Dark Souls, how much do I love thee? Let me count the ways: the way you bash me into oblivion, swallow me whole, suck me into the endless abyss, and…wait.
Now that I think about it, this is a pretty one sided relationship. Still, I just can’t get enough, and now it’s time to dive right back in with Artorias of the Abyss, a new $15 DLC pack that’s sold piecemeal on consoles (but comes standard in the PC version of the game).
Despite all its transgressions, I’m pleased to say: it’s more Dark Souls. And that’s a great thing.
So how do you access the DLC?
In true Dark Souls fashion, nothing is straight-forward. In order to access the new area (and thus, the entire DLC), you have a few errands to run initially. First, you need the Soul Vessel (which you aquire about 2/3rds of the way through the game), which unlocks The Duke’s Archives area near Anor Londo.
Go to the Darkroot Basin and kill the Hydra if you haven’t already — on the left, you’ll see a golden golem — kill it, then say “yes” to the NPC. Next, head to The Duke’s Archives, go up the elevator, and kill the crystal golem for the broken pendant. Head back to Darkroot Basin and enter the portal where the golden golem was. Ta da, DLC!
If I was a casual fan who picked up the game on the cheap, had no idea what to expect, and picked up this DLC for $15, I probably would have been pretty pissed (or if I had just started a New Game+, thus forcing me to regain the Soul Vessel again to initialize the DLC). Still, for us Dark Souls fans, it’s par for the course.
Is it worth it once you actually get there?
In short, yes! Artorias of the Abyss is more of the same content you know and love from the core game. There’s extra story, beautiful landscapes, challenging boss battles, optional areas, hidden secrets, and an armory of extra armor/weapons/items.
I fell in love with the game all over again after a six month hiatus, exploring the beautiful vistas of Sanctuary, and dodge rolling through some really tough enemies. Although it isn’t as sprawling as a few of the areas from the core game, the new DLC areas are open enough, and give you plenty of opportunities to explore nooks and crannies for every last item.
Shortcuts are plentiful, and convenient, allowing you to use a network of tunnels and elevators to access any part of the DLC you wish once you’ve unlocked them.
It also expands upon the story of the main game, specifically regarding Gwyn’s Four Knights — which are heavily referenced within the game’s narrative. Every NPC is interesting, in terms of design, personality, or both.
The bosses (of which there are four, one of them being optional), as previously mentioned, will keep you on your toes for sure. Even as a Soul Level 62 adventurer, I had a tough time with the latter three foes, as they hit extremely hard and have a decent stable of attacks to choose from.
Artorias of the Abyss also adds a ranked, proper PVP arena to the game once you beat the second DLC boss, complete with a plaque of legends leaderboard, and a number of different options (four player free for alls, 1v1 duels and 2v2 team battles). The new PVP mode is a godsend, allowing people who crave PVP a way to get their fix on a consistent basis, with two arenas to boot.
Keep in mind that this DLC does take place in the past. Thankfully though, you can warp (since you have the Soul Vessel) out of the area and back to the core game, should you decide that you’re under-level. In terms of length, you should expect anywhere from four to ten hours of play, most likely more if you test your might at the PVP challenges.
Although it’s a bit obtuse to require so much of your players to access a pricey add-on, Artorias delivers in spades with pretty much everything you’d expect from it. It adds a ton to the game’s story, and offers so much depth to your experience with the game — especially given that the bosses are more formidable in New Game+.
If you’re a Dark Souls fan, you need to buy this right away. If you’re a casual fan who sounds like they’re frustrated by the mere premise of accessing this content, you should probably back away now.
This review is based on a digital copy of Dark Souls: Artorias of the Abyss for the Xbox 360.