Dark Souls II DLC Crown of the Ivory King Review


Developer: From Software

Publisher: Bandai Namco

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS3 and Xbox 360

Release Date: September 30th

As the days of Autumn are upon us, From Software takes Dark Souls II players one step further with the Crown of the Ivory King DLC by placing them in the heart of winter. It’s the final segment of the Dark Souls II DLC trilogy, and it seems like the developers saved the best for last. Despite being planned long before criticism of the game proper, many of the problems players had with the direction the series has taken are addressed, while adding just that extra bit of story depth that makes each Souls entry so special.

Despite constant frustrations over repeated Outskirts deaths or difficult bosses, the beauty behind the work as a whole is to be respected.

To access the Dark Souls II DLC Crown of the Ivory King, players who own the extra content will receive an item called the Frozen Flower in their inventory. Heading to the Shrine of Winter, players warp from said shrine to a far away land drenched in snow, where a gate stands in the way between paying and non-paying players. As was the case with Crowns of the Old Iron and Sunken Kings, Bandai Namco graciously offers non-paying players temporary access into the DLC via the way of player summons just outside the gate. It is a great habit for the Souls series to get into, and I am grateful to see that even in content that adds up to half the price of the game (adding up each $10 DLC piece) the publisher in Bandai Namco are giving pieces of that content experiences for free.

Once you get in, to borrow a popular Dark Souls phrase, that’s where the real fight begins. Everything that has led up to Crown of the Ivory King has been Dark Souls II-lite; this DLC really brings the punishment, overall. Spending several hours romping through the Frozen Eleum Loyce becomes a joyfully tough learning experience due to its design style. As soon as you take a step into this forsaken land, you are warned to turn back. It’s a valid warning to the light of heart.

Okay, I may be overselling it, but in contrast to the rest of the game, Crown of the Ivory King does ratchet up the difficulty quite notably. Everything placed throughout the frozen kingdom is planned meticulously to make you die, from monsters hiding around corners, powerful mages with swords bunched together in courtyards, bosses that are invisible if you approach them unprepared and mages that take pot shots while you deal with annoyingly-spiky hedgehogs. The invaders are the “worst” (best) offenders in this regard as they truly throw the book at you, employing a great deal of creative offensive strategies in order to claim that “YOU DIED.” I’ll avoid naming them to deprive you of experiencing their deliciously-evil tactics. When you complete Crown of the Ivory King, you will definitely feel like you earned your victory.

The brilliance of Crown of the Ivory King is due to the excellent level design, giving the Frozen Eleum Loyce a life of its own. With story prompts by the main voice guiding progression, traversing through the castle’s many areas slowly builds up the mystery surrounding its many denizens. The items, as always, help build the story lore by going in depth about the hardships and misery surrounding those who fell to darkness within Eleum Loyce’s perimeters. Immersion is a strong suit when it comes to Souls games, and the multi-layered construction and map design of this DLC area is nothing short of intuitively so.

Just as previous DLC entries did, Crown of the Ivory King brings new gameplay mechanics to the table. Blustery winds affect your vision, proving to be an ultimate curse when surveying the Frigid Outskirts. Not only does it hide your direction, but provides cover for the lightning-reindeer-like monstrosities that plague your path. Furthermore, leading up to the fight with the titular Ivory King you have the option to search the land for backup. Not only is it heavily recommended, but it adds further to the noble tale of the adventure while encouraging further exploration.

Another neat mechanic that aids to the depth of Crown of the Ivory King is the restoration of the land from the Dark, as the rekindling of a key light brings back warmth over several key areas. It also means that enemies, chests, entire segments of the map that were once blocked off by ice are now available and waiting for your arrival. All of these additions help to reinforce the notion of Eleum Loyce as its own fully-realized world within Dark Souls II, which lends more to its excellence over its predecessors. Despite constant frustrations over repeated Outskirts deaths or difficult bosses, the beauty behind the work as a whole is to be respected.

It’s also in the beauty of those within and outside of the castle walls that should be admired. The backdrops of Crown of the Ivory King reflect an extraordinary conceptualization of a fierce winter. You feel cold as a player after jumping from building to building, witnessing the weather-decayed buildings and ice-inhabiting enemies. This sense is masterfully complemented with the sound design, which adds realism and vibrance to the mood. Also of note is that the music played during boss battles is as precise and as strong as the presence these creatures exude. When you bring the level, sound, visual and combat design together, it creates a near-perfect package.

Crown of the Ivory King is some of From Software’s best work yet.

The only criticism I have of Crown of the Ivory King is that the cumulative efforts behind the entire Crowns series ends with a lot to be desired. There is an excellent story addition that comes with collecting all 4 crowns at the end, but beyond a small nod and a figurative pat on the head, the fanfare is decidedly dull. From Software has never really perfected the art of capping off their titles with memorable (or even good quality) endings, and the DLC finale will leave you wondering, “That’s it?” It’s remarkably low-key in contrast to the events that take place and lead up to the conclusion, which does change the foundation of what it means to be the prophetic hero.


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Dark Souls II wraps up their DLC trilogy with a bang, as Crown of the Ivory King is some of From Software’s best work yet. Never has there been a standalone location that feels so complete and so strong on all facets of creation. The events that take place afterwards do undercut the strength of the content, but it’s a small concession at the expense of an excellent wrap up to a great game that is Dark Souls II. While many look fondly to the future of the Souls series in its spiritual successor, let us also remember that there are great gameplay experiences to be had with the Crowns DLC series. They set a high standard of quality that the vanilla title can’t quite reach, but when the Souls standard is set so high, even falling just short will still land you among the stars.

(A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review.)