seen in the Iron Keep’s Alonne Knights is revealed. In lesser story elements, those curious about the character known only as Eygil will learn about this court pyromancer in greater detail.
In closing, this will be a tough DLC that will test your resolve. The vertical approach may dismay some, but for those who felt the main game lacked a strong Z-Axis element to game-play and level progression will be pleasantly enthused…and then they will die.