Burning Ambition, Rage, and Satisfaction: Crown of the Old Iron King
Crown of the Old Iron King takes Crown of the Sunken King and blows it out of the water. Or, rather, the ash. The second piece of DLC for Dark Souls 2 takes many of the brilliant concepts from the first DLC and removes many of the issues it had and improving on almost everything. It retains some of the most important problems from the first DLC and doesn't take everything that worked, but it's still the superior piece of content.
Like Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King makes a fantastic first impression. After defeating the (you guessed it) Old Iron King in the Iron Keep, a new path opens. While the transition isn't as logical as Sunken King's deeper descent into the earth, you are still transported to an incredibly striking area. White dunes stretch out in every direction, giant towers are connected by massive chains, and white flakes rain from the sky. It's only after they crunch beneath your feet and you notice they're burning that you realize that it's ash, not snow, that you're standing on. After a few moments, you come across a group of dead, ash-choked bodies on the ground that wear the armor of Drangleic Knights, next to a multi-armed statue made of ash which crumbles as you near it
. Just what happened here?
After crossing thre first great chain and entering Brume Tower, the main area of the DLC (there are only two, rather than three locations in Sunken King) does the importance of that Ashen Idol become clear and the main environmental mechanic of the DLC is introduced. These Ashen Idols bestow certain benefits on enemies, debuffs on you, and whisper creepy, unintelligible messages into you when you're near one, so they must die. Unfortunately, this requires a consumable item, so it may often be worth your while to budget which Idols to destroy so that you dont run into a mandatory area and have none left. Also, while destroying all of the Ashen Idols may seem like a good idea, doing so makes the only mandatory boss of the DLC significantly harder. Leave one alive, if you can
. Discovering just what these idols are is an incredibly well-executed and creepy moment.
In terms of environmental exploration, Old Iron King is far more focused on verticality than Sunken King, which combined vertical and horizontal traversal. With one exception in the game's two worst-designed places, most travel is either up or down. Like with Sunken King, however, there are plenty of shortcuts. The only difference is that they're all unlocked at once, about halfway through the DLC
, but it's still incredibly satsifying to be able to reduce travel time.
There are far fewer traps (if you don't count the Ashen Idols), and the puzzle elements aren't as strong as Sunken King, but there are some areas that require a fair bit of thought to navigate by manipulating certain types of enemies, and not just so that you avoid dying.
Speaking of dying, the enemies in Old Iron Kign are far more unpredictable, moving in strange patterns and most are far deadlier than the enemies in Sunken King. Special mention should go to the Ashen Crawlers, who can leap surprisingly long distances and have some nasty surprises in store for complacent adventurers
One place where Old Iron King completely crushes Sunken King is in the bosses. They're incredibly well-designed, with one exception, and deliver the perfect balance of difficulty and fairness. They're also visually interesting and the two superb ones contain some excellent easter eggs and secrets for keen-eyed players. Fume Knight may be the hardest boss in the game (besides the incredibly unfair Ancient Dragon) without relying on the Dragon's fake difficulty. He can still one-hit-kill you, but it's better than that stupid reptile. Sir Alonne is fantastic and easily my favorite boss in the entire game, and even the third, kind-of-bad one is still solid because it tweaks one of the better bosses in the base game
. As always, the boss themes are fantastic, but these are especially good.
The way the DLC accompanies the lore of the base game-specifically, the history of the Old Iron King and the Iron Keep-is one of the best parts of Crown of the Old Iron King. While Crown of the Sunken King contained a great story, it had little to do with the base game, something this DLC does the opposite of.
The visuals are far better than in Sunken King. While the color palette is still a little drab, there are some brilliant lighting effects, especially in the arena of one of the DLCs bosses. Because of the fiery theme, the game breaks out some great yellow and orange colors in a few enemy attacks and the frequent shots of the sunset on the ash horizon. There are even some blue effects for the hotter flames.
Especially in comparison to Sunken King, this DLC adds many more items, pieces of armor, and spells that are actually worth something. The boss weapons/spells, with two exceptions, are fun, useful, and unique, and the new armor sets look great. Expect some cool new swords as well.
The DLC repeats a few of the problems from the last one, though. The enemies don't rely on overwhelming numbers as much as they did in Sunken King, but when they do, it's ridiculous. Remember the Cave of the Dead
from Sunken King, with its boring area design and absurd number of enemies? There's now two
places like it, both made up of straight hallways with an utterly idiotic amount of enemies. There's still no ambient music. And, like the previous DLC, though two bosses are great (and, in the case of Crwn of the Old Iron King, fantastic), there's still a third that's mostly just garbage.
Crown of the Old Iron King, despite those flaws, is better than Sunken King. With a few important exceptions, everything from the first DLC is improved upon in the second. It's a fantastic way to extend your time in Drangleic.
- Better visuals than Sunken King, especially when it comes to lighting
- Music is still excellent
- The tie-ins to the base game are fantastic
- Most of the new items and spells are really good
- The bosses are amazing.
- The level design is still great, eclipsing Sunken King's
- Some of the areas lack color variety
- Still no ambient music
- One of the bosses is a huge disappointment
- The path to two of the bosses is utterly atrocious and made up of unfair difficulty, relying on sheer numbers and boring area design to waste your time. Unfortunately, to fight one of the DLCs two amazing bosses, you have to endure one of these areas.