Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King Review: Whoever Smelt it dealt it
Let the regicide continue! On August 26th, the second major Dark Souls II DLC was released: Crown of the Old Iron King. As the title suggests, this DLC explores the route after the Old Iron King fight. Once you've downloaded the DLC, you’ll get an Old Iron Key upon logging in, which will allow you access the content. Since it's continuing the Iron King motif, expect fire, traps, and metallic themes.
Compared to the Crown of the Sunken King DLC, this one is far less puzzle-based and more open. What I mean by this is that it’s very non-linear. There are three bosses, and you can fight them literally in any order you want. While there's the one boss guarding the Old Iron Crown, you can fight him first if you so choose. I like this aspect. There is a certain enjoyment in absolute freedom in exploration.
The issue with the non-linear aspect is that this got confusing at certain times. After you defeat a familiar boss, you don’t receive a key item, nor does a new area open up for you. In a Souls game, this is rare. I felt like I was completely missing something or failed to hit a lever. I spent a good amount of time researching that area. In true Souls fashion, I took the lack of something to do as a means to tell me to move on – which was the right answer. So keep that mindset in tow while plowing through this DLC.
Since I mentioned a ‘familiar boss,’ let me b@#$% and moan about this for a spell. A huge complaint of mine from Crown of the Sunken King was unoriginal boss fights. This theme carries over to Old Iron. The three bosses fall into the ‘big dudes wearing plate with swords’ category that even vanilla Dark Souls II was criticized for. From Software, please make diverse bosses! Using a carbon copy of a previous boss but making it somewhat harder is disappointing. It was the first boss I came across, and it took so much hype wind out of my sails. This is a trend that needs to end.
Even though all three bosses are big dudes wearing plate with swords, the fights are still entertaining. The other two took a bit of time to learn and were frustrating/fun in a true Souls fashion. The one has the most beautiful arena and environment I’ve ever experienced in a Souls game. The focus on detail and ascetics is nearly overwhelming. The arenas are fitting and help aid in making these encounters more memorable.
The level design is on par with Sunken King. This is a compliment. In the entirety of my Dark Souls II exploration experiences, this DLC is at the top. I loved making decisions where to go and trying to remember to return to certain areas. While I’ve completed the DLC twice now, I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed something major. There's a bit of storytelling that links to the original Dark Souls that worked for me this time around. Linking the past titles is always a shaky subject for me, but I like what From did here. That’s all I’ll say on that.
The non-boss enemies were unique. Sure, there were hollows with various weapons, but taking them out would be like Power Rangers without the ‘Putties.’ There are enemies that can work both as traps for the player or foes – I love those guys – even the lazy one.
There's a large enemy that is seen throughout that works like no other enemy in the Souls franchise. While he has basic mace attacks, he also has a lava-spewing attack that doesn’t affect his movements whatsoever. I’ve died from getting staggered by the lava, then slammed with his mace. While these guys are super annoying, that are cleverly designed. How about assassins that cast miracles and can teleport behind you for backstabs? Awesome, awesome foes.
If you played Sunken King, expect a similar experience. There are fewer puzzles, and the bosses are equally frustrating, but there are fewer BS bosses. The level design is suburb, and the new enemies really sold it. The open level design makes for fun exploration with some new great items. Two of the boss armors are wicked in design, and certain weapons will open your eyes to new builds. If you want more Dark Souls II content, you have to grab this. If you enjoyed Sunken King, you’ll like this.
Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ