Nixon
Nixon

Between alternating bouts of struggling to recognize costumes (and the sinking feeling that accompanies being so far removed from pop culture as to misidentify a sexy Chewbacca outfit three times in a row) and time spent watching Werner Herzog documentaries just to hear him say "catastrophe" in that wonderful accent of his, I wiggled in some video game time over the weekend.

Yeah, yeah, congratulations on the chore of accomplishing leisure activity, right? Weird as it is to admit, lately, sitting down to play any game has come with an attached air of accomplishment to me. Or at least a confirmation that I haven't abandoned the hobby completely. Or that it hasn't progressed so far as to abandon me while I've not been paying attention.

Yeesh, this could get cyclical. Moving on.

Anyway, so what was the game? "Dark Souls 3," because I hadn't touched it in a few months and crushing things with a giant hammer is always bound to satisfy me on some level. Why was I playing it? "Ashes of Ariandel" came out last week, the first of two planned downloadable content expansions for the game, and the series has a solid track record for worthwhile DLC extras. So how was it?

Surprisingly middling, actually.

Not bad, just middling. Combat, the core of the base game and probably the defining feature for most players (aside from the series' difficulty, which has long surpassed meme status), is still fun and fluid, and some of the new weapons and enemies are fun to encounter if not offering much in the way of change. But not breaking a mainstay of the series isn't much of an accomplishment, is it?


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Many have whined about the short length of this expansion, and while I get that it's a little disconcerting to fork over $15 for what amounts to roughly four hours of game time in an age when the same amount of coin could get you any number of fully fleshed-out indie games on Steam, I was most put off by the feeling of how tacked on it all is. Even the best DLC is supplementary by nature, but "Ashes" really doesn't seem to have its own story to tell and appears to be making it up as it goes along (even if it only goes along for a few hours).

That may be due to the nonlinear nature of storytelling in the "Souls" series, which often seems like a mishmash of characters' arcane, cryptic babblings about gods and myths on the first (and usually second) pass through. Still, there's more confusion than mystery here, and the end result tilts more in the direction of off-putting than satisfying.

There's one more DLC expansion planned for "Dark Souls 3" due out sometime next year. Nothing concrete has been revealed about that addition so far, but it's being billed as the last piece of content for the game and the "Souls" series as a whole. The pressure is on to churn out something quality as a last hurrah — examining the mistakes of "Ashes" is a good start.

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