(TLDR? This review is also available in video format below for your convenience.)
Crown of the Old Iron King marks the second entry in the Dark Souls 2 Crown Trilogy DLC and it's by far the most sadistic yet.
It's once again accessed later in the game and is set in a large tower overlooking a snowy tundra. The environments offer quite a bit of verticality but they don't feel as cleverly put together as The Sunken King DLC. The art direction immediately promises some variety but it isn't long before you're stuck navigating through dark and gloomy corridors like you'd come to expect from much of the Souls series.
There's also a host of new enemies which are all fairly formidable and are in my opinion quite a bit more difficult than those you encounter in the main game. You'll take on giants capable of dispatching you in a single hit, knights that will relentlessly pursue you, annoying casters that teleport around and plenty more. They're all pretty tough and they each have a ton of health. Thankfully, you're able to use things in the environment to your advantage, such as luring zombies carrying flammable barrels into fire in order to kill groups of enemies as well as open hidden passages. You're also able to push fire turrets along a track to help eliminate or at least weaken some of the stronger enemies.
Also included is the addition of Nadalia, the late wife of the old iron king. Her soul was divided into fragments and placed inside ashen idols which can make certain areas quite a bit more difficult, such as healing enemies, shooting fire, hampering visibility and cursing the player. These idols can be removed with smelter wedges which will reward you with a fragment of Nadalia's soul. Unfortunately, you're not given enough to destroy all the idols until you complete a certain boss. If you're like me and unaware of this your first time playing, you could remove the wrong idols and make that boss a lot more difficult than it needs to be. This was a clever idea but poorly implemented. Had I known in advance, I simply would have left one of the ashen idols in one of the optional areas in favor of destroying all of the ones located around the boss. If you get in a situation like this, there is nothing you can do about it except fight an already difficult boss that is able to fully heal himself if you let him get out of position. This is just one of a few issues I felt were thrown in to be frustrating.
The bosses in Crown of the Old Iron King are all quite difficult, putting a lot of bosses from the main game to shame however one of the bosses is simply re-used from Dark Souls II. While he was one of the hardest bosses in the main game, re-using him just comes off as lazy. The other two bosses are challenging but they're similar to a lot of the large knight type enemies that are already prevalent in the game. Having some added variety and more unique encounters would have been welcomed.
Ultimately, Crown of the Old Iron King is worth playing if you're looking for more Dark Souls as it adds more to an already content-filled game. It's quite a bit longer than Crown of the Sunken King, especially if you factor in deaths, and you definitely get your money's worth. It's just unfortunate that it seems like From Software made it hard for the sake of being hard while forgoing a lot of the charm and appeal the series is known for. Still, despite it's flaws it adds new challenges and helps to tide fans of the series over until the release of Bloodborne.
This review is also available in video format:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fizue5dDTNw
+ Challenging enemies & bosses
+ Great length & value
+ Explosive barrel zombies require a bit of strategy.
+ New items, weapons, and spells.
- Frustrating design aspects
- Re-used boss appears lazy
- Doesn’t live up to Artorias of the Abyss or Sunken King DLC
- Difficult for the sake of being difficult & lacking the signature souls charm
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