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The first piece of downloadable content for Dark Souls 2 was accessed from The Black Gulch. While the Crown of the Sunken King DLC was an entirely new location extending from Black Gulch, it felt like it belonged in the area. There were a few similar enemies and the surroundings didn't feel new. The second Dark Souls 2 DLC, Crown of the Old Iron King, has a similar feel.
You access Crown of the Old Iron King after you fight the Old Iron King in the Iron Keep. Fire-based surroundings and traps were a constant theme in the Iron Keep, and this also extends to Brume Tower and the other new areas in Crown of the Old King. There are statues that spew flames and explosive enemies scattered about that will make your day far less enjoyable if you go in unprepared.
In the first DLC, it was extremely helpful to have some sort of ranged attack. That strategy carries over to Crown of the Old Iron King, as there are many situations where ranged attacks are more useful than close-ranged melee attacks. It's not quite as important as it was in Crown of the Sunken King, but without a solid ranged attack option, you’ll have difficulty making it through the new DLC.
There are several areas in which enemies carry explosive barrels. In almost every instance, a ranged attack will quickly and easily dispatch these foes from a safe distance. However, if you don't have a ranged attack ready to go, it's difficult to avoid the explosions that occur whenever you battle these creatures at close range. Do yourself a favor and stock up on arrows, bolts or whatever your preferred ranged attack may be.
The first Dark Souls 2 DLC features mini-puzzles consisting of illuminated pillars that when attacked reveal secret passages, raise or lower platforms and essentially give you access to new areas. The Crown of the Old Iron King DLC has something similar with Smelter Wedges and Ashen Idols. You pick up a set of Smelter Wedges early in the first DLC area, and you must use them to deactivate Ashen Idols.
Ashen Idols offer a variety of dangers, ranging from flame traps to enemy spawns. You must navigate the dangers and get close enough to interact with them. Upon interacting with the Ashen Idols, you plunge a Smelter Wedge into their would-be hearts and turn off whatever dangers they present. However, that may not be the end of your worries. In some cases the Ashen Idols spawn another enemy or trap once they're deactivated; one last danger you have to deal with before you can move on.
Most of the basic enemies in Crown of the Old Iron King are fairly straightforward. The most common enemy is easily stunned with most melee weapons, and will not be able to counterattack if you continually assault it with a barrage of melee strikes. That said, these enemies generally do not appear until you're relatively close to their spawning points, and they tend to attack in groups of two to four.
These monsters carry dual axes as weapons, which have considerable reach, and they won't hesitate to swing them four or five times in a row. This makes it difficult to circle around behind them or have enough stamina left for a proper counter attack after blocking their lengthy series of attacks. Of course, as with any enemy in Dark Souls 2, there's a pattern you can easily pick up on. Even when you're surrounded, you can move forward and back to separate the enemies enough to attack them individually.
Based on our time with the Crown of the Old Iron King DLC, it seems slightly easier than the Crown of the Sunken King. However, don't let your guard down or think this will be a walk in the park. This is still Dark Souls 2, and it's challenging compared to most games. We'll have a complete walkthrough of the new DLC on Tuesday, August 26th when the content becomes available on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network.