Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel Game Poster Image
Tough, bloody expansion to hard game tests gamer patience.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Designed to thrill players with vicious combat, loads of blood, but also rewards caution, strategy, perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Customizable protagonist doesn’t express himself (or herself) enough for us to know what he's thinking. His actions suggest he’s content to fight enemies, do little else.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, but extremely challenging game that demands skill, strategy. No difficulty levels from which to choose.

Violence

Players use medieval weapons -- swords, axes, whips -- magical attacks to battle, kill a mix of monsters, animals, humanoid creatures. Enemies yell in pain, gush gallons of blood when defeated. When killed, player’s character screams, bleeds as he/she crumples to ground.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel is a downloadable expansion pack to the violent and challenging role-playing game Dark Souls III. Players use brutal medieval weapons and magic to fight and kill monsters, animals, and humanoids, many of which gush gallons of blood when struck. Parents should also note that this is an extremely challenging game bound to frustrate and perhaps even turn away players without patience or perseverance.

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What's it about?

Players are transported into a painting to combat rot with flame in DARK SOULS III: ASHES OF ARIANDEL, a paid expansion to Dark Souls III. The adventure begins with the player’s character traveling to a spot midway through the original game called the Cleansing Chapel, where he (or she) talks to a man whispering to himself while sprawled on the ground. This man asks the hero to journey to a painted world and show a woman a flame. With that, players are whisked off to Ariandel, a wintery land of snow and decay that’s filled with things intent on killing the hero. As with the main adventure, the goal is to explore and survive. Players must carefully investigate every potential path they see in the mazelike environment to figure out how to proceed and where to go while remaining wary of ambushes. Monsters lie in wait everywhere, and players will face intense boss fights. They should also earn enough souls to level up the hero at least a few times, as well as some new weapons and gear which -- depending on their strength heading into the expansion -- may or may not be better than what they’ve already earned in the base game.

Is it any good?

Now even the trees are trying to kill us in this difficult, brutal expansion to an already challenging role-playing game.. Dark Souls III: Ashes of Ariandel begins in a snowy forest where wolves, giant bugs, zombie-like people, and yes, even towering trees, attempt to snuff out our lives. But while they will often succeed, this expansion isn’t quite as formidable as the game upon which it builds. This is partly due to a surprisingly liberal sprinkling of flaming swords (the game’s version of a checkpoint), but also several areas where enemies are either infrequent or weaker than expected. The bosses are still devilishly challenging and will likely take multiple attempts to defeat, but getting to them isn’t quite as hard as it was in Dark Souls III.

This allows players to take time to appreciate the sights, which -- much as they were in the base game --are bleak yet beautiful. The snowy forest that players start in eventually empties in branching paths to evidence of civilization, including towers and a labyrinthine village. Here, players need to be wary of rocky precipices and narrow bridges, while climbing ladders and running across roofs. This all has to be done while remaining vigilant and prepared for whatever may or may not be waiting around the next corner or hanging from a secluded ledge. Ashes of Ariandel doesn’t really alter or add much to Dark Souls III's murky story or daunting challenge, but it does give players who didn’t want the original to come to an end an additional five or six hours of the game they so enjoyed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in media. Dark Souls III and its expansions aim to entertain players (at least in part) with their intense violence and copious blood, but why do some of us find such things entertaining? Does this say something about the nature of people?

  • Talk about the satisfaction that often comes with perseverance. How do you feel when accomplishing something easy versus achieving something very hard? Is the struggle worth it? Are there any benefits beyond the psychological?

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