Coming Full Circle at the End of the World

Gabriel Silvas, Columnist

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Between hunting down the renegade Lords of Cinder, combating the forces of the Church of the Deep, braving unholy monstrosities that wander the land of Lothric, and having to race against time before the Abyss finally consumes the world, the Ashen One has a pretty full plate on their hands. Well, imagine their surprise when they get momentarily sucked into a painted world by some creepy old man and are forced to fight the dangers within before confronting the people responsible for the rotting landscape of Ariandel, introducing fire to the little girl responsible with creating the next painted world. Thanking the Ashen One for finally showing her flame, she muses if Uncle Gael, the Slave Knight that brought them to Ariandel, has found the pigment for the painting: a certain Dark Soul of man. With a new bonfire appearing in both the basement of Ariandel Chapel and the final area of the game, the Unkindled follows Gael to the literal end of the world. Within the twisted amalgamation of all of history’s kingdoms and the ancient realm of the Pygmies, the eponymous Ringed City itself, new horrific abominations show their faces and several ancient mysteries finally come to light, though one might wonder if the answers we get are worth the despair…

The second and final DLC for Dark Souls III and the finale of the entire Dark Souls trilogy, The Ringed City was released in late March of 2017, bringing the game and series to a close as far as FromSoftware is concerned. Taking place shortly after the events of the previous DLC, Ashes of Ariandel, the player travels to the Ringed City in pursuit of Slave Knight Gael, who is searching for the Dark Soul itself in order to bring it back to the painter girl for her painting. Adding in two new large areas, several dangerous enemy types, many unique items, and a handful of imposing and powerful bosses, The Ringed City sends the series off with some of the best content the games have introduced.

Aside from the player and their usual blank slate, there are a few people within this nightmare that are genuinely helpful or at least non-hostile towards the Ashen One. An old Pilgrim of Londor overlooking the twisted landscape of the Dreg Heap points the player towards their destination, who is further guided by phantoms of Slave Knight Gael, pointing down at safe spots below falls that would normally kill a person. Perhaps the most active supporter during the DLC’s events is Lapp, an amnesiac Hollow that is nothing but friendly and helpful to the Ashen One as well as providing advice and fetching treasure for them if they cannot reach it or completely skip it, though series veterans might instinctually not trust him due to sharing the same voice actor as a certain unbreakable, trusty hyena. He is in search of the legendary Purging Monument, which is said to be the only cure for the Hollowing process. While he has managed to keep his sanity due to his unbreakable will, he knows it will only be a matter of time before he completely loses his sense of being and becomes a full Hollow. Once in the Ringed City itself, the player can meet Shira, a Spear of the Church. As one of the sworn guardians of Princess Filianore, the youngest daughter of Gwyn, she not only asks the Ashen One to protect the Princess, but to also put down an old friend of hers before he becomes consumed by the Abyss. It is only by carrying out this mercy kill that the Spears of the Church covenant can be joined, but do not expect an easy fight.

The enemies present in The Ringed City are some of the most nightmarish and formidable creatures found in the whole game, if not the whole series. The Dreg Heap, a crumbling mess of every kingdom throughout the ages, houses such lovely creatures like the swarming and emaciated Murkmen, the lumbering Harald Knights, familiar faces such as the Lothric Knights and Thralls, and the ethereal horrors that are the Angels, the ascended form of the Londor Pilgrims that will unleash a torrential downpour of magical beams to utterly decimate the player unless they get behind cover. In the Ringed City proper, the Judicator Giants and their ghostly legions, the Locust Preachers, and the dreaded Ringed Knights present even more danger on the way to Filianore’s church. There are a total of four bosses present in the DLC, starting with the dual bosses of the Demon from Below and the Demon in Pain, the very last of the Chaos Demons of Izalith, fought in the Dreg Heap in a very familiar area players of the first game should recognize. While one other mandatory boss awaits within the Ringed City, itself an improved callback to the Old Monk fight from Demon’s Souls, the hardest challenge in the game and the traditional DLC dragon fight comes in the form of the bonus boss called Darkeater Midir, Shira’s aforementioned friend and the last of the true Everlasting Dragons. Having fought the creatures of the Abyss on the behest of the gods since the first Age of Fire, he has become slowly corrupted over the years by the Dark and needs to be stopped before he is fully consumed, but it will take everything the player has learned to take down an Archdragon in its prime that is the Dark Souls equivalent of Godzilla. The final boss itself is perhaps one of the greatest fights in all of Soulsborne, complete with glorious music, a tense atmosphere, and massive lore revelations, making it a fantastic sendoff to the Dark Souls trilogy and a fitting end to the story of the Age of Fire.

Much like its predecessor, The Ringed City adds in a whole slew of equipment, from the giant hammer of Silver Knight Ledo, the lightsaber-esque Aquamarine Dagger, and the Ringed Knights’ Paired Ultra Greatswords, to more miracles, sorceries, and pyromancies that can invoke the flame fan of Dark Souls II‘s Desert Sorceresses, create a bow that fires bolts of lightning, and form an ethereal manifestation of the Moonlight Greatsword, but one that is different than that of Seath’s version and is rooted in a much older memory. Alongside various new armor sets that one can collect (including the armor of a certain boss at long last), a new covenant is available in the form of the Spears of the Church. The dedicated protectors of Filianore, the Spears are automatically summoned whenever another player steps into the church for the boss fight. Normally, the boss is known as Halflight, but online players have the chance to be summoned as the boss itself much like the Old Monk fight as long as they have the covenant equipped. However, the only way to join the covenant is to defeat Midir, so players will need to EARN this one. On top of all of this, the Undead Arena has added in three new maps for players to duel one another.

There is no better way for Dark Souls III and the series itself to end. The game still technically concludes after the final boss of the main game, but the empty feeling that settles after finishing The Ringed City is such a fitting emotion as the player comes to terms with everything that they have learned and how, no matter what, there really is no fairytale ending for this world. There is only the end of the Age of Fire and all that entails. The gods are long gone, leaving Anor Londo as a lifeless husk and Lordran forgotten by time. Vendrick and Aldia’s efforts to end the Undead curse were all for naught as Drangleic faded into history. Now Lothric, the last great kingdom of the world, has fallen to a civil war as the world is rushing to its final end. Still, some cling to the hope that, while the Age of Dark has finally arrived and everyone’s death is all but assured, a new, natural Age of Fire will be born someday to provide life once more. With this, a now iconic and timeless chapter in gaming comes to a close, but will not be so easily forgotten. This is a conclusion that all fans of Dark Souls need to experience. Praise the Sun one last time, my friends.

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