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Review

Dark Souls II: Crown of the Sunken King Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed: July 24, 2014
  • PS3
  • X360

King's quest.

The road to the emotional rewards of the Souls games is strewn with sweat-stained controllers and saintly patience. The franchise as a whole is a long-term trust game, where any given boss shoves you to the precipice of capitulation, but never lets you go over the edge. I can't imagine that achieving this balance over and over again is an easy task for developer From Software, and there's a part of me that often fears I'm only one encounter away from giving up on the series. To its credit, that fear was pervasive during my playthrough of Crown of the Sunken King, the first of three content packs for Dark Souls II.

If you approach downloadable campaigns with a level of cynicism, take pleasure in knowing that Crown of the Sunken King does not feel like previously made content that was withheld for a cash grab. Its interconnected levels echo the woven layout of the first Dark Souls without feeling like a full-on throwback. You experience the tension of cautiously venturing along an unexplored path, only to realize that, much to your relief, you've stumbled upon a new shortcut to an old bonfire.

How wonderful of you to join me, Steelheart Ellie!

From Software builds on this positive sense of exploration with sets of environmental puzzles, some of which alter the shape of the landscape itself, letting you access new areas or attain items that are seemingly beyond reach. Once you learn that one puzzle leads you to unique treasure, the compulsion to solve every puzzle hits you like a broadsword. This encourages a level of thought and experimentation that Dark Souls II lacked. Ever the sadist studio, From Software uses this opportunity to subject you to new platforming challenges, as if to say, “Just one more thing…” Your dexterity is tested as often as your brain is, and in ways for which the main game provides little to no preparation. Crown of the Sunken King also differs from Dark Souls II stylistically. I relished in the dramatic reveal of a temple upon exiting the first cave in Shulva, Sanctum City. Held up against the European aesthetics of castles in Dark Souls II, the temple's Aztec influence is difficult to ignore, yet given the series' otherworldly look overall, the contrast is neither jarring nor off-putting.

Crown of the Sunken King is difficult and assumes you've made substantial progress in the main game. By placing its initial access point in Black Gulch, the add-on assumes you are conditioned for the trials of Shulva, Dragon's Sanctum, and Dragon's Rest. Given the series' infamy for its lack of hand-holding in the interest of personal discovery, I strongly advise you to explore a few other areas in the main game before venturing into these new lands. If you still question the add-on's high difficulty, wait until you meet the cousins of the poison statues from Black Gulch. That's assuming you haven't fallen into the game's myriad pits first.

Mystery awaits.

If you recall the dark and often unsettling areas that lead to Black Gulch, then you won't be surprised at the equally dreary locales in Crown of the Sunken King. This DLC introduces the grotesque insects known as the corrosive egg crawlers, whose bulbous silhouettes seldom fail to induce goose bumps if encountered in a poorly lit hallway. It's no wonder many Souls fans classify the series as survival horror.

The underlying weapon in this series has always been knowledge. Pairing that with awareness of your surroundings makes for a lethal combination. Much like in the rest of the series, combat in Crown of the Sunken King is at its most rewarding when you have the presence of mind to use your environment to your benefit. I would bear no shame in luring a couple of sanctum knights away from a narrow cliff ledge and onto a wide and flat arena-style platform if I felt it gave me an advantage. Yet sometimes, you just have to die to learn how each new opponent behaves. This was the case when I took on a pair of dragons and learned the hard way that it was in my best interest to separate them.

My God, what is that thing out there?

Your tactics against the bosses depend on how much Dark Souls II you've played up to this point. Crown of the Sunken King is guilty of having bosses who occasionally behave like reskins of other characters. Sinh closely resembles the ancient dragon, while Queen Elana could be mistaken for a sister of Queen Nashandra. The only boss encounter that has any semblance of originality is against a trio of human-size non-player characters. When you're dealing with three enemies, each with a different weapon skill, no two battles are alike. Your only hope is to make sense of the chaos and presume that each life you lose yields more knowledge of your enemies' moves and openings.

Dark Souls games demand two levels of patience: the kind born out of enduring a soul-crushing string of deaths and the kind of patience needed during actual combat. When considering the latter, I'm often inspired by the underappreciated Bushido Blade. Waiting for the opponent to move first and responding with an efficient, offensive reaction is often the best approach in any Souls game, and this is especially the case in Crown of the Sunken King. Much like the evil doppelgangers you've encountered in countless other games, a couple of knights in this DLC have movesets that are not unlike your own.

Dark Souls II by itself is so rich and robust in its challenges that I still feel the afterglow of having beaten it months ago. Yet that also comes with psychological scabs from the dozen replayed battles against the likes of the poison rat king and the smelter demon. As I began my eight-hour playthrough of Crown of the Sunken King, a line from The Shawshank Redemption echoed in my head: "And if you've come this far, maybe you're willing to come a little further." I was willing and, with every Souls playthrough to date, I have been rewarded accordingly. Crown of the Sunken King's standout exploratory design and abundance of engaging enemy encounters make it a terrific adventure, though a hair short of being essential. Equally significant is that it succeeds at raising the stakes for the next installment.

The Good
Never short of challenges from beginning to end
Rewards your ability to learn from your mistakes
Fascinating new landscapes
Cleverly interconnected areas that pay homage to the original Dark Souls
The Bad
Bosses lack creativity and originality
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Dark Souls II

About the Author

Having video-captured GameSpot's Dark Souls II boss battles, Miguel was naturally inclined to take on the game's first DLC. Eight hours later, he doesn't miss the corrosive egg crawlers.

Other Takes on Dark Souls II

For this review, Justin spent 25 hours in the game, killed five bosses, reached level 65, and lit too many bonfires.
Read Review

Discussion

104 comments
deshall4
deshall4

I just bought it and expect to die. and die. and die.

IBLEEDBLUE33
IBLEEDBLUE33

who is playing during that video?  They are simply terrible..haha. Have they ever even played a dark souls game

edward_footlong
edward_footlong

I haven't even acknowledged the new consoles because of Dark Souls 1 and 2...seriously don't even care.

boodleout
boodleout

don't pay attention to Kevin's closing comment. the dlc is huge and incredible. knowing there are two more dlc's coming out in very short time with likely this size is incredible

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

Better than the original content. The level designers made a fine job!

hector530
hector530

the DLC was OK, few items, few bosses ("one" of them being straight up lazy)


and invasions are broken 

GreySeven
GreySeven

I always think... how do they roll so quickly in all of that armor?

franzito
franzito

To tell the truth, the main campaign of DS II can be quite smooth if you have friends to play with. The only things that can really push you back hard are some bosses; the paths become easy to navigate after some practice (but of course, after you start the second journey and all regions get brutal thanks to the bonfire intensity, a new challenge swallows you whole).


I'm excited for this DLC, seems much darker than Artoria of the Abyss! YOU DIED

Arrwmkr
Arrwmkr

Looks sick :D  Even better looks like a challenge, DS2 was becoming a bit easy...ish

666Rich666
666Rich666

Great expansion start off  Challenging enemies, complex environments and some truly fun bosses. I just wish Gamespot video reviews didn't contain so many spoilers.

GameFan1983
GameFan1983

I swear I'm the kind person would never buy any DLC from any games, but Souls games are the only exception, good price for excellent content. Will buy again :)

looneygalprowls
looneygalprowls

I played as a summon so far in the DLC, and I loved every second of it. It seems much harder than the other areas in the game.  Those statues will kill you if you're careless.  I just wish my summoners knew how to fight. They just magic spam in 1st boss fight when magic is clearly useless.  Then they run away leaving me to fight the three guys by myself.   It's like the majority of the players don't  knows how to backstab or par.  XD  Either way I buying the DLC tonight. I am impressed with what I saw.  Also anyone else notice the alarming number of twinkling titanite the foes are dropping? I  was just a summon, and I picked up a ton.  It was too cool. :D

Argle
Argle

a rare example of DLC done right.  well done From

RaveNRolla
RaveNRolla

good stuff. the Level design is back to old strength in this one. This was one of my Major Problems with the main game, that the Level design was so boring. Here, go this way all the way to the end and there's a Boss for you. Oh no wait, on the way there are 2 more bonfires so you won't run out of estus and your weapons won't break. In the crown of the sunken king you'll inititally have Long ways and lots of enemies between bonfires, so you'll often run out of estus early (depending on how you handle that of course) and have to use other measures of healing. Thee bosses are all amazing too and loads of fun to fight. My characters are all ng++++ or higher so i can't say what the difficulty is on a new game, but i found it quite challenging. Your 2nd playthrough will be a lot easier, since you'll know how to reach the bonfires and can make use of shortcuts and such, but it's some nice leveldesign, i hope they Keep that coming with the other crowns...

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

This Crow trilogy is an ongoing story? Or each chapter is a different story framed by a similar theme? Also, how does it compare to the DLC Artorias of the Abyss(Don't remember if that is the name)?

kindlewithcare
kindlewithcare

The DLC is harder than the regular game so be prepared. I for one loved it and am playing through it a second time. 10 bucks for awesome content is a bargain imo.

MJV1989
MJV1989

Umm... Didn't From Software originally say that there would be no DLC for Dark Souls II? Way to go, you bunch of lying corporate sellouts...

steaminpotatoes
steaminpotatoes

Still stuck / being lazy on Demon Souls never mind this, Dark Souls harder ?

gameroutlawzz
gameroutlawzz

Im not watching/spoiling anything but man reading comments on the facebook page and here really makes me want this DLC now... but I told myself I would wait for all 3 to be released.

eternal_napalm
eternal_napalm

Sinh on NG++ was the most challenging boss in this game and gave me a few flashbacks of Kalameet from Artorias of the Abyss. The level design was great and it was complex to explore.

I'm jealous of the peo

unreal849
unreal849

I'm just disappointed that they nerfed Lightning Spears with the DLC update. Now I can't put down bosses in 30 seconds, lol.


Yes, I'm cheap, I know  :P

ewan_sinclair
ewan_sinclair

@IBLEEDBLUE33 Lol at 2:12. Im bad at Dark Souls, but how this player got so far in the game is beyond me. I think they are doing it to showcase the game. Noone runs around in Dark Souls with such little care for their safety.

push88
push88

@boodleout Well, in my humble opinion, the initial play through may take some time because the enemies are op but, once you know what you are doing you'll notice that it's quite short.  You can blow through it in about an hour and a half to 2 hours.

push88
push88

@hector530 The only good boss was Sinh and he is way easy.  Damn shame.  The bosses in the entire game are pure shit.

ashlake
ashlake

@GreySeven That' is something the first dark souls got right.  In heavy armour you  woulod just slam flat onto the ground and row painfully slowly. 

Freedomination
Freedomination

@OneStrong2 Wouldn't that be a masochist? Unless you were planning to use the game to inflict pain on others?

akassassin11
akassassin11

@OneStrong2 you're missing out on some of the best gaming since the late nineties (ultima online, ff7).. game has nothing to do with being a sadist.

junglist101
junglist101

@GameFan1983 People who buy DLC should know they are ruining gaming and/or have already ruined it.  I too make an exception for dark souls.

eternal_napalm
eternal_napalm

@RogerioFM Not 100% sure, but I think each is a story in and of itself, but I'm sure they are connected in some way. Won't know until the other two release. It is a little larger then Artorias of the Abyss, and Sinh reminded me of Kalameet 

draco934
draco934

@MJV1989 yes, how dare they try to make money off of their hard work and effort.....

Revenz6
Revenz6

@MJV1989 They later said they had no plans for dlc, but if the community wanted it they would consider making it.

draco934
draco934

@steaminpotatoes you should definitely have an easier time with Dark Souls.  Much easier by comparison.

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

@steaminpotatoes Demon's Souls is, without a doubt, the series' hardess entry. Demon's Souls' bosses are much more agressive and leave less openings. Plus, the Archstones (aka bonfire) are more far apart.

bfa1509
bfa1509

@steaminpotatoes  Dark souls is more fluidly put together so you will have more of an urge to carry on (even if you don't want to)

Poison-tooth
Poison-tooth

@unreal849 Don't fret my fellow adventurer, turn your back on the Gods and embrace the Dark!

OneStrong2
OneStrong2

@akassassin11 @OneStrong2
That is not to say some aspects aren't sadistic -- like Ninja Gaiden. 

hippystank
hippystank

@MJV1989 @Revenz6 Community requested it, they made it and heck it looks good and they aren't charging an arm and a leg!

Noct
Noct

@hippystank @MJV1989 @Revenz6
- It's a 100k Download... Yeah, kinda destroys the believability that this was a new addition that wasn't planned all along. Regardless though, still worth every penny. 

Argle
Argle

@kindlewithcare @unreal849 @Poison-tooth really?  even in PvM?  i always knew they were supposed to be solid in PvP, but the last time i tried a mundane twinblade build against a boss, the weapon broke before i could get the boss to half health

Noct
Noct

@kindlewithcare @Noct Ah, really? PSN+ sir, it updates everything whilst I sleep. I didn't even realize that had happened. Well that's cool then. I wasn't lamenting the purchase either way, but that's interesting. 

Dark Souls II More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PS3
    • + 3 more
    • PS4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Dark Souls II is a sequel to From Software's critically acclaimed title Dark Souls. The game features a new hero, a fresh storyline, and an "unfamiliar" setting.
    8
    Average User RatingOut of 917 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Dark Souls II
    Developed by:
    Namco Bandai Games, From Software
    Published by:
    Bandai Namco Games, From Software, Namco Bandai Games
    Genres:
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Blood and Gore, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Violence