The unsurprising concerns of FromSoft’s choice to release episodic content to be little more than a cash grab can be put to rest right now, Crown of the Sunken King, even without the two upcoming episodes, is just as impressive as Artorias of the Abyss was for the first Dark Souls. And just like that expansion to an already outstanding game, Dark Souls II’s first offering of additional content looks set to surpass its predecessor in almost every way.
A fountain has appeared in the Black Gulch. After you topple the grotesque amalgamation of dead bodies that is the Rotten, you’ll find yourself in front of an enigmatic altar lying just beyond the primal bonfire of which the boss was the former guardian. With the Dragon’s Talon - an item that has inconspicuously found its way into your inventory - you’ll be able to dunk yourself into the shallow pool of the fountain and be transported to Shulva, an ancient, Aztec-inspired kingdom that has fallen to the presence of a not-so-friendly dragon.
Shulva is, arguably, the most atmospheric area of Dark Souls II thus far. While you begin your exploration of the sunken kingdom in the surrounding parish that’s fallen into complete disrepair, once you reach the entrance to the the segmented pyramid that sits in the middle of the gigantic cavern, you’ll already feel like you’ve achieved the coveted phrase of ‘value for money’: this DLC is, quite honestly, the personification of bang for your buck.
Dust will fly up as ancient doors heave themselves open, and as your contaminated footprints mark the unspoiled ground of a temple that nobody has entered for (presumably) centuries, you won’t care how you got here, or even need to worry about it, because you’ll be retracing your steps many, many times due to the whupping that the new enemies will give you.
From ethereal, dual-wielding knights that can only be properly dispatched when you destroy their entombed corpses to huge, two-legged ‘things’ with teeth that must make dental hygiene a nightmare, there’s no shortage of new ways to die here. And die you will: Sunken King is arguably harder than anything the main game throws at you.
Cramped corridors, inescapable traps and environmental hazards galore litter every tomb, staircase and bridge that you’ll come across. Safety doesn’t exist. The attention to detail is a testament to FromSoft’s commitment to its fans, and while this is certainly another shining example of how DLC should be done, there’s still room for a little improvement.
With the exception of the episode’s final boss (which is utterly fantastic by the way), the remaining two are slightly disappointing in design. Neither are on the level of being as awful as the Bed of Chaos from Dark Souls, but they’re certainly two of the weaker entries of the series in terms of creativity.
All in all though, this is a homerun for FromSoft, and with another two episodes to come, Crown of the Sunken King has set a benchmark of quality that, if matched by episodes two and three, will mark an excellent continuation to an already great title.
Dark Souls II (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
All in all, this is a homerun for FromSoft, and with another two episodes to come, Crown of the Sunken King has set a benchmark of quality that, if matched by episodes two and three, will mark an excellent continuation to an already great title.