The first of three DLC packages for Dark Souls 2, the Crown of the Sunken King primarily takes place the poison plagued, subterranean sanctum city of Shulva. While Dark Souls 2 may be looked at as inferior to the original, I never saw it as anything less than a stellar sequel, so my expectations for the Sunken King were high.
The expansion adds three boss fights and a bit of dialogue with King Vendrick himself, to go with the five new areas. It’s a fair bit of content, and it’s handled well for the most part. If you go in blind you can expect 4-8 hours of content depending on your skill level and how much of a completionist you are.
Level design, which is one of the most maligned aspects of Dark Souls 2, is actually the strong point of this additional content. The areas branching from the Sanctum City of Shulva encourage exploration and add some puzzles. Creative manipulation of rotating doors is required to obtain all items. Enemy placement, and strength for that matter, has been been improved leading to more challenging and rewarding combat in these areas as well.
The weakest points of the expansion are the boss encounters. First of all, every boss in the expansion comes with two conveniently located NPCs to summon for battle, and they aren’t completely useless either. The two main scenario bosses are almost laughably easy when compared to their main game analogs. They aren’t terrible, and both have some unique moves and abilities, but I never truly felt I was in terrible danger. I had more difficulty getting to the bosses the first run through than I did fighting them.
The optional encounter was the complete opposite however. Getting to the dark trio was fairly easy, if a little cumbersome. Once inside the battle though, the bosses were merciless and quite possibly the Ornstein and Smough fight of Dark Souls 2. The nicest addition to the fight is that players who do not have the downloadable content can still participate in the optional boss battle as phantoms, and may be rewarded with DLC exclusive equipment for their troubles, a great move by From.
Finally, there’s an encounter with King Vendrick added to the Undead Crypt. When I first learned of this I was worried it would be a plot dump that would ruin the story telling mechanic that makes the entire Souls series a cut above the rest. Fortunately this isn’t the case. There are a few short but sweet lines of dialog added that say much with little. Insight into the character of King Vendrick is given without compromising the method of story telling many have come to love.
-Best level design in Dark Souls 2
-More of what was loved about Dark Souls 1
-Adds nice new equipment and spells.
-Relatively easy scenario bosses.
92/100. The content is a treat the first time through. It keeps the style of Dark Souls 2 while being designed more like Dark Souls 1, which is what everyone wanted from the beginning. It’s sufficiently meaty for DLC and if it weren’t for the fact two of the three boss encounters are just too easy, I would say this is as perfect as DLC can be.