Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Sunken King boss design, some things are best left at the bottom of the sea

As a hardcore Souls’ fan boy, I’m most critical towards the things I love. While I enjoyed the Dark Souls II: Crown of the Sunken King DLC, I have major complaints about it. I’ve cleared it three times and each time the same thing has left a sour taste in my mouth. If the title didn’t give it away, what I’m referring to here is the boss design. Both Elana and the three-way optional bosses sadden me on multiple levels. Why? Well, it’s a mixture of laziness, unoriginality, and difficulty for the sake of being difficult. 

There are going to be spoilers here, so like, don't read on if you don't want aspects ruined for you.

If that last sentence sent red flags to your head, let me explain. “But aren’t ‘ouls’ games known for their difficulty?” Yes, actually they are. Hell, the staple of the franchise. Here’s the thing though. Souls’ games are hard but fair. You’ll die over and over, but there is always a reason. Through multiple deaths, you learn what you did wrong and adapt to it for the next round. This is even part of the mechanics and lore to the game through being undead. However, Souls’ games aren’t hard for the sake of being hard.

I’ll talk about the three-way first: Afflicted Graverobber, Ancient Soldier Varg, and Cerah the Old Explorer. This fight easily annoyed me the most. Sure, it’s difficult but so is Darklurker. Why does Darklurker not tick me off? Besides the Human Effigy sacrifice, the fight is both unique and fair. Never has the Souls’ series seen a boss quite like ole Darklurker. This isn’t the case with the trio. They are literally like fighting three Red Phantoms at once. That’s it.

I get that it’s like a worst case scenario PvP type battle, and that it’s similar to the infamous three black phantom fight in Boletaria 1-4 from Demon’s Souls. The difference between this fight and Demon’s Souls, though, is that this is actually a boss fight, one of the three from the Crown of the Sunken King DLC. This fight differs from Darklurker in the sense that it is hard just for the sake of being hard. No new mechanic is introduced and the enemies are ones you’ve basically fought before. It can’t even pull the “yay nostalgia card” for fighting Havel (Varg) again, because, well, you can ALREADY fight him again in the Abyss on the way to Darklurker.

Demon Souls TRIO

This is their gear:

  • Afflicted Graverobber: Alva Armor, Berserker Blades
  • Ancient Soldier Varg: Full on Havel’s gear and Dragon Tooth
  • Cerah the Old Explorer: Lucatiel’s Mask, Balck Leather Set, Estoc, Dragonslayer Greatbow

The trio are just reused assets thrown together to make a hard fight. That isn’t the essence of Souls.’ That’s lazy boss design. As far as their gear being reused, I suppose they're a group of graverobber adventures or something, but that’s just another lazy explanation. Is this fight so non PvPers can get a taste of that side the game? Don’t the NPC invaders do that already? I just don’t know, and it makes me both sad and angry to think about it.

This leads me to the other boss fight. Elana, The Squalid Queen falls into many of these same issues. First off, Elana is a slightly re-skinned version of Nashandra. Lore wise, yes, they are both queens, so if this like a queen thing, I guess that’s alright. This queen has the ability to summon someone who looks identical to Velstadt – well, a bit shorter. So between skeletons, piggies, and Velstadt, this fight is another example of reusing assets. Over all, Elana isn’t as disappointing as the Trio, but she adds to the ever bitter taste.

Elana Summon

Sinh, the Slumbering Dragon? Really fun fight. Maybe even one of the most enjoyable boss fights in a Souls’ game. While it took me back to Kalameet, it did so in a good way and not a bad one. So yeah, thumbs up on this encounter From.

Look, I get that we have more DLC coming out for Dark Souls II. That doesn’t mean I should settle with low expectations. To this day, I still say that Dark Souls’ Artorias of the Abyss is among the best DLC ever made for a game – compelling story, wrapped up loose ends, interesting bosses, good level design, etc. As I previously mentioned, I enjoyed Crown of the Sunken King, but those two bosses nearly ruined the experience. I have blind faith that the next DLC will put a stop to this madness and that this was just a fluke. There is always Bloodborne, right? 

Historian, teacher, writer, gamer, cheat master, and tech guru: follow on Twitter @AndrewC_GZ