The world of the Dark Souls games has always been one of the greatest strengths of the franchise. Through the story, visual design and other gameplay elements, the games are able to convey a strong sense of history.
Their desolate keeps and castles feel very lived-in, and give the player a distinct sense of treading through grounds that have been the site of many bloody battles and brutal conflicts. The presence of the different environments are distinctly felt during your time in the game, and they’re almost characters of their own. In Dark Souls II, the realm of Drangleic looks and feels appropriately haunted and old. Now, in the Crown of The Old Iron King DLC, players are introduced to the Brume tower, which is as beautiful and depressing as any other location you’ve visited in this franchise. It has charred bodies strewn all over its vast spaces, and you immediately sense the horrific events that might have transpired to cause so many deaths. Touching one of these bodies immediately causes them to dissipate into the wind, as if their souls were waiting for someone to set them free from this earthly realm. Death is a constant companion in the Dark Souls games, and the series always handles it with the appropriate gravitas.
The Game Environment:
In the Crown of The Sunken King DLC, the location players visited was very Aztec-looking, almost as if you’d wandered into a parallel universe that somehow still contained the many horrors from the Dark Souls world. But in this outing, players will feel like the locations in Crown of The Old Iron King are a logical extension of the locales from the original game. It feels like Brume Tower was always present here, somewhere far off into the distance, while you were trudging through Drangleic. The design of the tower makes it feel very old, almost as if it was originally one of the kingdom’s strongholds, but was later abandoned for the Iron Keep. There are little to no moving parts present, and the architecture looks outdated, which ties in perfectly to the theme of the location. It gives the story a natural reason to set the players off on a quest to find the gears and other missing pieces that will get the tower up and running. The individual towers you’ll visit in the game are impressive looking, and you get the sense that they must have been quite formidable in their heyday. Brume Tower feels like it was built around a series of towers.
The Game Play:
The locations and structures of Crown of The Old Iron King are simultaneously intimidating and completely impractical. The sheer size of some of the armor you’ll find lying around is ridiculous. It would make sense if giants were originally tasked with protecting the tower, which, let’s face it, is probably the truth. The doors are gigantic, and some of the bridges are made up of chains that couldn’t possibly have been put into place by normal humans. They’re also very narrow, which as you might know if you’ve played Dark Souls before, isn’t a good thing at all. You probably won’t have to fight anyone on these bridges, unless you’re really bad at this game and draw out an enemy into combat on the bridge. If you manage to somehow accomplish this, you deserve the dozen deaths you’ll probably end up having.
Further into the game, you’ll come across the Iron Passage if you look in the right places. This is another gigantic cavernous space with a lot of narrow corridors and a whole bunch of things that want to kill you. The Iron Passage is this DLCs version of the Cave of the Dead from the previous add-on. Thankfully, you can summon a couple of phantoms to help you out in particularly stick situations. If you manage to make your way through to the end without giving up, you’ll come up against the boss, which looks like a skinned version of the Smelter Demon from the Iron Keep. This continues the trend of poor and unimpressive boss designs in the DLCs for Dark Souls II. You’ll also come up against a Fume Knight in the Brume Tower, a dual weapon wielding boss who will also remind you of previous bosses.
Thankfully, the non-boss enemies you’ll meet in Crown of The Old Iron King are sufficiently varied. There are crafty ninja-esque guys who sneak up on you and have the ability to teleport and fire lightning, making them a real menace. It’s very satisfying to put your blade through their flesh. There are also a bunch of extra-creepy monsters that look like humans, except they have no legs and just crawl toward you and want to blow themselves up in your face. Yes, you’re not the only one who thought about Serious Sam after reading that. These creatures are scary, and they’re dangerous.
If you play the game long enough, eventually you’ll find a couple of ways you can kill your enemies with traps that seems almost too easy for Dark Souls. The original game allowed you to trap your enemies and burn them with lava by pulling a lever at a strategic location. There are similar conveniences here. The trick is to spot them before one of your enemies uses them against you. Here, you have enemies that carry explosive liquid in a barrel. You can connect the dots. There are plenty of these moments where you realize that there is a way to use a situation to your advantage, and they’re all very satisfying.
Crown of The Old Iron King is filled with places that will make you imagine what it must have been like to visit them in their prime. You also are treated to a small flashback sequence from Dark Souls II. Crown of The Old Iron King doesn’t necessarily need flashbacks though, because it makes you believe that this location you’ve just stepped into is steeped in lore. It gives you the sense that you are just one of countless adventurers that have stepped through its doors in search of glory and fortune. For a video game to be able to convey all of this without exposition is a momentous feat indeed. If you’re a fan of the series, this is another fantastic entry. If you’re new to Dark Souls, you might want to play the original game before you get started with this one. Either way, you’re in for a treat.