When I first learned about Dark Souls 3‘s The Ringed City DLC, I was elated and upset in equal measure. I was super hyped because, you know, MOAR DARK SOULS 3, but disappointed because I knew it was the last bit of Souls content we’ll see in a good while. The final expansion to an amazing game, in one of the most incredible franchises in modern gaming history, couldn’t possibly live up to my extremely high expectations.

… Only, it totally does, and The Ringed City is a masterful blend of everything fans have come to love about the series and then some.

Game info

Before we really get into this thing, it should be noted that while I’ll attempt not to spoil any major aspects of the expansion, I’ll be including screenshots and referring to things that could be considered spoilers throughout. You have been weighed, measured, and warned.

Previous DLC releases for the series have been sort of hit-or-miss, with Dark Souls 3‘s first expansion Ashes of Ariandel teetering between the two. It was frustratingly short, only taking around two hours to fully complete (depending on your level of gud-gitting), but it was still a rewarding excursion topped off with one of the best bosses in the series. But what makes Ashes of Ariandel truly memorable is its introduction of a story that sets the tone for the game’s last DLC perfectly.

“The fire? Yeah no, this is completely fine, ashen one.”

“I can almost see the flame,” says the white-haired painter of worlds in Ariandel. “Soon uncle Gael will bring me the pigment. I wonder if he has found it? The dark soul of man…” The basic premise behind The Ringed City, while not initially clear, is essentially the hunt for this “dark soul”, and it eventually leads to one of the most unexpected plot revelations the series has to offer. But I won’t spoil it for you.

There are two ways to access the DLC, and both involve bonfires. If you’ve already beaten the game, but haven’t moved on to new game plus, just head to where you fought the last boss, and you’ll be greeted by an additional bonfire. Alternatively, it can be accessed through another bonfire located in Ariandel. Upon touching either bonfire, you’ll be taken to TRC‘s first new location called The Dreg Heap.

It’s here where the DLC’s running “end of the world” theme is most apparent. Everything’s crumbling, twisted, and slowly turning to ash. The area is stuffed with valuable items, enemies that feel unique and have no business being such a challenge for my soul level 111 character, and angel-like things that can screw right off. Parts of the Dreg Heap are reminiscent of areas seen in Dark Souls 2, but with their own interesting twists. It makes a hell of a first impression, and the intimidating boss waiting at the end of it all is different to anything seen before in the game.

But the Dreg Heap is only the (admittedly tasty) appetiser of the expansion, with the main course being The Ringed City itself, and man is it a banquet. It’s easily one of the prettiest and most expansive areas in the game, but just as easily one of the most difficult. The entire area is a masterclass in level design, with clear thought having gone into almost every aspect of its layout. From punishing environmental puzzles to wide-open areas inhabited by malformed creatures, tight alleys with danger around every corner, and even more environmental puzzles and fresh new enemies all come together to keep the adrenaline pumping. It’s brilliant.

But let’s be real here, the most important part of the Souls experience (the single-player experience anyway) are the bosses, and TRC sure has some. I’ve already mentioned the first one found just before entering the Ringed City, but there are three more waiting to ruin your day. The first can either be relatively simple to beat or a massive penis depending on your luck. See, this particular boss fight plays out similarly to the one with the Looking Glass Knight from DS2, which saw the boss summon NPCs and other players to murder your face. Maybe you’ll get lucky and be pitted against complete noobs, but at this advanced stage in the game that’s highly unlikely. I’d rather not say too much about the DLCs last non-optional boss since anything I say would be a massive spoiler, but it’s friggin’ amazing.

While the three non-optional bosses pose quite a fair challenge in their own ways, it’s actually the optional one that you’ll (probably) have the most trouble with. It was hands-down the most infuriatingly intense boss fight I’d ever faced in the series and is most likely the reason my controller’s left bumper will never be the same again. My live tweets about the fight sum it all up pretty well. All I can say is good luck, and git gud. Or, you know, just be this guy:

All in all, Dark Souls 3: The Ringed City is an excellent bit of content, filled with beautiful, well-designed levels, ferocious enemies, interesting NPCs, impressive new items, armour sets, spells, and essential rings, as well as some of the series’ best bosses.

The Ringed City is out right now, and should only set you back R161.

91The Ringed City is packed with a ton of new content, tough enemies and bosses that will test your resolve, and is the series send-off fans deserve. If you have even a passing interest in the Souls franchise, you should get this immediately.