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Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King PC Review: Towers of Terrors

This second round of DLC doesn't feel quite as surprising as the first installment, but FromSoftware hasn't worn out their welcome just yet.

Review by Bob Mackey, .

Last month's Dark Souls 2 DLC, Crown of the Sunken King, stood as a swift kick in the pants to anyone who thought FromSoftware had been taking it too easy on their victims. The game's main campaign managed to crush countless players under its boots, of course, but this additional content revived some of the more challenging aspects absent since the original.

That said, Crown of the Old Iron King doesn't feel quite as fresh and exciting as Sunken King, simply because all of Dark Souls 2's DLC seems to be following the same design philosophy. So far, each chunk of new content has restored the dense, vertical level layouts we loved so much in the first Dark Souls, added a nifty environmental gimmick to keep our brains churning, and concluded with some of the most harrowing boss fights the series has ever seen. Crown of the Old Iron King even includes the same type of uber-hard co-op-focused area accessible by even those who didn't invest in the DLC. It's a sound formula, and more Dark Souls is always welcome—even if Old Iron King doesn't feel as novel as Sunken King did a month ago.

Old Iron King ditches the dank underground tombs of the last DLC for a completely different landscape: the ash-kissed remnants of colossal towers situated atop a volcano. In case you couldn't have guessed, the main element in play within Old Iron King is "fire," and there's plenty of it. Though this area can be accessed immediately after the lava-filled Iron Keep, the challenges lurking beyond its threshold are intended for the highly skilled, or overly prepared. I hovered around level 120 throughout my playthrough, and felt Old Iron King provided a pretty reasonable level of difficulty, though you might not find it quite as fair if you drop by earlier.

Sunken King provided plenty of memorable enemy encounters, and thankfully, Old Iron King continues this Dark Souls 2 DLC tradition. While most of the enemies you'll fight are the same brand of humanoid equipped with a handful of different weapons, Old Iron King often tasks you with successfully blitzing past foes instead of taking them on. Similar to a mechanic in Sunken King, Old Iron King's Brume Tower features plenty of enemies that can't be defeated for good until the environmental object prolonging their life is found and destroyed—and the items used in this act must be tracked down as well. Some of the most exciting moments of the DLC had me juking around and running through the legs of deadly enemies, desperately trying to find the burning effigies powering their endless resurrections. If FromSoftware ever wanted to branch out and make a football RPG, the action found in Crown of the Old Iron King would serve as good foundation.

Though the level design in Old Iron King doesn't feel as complex as Sunken King, the DLC manages to change its scenery to provide some relief to those tired of staring down poorly lit hallways. Old Iron King's interconnected towers pack a ton of content within their rounded walls, and like any good Souls level, progress is made by gradually unlocking a series of shortcuts to make future progress smoother. And since most of your navigation takes place within a single, vertical space, figuring out a way to zip from the bottom to the top after hours of playing feels incredibly rewarding, just as Dark Souls should.

Even after producing so much Dark Souls content over the past three years, it's nice to see FromSoftware hasn't lost any momentum. Old Iron King might contain the type of recycling that's common in DLC, but its design offers way more than a cheap cash-in for Souls fans. That said, with this second piece of extended content, Dark Souls 2 is beginning to feel a little predictable, which is antithetical to the spirit of the series. One more DLC should hold us over until Bloodborne hits in 2015, though I'm hoping the developers are a little more experimental for their series finale.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Visuals: Old Iron King's Brume Tower offers some breathtaking vistas, giving it a little more visual flair than the Crown of the Sunken King.
  • Sound: As always, sound is used sparsely and effectively in Dark Souls, and Old Iron King is no different.
  • Interface: Thankfully, no surprises here. Old Iron King feels like Dark Souls should.
  • Lasting appeal: Just like the last DLC, Old Iron King offers a lot for your ten-dollar investment, and could take anywhere from 6-10 hours to make the most of it.

If you're on board for another round of Dark Souls DLC, you know what you're in for: A few interesting twists here and there, and a revival of certain elements from the last game, but nothing revolutionary. If you simply want more Dark Souls 2, Old Iron King delivers just that, and with all the thoughtfulness you'd expect from its developers.

4 /5

Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King PC Review: Towers of Terrors Bob Mackey This second round of DLC doesn't feel quite as surprising as the first installment, but FromSoftware hasn't worn out their welcome just yet. 2014-08-27T00:30:00-04:00 4 5

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Comments 9

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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #1 VotesForCows 4 years ago
    Sounds good, but also not so good that I'm regretting my decision to sell Dark Souls 2! I loved it, but I think I was starting to feel like I was playing the same game over and over (had three playthroughs for each of Demons Souls and Dark Souls). I'm hoping that Bloodborne will refresh the template a bit - looks like it should.
    @bobservo Are you finding that you're getting any sort of DS fatigue? I'm sure I read that you've had a lot of playthroughs too.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #2 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    I didn't think it was as challenging as Sunken King, but the recycled boss fight after that gauntlet of enemies is a big letdown for me. It's fine that they toughened his enemy up to make it harder, and it makes thematic sense that he's in there, but I still would have liked to have seen something new
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  • Avatar for bobservo #3 bobservo 4 years ago
    @VotesForCows No DS fatigue for me just yet. Whenever I get tired of one game, I always switch to one of the others. Seems to work for me.
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  • Avatar for bobservo #4 bobservo 4 years ago
    @kidgorilla I actually expected that—the first DLC had some recycled bosses after its super-hard optional dungeon.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 4 years ago
    @bobservo Aye, I'm starting to get tempted by Demons Souls again!Edited 2 times. Last edited August 2014 by VotesForCows
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #6 Vinheimer 4 years ago
    @bobservo Which one of the Souls games is your center, so to speak? It sounds silly, I know, but for some reason Demon's Souls has become a rallying point of sorts for me. If nothing else in the gaming world satisfies, I default back to Demon's Souls. There's always a build I haven't made or an obscure challenge I haven't tried out...

    I can't really say Demon's Souls is better than Dark Souls or vice-versa. It's just that Demon's Souls resonated with me on a level that's unforgettable (akin to experiencing Legend of Zelda for the first time, perhaps), so it will always be my favorite.

    So which is it? I assume it's not DS2, so is it DS or DeS?
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #7 kidgorilla 4 years ago
    Ok, I guess I'm going to sort of retract my previous statement. Now that I'm finished with all of it and found that the re-used boss fight was optional to completing the DLC, I'm ok with it. I can't put my finger on why (especially with all of the effigies I burned through to beat the thing), but I just am. The Alonne fight absolutely made up for itEdited August 2014 by kidgorilla
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  • Avatar for bobservo #8 bobservo 4 years ago
    @Vinheimer I would probably say Dark Souls, since it's the best game of the series. I've played Dark Souls 2 the most, though, since it has less sticking points for me. The Capra Demon still takes me at least a dozen tries every time!
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  • Avatar for Vinheimer #9 Vinheimer 4 years ago
    @bobservo Dark Souls is the best, eh? I'm not saying you're wrong, but what makes you feel that way?

    I think Dark Souls has a more consistently engaging world and lore, and plenty of combat improvements over the original.

    Tower of Latria and Valley of Defilement strike me as unsurpassed moments in the series, however. Nothing in Dark Souls feels so atmospherically heavy and emotionally oppressive. I'd liken the effect to that of the best parts of the Silent Hill series. So I guess I'd attribute Demon's Souls with higher highs than it's more even-keeled successor.Edited 4 times. Last edited August 2014 by Vinheimer
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