Dark Souls II begins its major downloadable offerings with The Crown of the Sunken King, the first installment in a trilogy of DLC for From Software’s action/RPG. It provides 4-6 hours of additional content deep below the Black Gulch, giving players three new areas to explore. These new surroundings make particularly good use of vertical space, twisting environments, and deadly traps. Travel is exceptionally dangerous, since walls meshing together can throw off even expert players, leaving their exact location hard to pinpoint.

The new locales are accessed at the bottom of Black Gulch, just after the area where players encounter The Rotten. Many of the foes are simply modified versions of creatures that you’ve already seen, but some new enemies are lurking in the shadows. Remember the poison-spitting statues that The Rotten meticulously crafted in his pit? They’re back, and so much worse as a mobile threat. If you value the durability of your items, forget the passive little mushroom things that would stand and wait for death – the new wave of item destruction comes on the back of flying insects that deliver their destructive payload directly to you.

Players encounter several new boss battles and will find a smattering of new items, armors, and spells. Players have access to a new halberd, sword, mace, and a number of hexes. There’s a new miracle that lets players cheat death itself, which is exceedingly handy when exploring Sanctum City. Boss encounters offer new souls to collect and shape into new armaments at Ornifex, and offer some more hints as to the continuing slow burn that shapes the Dark Souls II story and world. While I don’t want to spoil the bosses, expect plenty of poison and fire in your potentially tragic future.

I’d recommend having a character equipped to handle the standard “endgame” before thinking about heading down to the depths. A new “challenge route” through one area is available for players looking for a serious, unforgiving challenge – moreso than what players already expect from a Souls game.

Should you accidentally stumble upon the Cave of the Dead, allow me to alert you that it is aptly named. Unless you’re a masochist, you should bring some friends along to traverse its interior. Interestingly, players with the DLC are able to summon players without the DLC into their worlds. This is a helpful and generous addition, since it gives you much-needed assistance while allowing those without the content to explore and experience it.

The zones themselves are among the most labyrinthine in Dark Souls II and include a huge amount of dead drops and lethal traps, which are often served up under duress from unwavering foes. This creates an atmosphere of claustrophobia and keeps an uncomfortable pressure bearing down on the player throughout the entire DLC experience. The content of The Crown of the Sunken King seems small in comparison to the Artorias expansion for the original game, but with two other pieces coming to expand upon things (and the promise of additional secrets when all three have been cleared), I can’t wait to die again.

The Edge

As with the base version of Dark Souls II, this DLC is best enjoyed on a PC.