Home Editorial Dark Souls Prepare to Die: content review (spoiler free)

Well, it’s been a month – ample time for me to have beaten the new content in the Prepare to Die PC Edition of Dark Souls. It wasn’t easy, but the job’s done – the world has been saved once again.

All in all the new content in the PC Edition adds up to about four or five hours or so, but like any part of Dark Souls, the new content isn’t without its challenges. I’ve already entreated PC gamers to pick up the game to give this game a try and it seems like my masochistic take on it was positively received, so it follows that I should delve further into Dark Souls.


Beyond Lordran

The new content, as I stated, is definitely not without its challenges. All in all you get to explore about 3 fully fledged new areas, and you get to fight about four new bosses. I think all of these bosses are harder than most of the bosses in the original world of Lordran, and the first of the three new areas is a constant death trap. You’re usually attacked by a motley assortment of enemies: some small, some big, all the while dealing with some unknown force that is continually trying to destroy you from underneath your feet. A bad roll or a hasty attack will result in serious hurt, and you might get trapped by another heavy blow as you’re getting up.

Treading carefully is a must, and picking your attacks wisely is the sure way to victory. The good news? Those new players who picked up the PC Edition and have played through enough of the content to be strong enough to reach the new areas will understand that precision and patience are the key virtues of being successful with Dark Souls. The new areas don’t change up the traditional formula, but add an extra sprinkle of peril that’ll be sure to challenge seasoned players and provide a skill check for the new faces.

The bosses, meanwhile, are different beasts. For as many bosses as there are in the original Dark Souls, the new bosses all manage to bring unique attacks and patterns to the table. As in the original game, you need to come up with new strategies to deal with the these monstrosities and you need to memorize their particular patterns. The last of the bosses in the expansion is probably the hardest one yet, and has about a dozen different attacks that you have to contend with. One wrong mistake against that last guy and… yeah. It hurts a lot.

He’s an epic boss that feels like more of a last boss than the original finale in Dark Souls, and that’s the way players ought to look at him. Despite the new content not being directly related to the original storyline in Dark Souls, we’ve had a year to learn how to fight Dark Souls’ last boss, so the new boss they’ve thrown at us in Prepare to Die is unsurprisingly difficult. I certainly felt challenged – it took me about six or seven tries to take him down.

Another trend that is continued in the PTD expansion is the game’s gorgeous scenery. Every new location will more than likely cause you to pause and wonder at the subtleties ingrained in each of the areas. Plenty of places exist like these in the original Dark Souls, like the ledge in Firelink Shrine overlooking Lower Undead Burg and the spots in the Tomb of Giants providing a glimpse at both Fire Demon Ruins and Ash Lake, but the expansion provides even more of them. They just look amazing and, like the original, really make you wonder what went on in the world within the game to have them end up that way – it goes without saying that they aren’t as simple as an “abandoned castle” or “ancient temple”. No, there are a couple extra elements thrown in to give each location a powerful sense of individuality, something that has always shone through in Dark Souls’ various locales.

From a narrative standpoint, the expansion is still a little confusing, but Dark Souls has never been particularly straightforward. Of course, that also leaves room for twists – there is an awesome surprise in the expansion that I’m sure a lot of players will be taken aback by, in particular. There are also a couple more nods to content in the original Dark Souls, as well as some new cutscenes (the nature of which depend on the order you finish the content) that’ll provide lots of great moments for fans of the series. You’ll also see a couple characters in the new world that you’ve heard of if you’ve read a lot of item descriptions or pieced together some of the lore. Needless to say, encounters like these are pretty surreal and exciting if you know what’s been going on in the world of Lordran as you’ve explored it.


Growing Pains

Completely new to the Dark Souls formula is the addition of an arena mode. In the Battle of Stoicism, you queue up with a choice of two different arenas in duels, team matches, or death matches. In principle this seems like a fun way to organize legitimate PvP, which is obviously different from the traditional Dark Souls method of darkwraiths invading your world or you invading others’. However, the main problem here is that no one is playing it. Simple – every time you go to queue up for a match you’re met with crickets. It’s kind of a shame since it seems like it’d be a good way to have fights in areas free of enemies where the focus is solely on the PvP aspect of the game, but right now there aren’t enough people playing for matches to happen often.

I see a lot of potential with this mode, though, especially with teams – the main facet of Arena matches that differs from invading is that healing items are never an option. Normally if you are invaded you can pop an Estus Flask to regain some HP or use some Humanity, but in Arena only healing spells are an option, and those are obviously not without their drawbacks. Having a teammate to heal you or provide support without you relying on your own flasks is a twist PvP deserves.

Aside from the new content, the basic part of Dark Souls remains the same. None of the areas change, but some weapon and spell properties have been updated for the sake of balance. Notably, greatswords have been nerfed, as have critical hits. Now when you get the drop on someone it isn’t as likely to be a writeoff.


Should you Prepare?

When looking at all of the new content Prepare to Die has to offer, the $39.99 price tag is maybe slightly a little much, but the main purpose of this game is to reach out for PC players who have yet to give Dark Souls a shot. Unfortunately, this focus on series newcomers means there is now a player divide between console players waiting on the Artorias of the Abyss expansion to come out in the winter, and PC players who have picked up the game along with console players who couldn’t wait the few extra months for new content.

Either way, it’s a problem that could have been avoided, but one the player base will find an answer for. As of now, the PC version already has a couple great mods that boost the frame rate and the resolution of the game to make it look a little more sharp, and the frame rate problems experienced on the console versions in areas like Blighttown are now pretty much gone. Personally, I play it on a laptop, and the game doesn’t require too much processing power to run well. Dark Souls still looks good from a design standpoint, so I would have to recommend that console players pick up the PC version now and get the new content underway. With more players, we’ll hopefully see the arena in action!

All in all though, Prepare to Die is a solid addition to the Dark Souls franchise, if not the robust set of new content that I think some expected. The PC version runs well and is the same Dark Souls as ever, so I have no choice but to recommend this amazing game. Stay tuned for more Dark Souls articles about builds, lore, and strategy!

Enjoy the dying.

3 replies to this post
  1. Would you recommend a gamepad, or will a keyboard/mouse combo work? I’ve heard that the latter setup is sub-optimal, but I was hoping to get some information on it from someone who has played the game.

    • Gamepad all day. Maybe you could get the keyboard / mouse working but Dark Souls was most definitely designed for the controllers. It’s much easier with one controller in your hand than a hand on your mouse and your other hand splayed about the keys.

  2. Your forgetting demons souls the true beginning of dark souls and even harder than, most look past this father game cause it wasn’t on the system you need to buy five of the beat a single game that’s right the Xbox 360 never saw the beginning so it just gets forgotten but know its there and you can’t say dark souls is alone. Anor londo is the land of giants from demons souls the nexus is a major part of both worlds your missing, not to say your analysis is wrong it’s sounds good but get the full story from both games.

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