Bitter chill: A review of ‘Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Ivory King’ DLC

As the final chapter of their Lost Crowns DLC trilogy, FromSoftware released Crown of the Ivory King for Dark Souls 2 on Sept. 29. Players will quickly find themselves frozen to the bone in the icy fortress city of Eleum Loyce while they battle frost-encrusted golems (undead knights with frozen weaponry) and overcome a host of absolutely brutal boss fights, as they conquer and explore the new offerings.

First impressions

I was at first disappointed by the setting of Crown of the Ivory King. The blinding gales of snow that sweep through the area and drab, gray masonry that adorn most of the region’s buildings made it feel a bit dry and boring relative to some of the game’s more impressive locations.

Skies actually clear after a certain piece of in-game dialogue, revealing a sprawling city built out of a breathtaking alpine landscape. Needless to say, the DLC’s aesthetics really grew on me after that point. Certain boss arenas are easily some of the best in the game.

Enemies honestly felt a bit boring this time around. A lot of them are simple humanoid foes that are easily rolled around and stabbed in the back. One variation, with spikes of ice jutting out from their backs, is impossible to backstab and poses a much greater challenge, especially in groups.

One of the package’s more interesting mechanics for common enemies is the presence of a host of towering, deactivated golems. Much like the ones that open the front doors to Drangleic castle in the game’s vanilla content, the stone hewn creatures come alive after the souls of a nearby enemies energize them.

Unlike those golems, however, these ones will attack you and, given their massive health pools and bone-shattering attacks, actually pose quite a challenge for such a common enemy. Their presence really forces you to think about positioning when you’re killing things around them, which is a nice touch.

More loot than your item box has room for

Crown of the Ivory King actually adds a lot in terms of items. Unfortunately, many of them seemed fairly unremarkable in terms of stats or mechanics, even outclassed by things found earlier in the game. Most weapons—at least the ones from enemies—have an icy aesthetic to them and scale with intelligence, but their scaling feels incredibly lacking and their base damage is not anything to write home about.

One weapon that breaks this trend is the bone fist, a (you guessed it) fist weapon with low damage, but incredible scaling and a few unique quirks to it that really make it stand out. The bone fist has an entirely unique move set that turns your character into an incredible martial artist, with flying jump kicks, fearsome uppercuts and even a “hadouken”-style ranged attack when in your power stance.

I haven’t played around with it enough to really comment on its viability, but it’s an incredibly fun weapon to use and definitely adds something to the game.

The package’s boss weapons look cool as well, but are handicapped by an incredibly low durability value that takes quite a drop with every hit, even ones that miss. When used with sufficient stats, the ivory straight sword and ivory king ultra greatsword unleash a churning white aura that extends their range significantly. It looks incredible, but I feel that with the weapons breaking so fast they will see fairly limited use.

The eye of the killer ice tiger

Once again, we find ourselves on the topic of the DLC package’s bosses, so anyone with an aversion to spoilers should probably skip this section.

Bosses this time around are totally awesome, though perhaps a bit less challenging than in previous DLCs. The first one that you will face is Aava, the king’s pet. Aava, being a giant tiger made of ice, is completely unlike anything else that you’ve fought throughout the game. He runs around the arena, roaring and launching a barrage of icy soul masses, pouncing at you from far away and even latching onto you with his strong jaws, shaking the life out of you.

Most of his attacks can be rolled under, but a few—including an explosive blast of ice that hits all around him—are actually pretty difficult to dodge. All in all, I had a lot of fun with the fight, but felt that the king’s pet gave too many opportunities to chug estus and return to full health.

The next boss takes the form of the Ivory King himself, who has been utterly consumed by the fires of chaos that burn beneath his frozen kingdom. Though I beat him on my second attempt, let me be frank: the Burnt Ivory King is one of the most cinematic and visually incredible boss fights in the entire game. Assuming that you have collected them, you are joined by four uncorrupted knights of Eleum Loyce; tall, slender men armored in shining silver.

After an incredible plunge into the flames of the old chaos itself—I say plunge quite literally—you fall hundreds of feet downward into a hellish landscape overcome with ash and fire. You take on a veritable army of corrupted knights that still serve their warped, defiled king. Horde fights really are not Dark Souls 2’s strong suit, but being part of a small army of warriors of light taking on a legion of evil and chaos feels absolutely epic. Soon enough, a fiery portal rises from the flames with a grind and out steps the Ivory King.

His attacks are just as flashy as Sir Alonne’s from the last DLC package. He can imbue his sword with a pale, roaring aura that doubles its length, leap across the arena in a single bound and cast an explosion of twisted spikes that erupt from the ground around him. None of the attacks are particularly hard to avoid, but it’s definitely a fight to remember.

While I don’t think anything in Crown of the Ivory King is quite as hard as Sir Alonne and his nasty gauntlet of flame-spitting salamanders, the content package as a whole is full of tough challenges, completely new items and hours of fun. Along with its predecessors in the DLC trilogy, it really adds an element of challenge and visual marvel that the base game seemed to be missing at parts. For just $10, it’s a steal and a purchase that I don’t think I’ll be regretting any time soon.

Watch the video review on the Vanguard Online You Tube channel: