Dark Souls 2's Crown of the Sunken King Brings A Second Helping of Suffering

Dark Souls 2's Crown of the Sunken King Brings A Second Helping of Suffering

The first installment of From Software's DLC trilogy makes for a welcome addition to the world of Drangleic.

You don't have to dig very deep to find controversy on the Internet. And when it comes to the subject of video games, these polarizing issues lurk just a few inches below the surface.

Of course, it would be disingenuous to claim Dark Souls 2 didn't break any promises. While the PC version looks fantastic and runs at a silky-smooth frame rate, DS2's lighting system—touted as a major new feature in the months before release—found itself dialed waaay back when From Software couldn't force the long-in-the-tooth hardware of last-gen consoles to produce these effects, uh, effectively. I understand the disappointment, but even without this minor addition, Dark Souls 2 remains a fantastic sequel to its incredible predecessor, even with former director Hidetaka Miyazaki in a less prominent role.

So when news broke about an upcoming trilogy of DLC for Souls 2, the backlash wasn't surprising. Speaking as a consumer, yeah, it would have been nice if the Collector's Edition included a season pass, but it seems as if additional content wasn't planned from the beginning—at least, according to Bandai-Namco. But the Souls series' brief flirtation with DLC has been extremely successful so far: The first Souls' Artorias of the Abyss content toppled low expectations by offering some of the best boss encounters in the series' history, as well as exploring more of the story behind one of its most tragic characters.

Regardless, it's difficult to argue that Dark Souls 2 doesn't feel like a complete experience. The game world is absolutely sprawling, and while it lacks the first game's interconnectedness, it certainly features just as much—if not more—real estate. So the prospect of more Dark Souls 2 will always feel welcome to me, especially since the next time we'll have a similar experience won't be until 2015's Bloodborne, the PS4's secret Souls game.

My 30 minutes with the Crown of the Sunken King DLC showed me, above all, From is using this opportunity to try out some new ideas not present in the main game. Sunken King's mossy, underground tomb is populated with a series of switches that raise and lower different sections of architecture, and most of the fun I had involved using these elements to reach distant treasure and avoid falling to my death—though I'm sure said switches can be used to royally mess with invaders and invadees as well. Though I didn't even make it to the area's second bonfire (checkpoints in the Souls world), Sunken King still provided some interesting takes on combat, as I spent much of my time battling enemies with large, powerful weapons on extremely narrow walkways with absolutely nothing beneath them.

Though it's slightly uncharacteristic of From Software, the developer is being much kinder about the placement of this DLC—unlike the Artorias of the Abyss content from the first Souls, which was just as hidden as any of the game's biggest secrets. I immediately backtracked to see just what this new area linked up to, and I found a fountain decorated with a three-headed snake statue—identical to the one at the Shrine of Winter—that linked me directly to the primal bonfire in the Black Gulch. If I had to guess, the links to the addition two DLC installments this summer might be found at the game's remaining primal bonfires, which should give some clue as to what specific character levels this new content is designed for.

Getting real answers about Dark Souls from Bandai-Namco is a losing proposition, but in this case, it's because they understand so much of the fun comes for piecing together information on your own. While my contact was tight-lipped about certain aspects of Crown of the Sunken King, he did share a few bits of valuable intel that show From is approaching this additional content from a very thoughtful position. Each DLC chapter will offer a main route and a challenging route, with the latter requiring some special requirements to unlock. And this content should feel pretty substantial, as questions about its sized called forth comparisons to The Forest of the Fallen Giants, one of the larger areas in Souls 2. In addition, you won't necessarily need to buy this DLC to experience it, since co-op partners can be pulled into these areas regardless of whether or not they own the content—though how this is done, exactly, wasn't revealed to me.

It's been three months since the release of Dark Souls 2, and it's refreshing to see that the conversation hasn't died—and I'm not really expecting it to for a long time. Even though there's so many mysteries still waiting to be uncovered, From will be injecting some new life into the world of Drangleic all summer long, and even if I wasn't semi-obligated to cover this content for USgamer, I'd definitely be on board. From Software might not have originally considered DLC in their master plan for Dark Souls 2, but, based on what I played at E3, I'm glad they reconsidered.

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