This is not a review of Dark Souls: Daughters of Ash

Let me say that I really wanted to like this mod. I went and downloaded a fresh copy of the Prepare to Die edition of Dark Souls to play it, and the enthusiasm I’ve seen from some YouTubers certainly had me excited to try the mod out. I found the mod developer’s description particularly intriguing:

Dark Souls: Daughters of Ash is the original Dark Souls (2011), re-imagined and massively expanded. It’s my vision of what Dark Souls might have been if FromSoftware had been given an additional six months to develop content for the game.

But, this and several other quotes on the Nexus Mods page are either hubris or straight up lies. I want really badly to find something nice to say, like “there’s some interesting ideas here,” but even trying to use faint praise is hard because those good ideas are marred by bad execution.

Let’s start with another quote, shall we?

Triumph in new boss battles, most of which are designed to promote novel gameplay rather than sheer increased difficulty.

Well, considering the modder nerfed all weapon damage, nerfed armor protections, nerfed shield stability, and screwed with how stamina works, I would strongly disagree with this statement. Furthermore boss damage, and indeed all enemy damage, appears to be cranked up, so much so that even after upgrading my knight’s armor, I was still taking massive damage from starting area minions.

Setting all of that aside, some of the new boss battles are bjorked. I ran into Capra Demon outside of his usual grotto, and I got him down to a sliver of health when he vanished. A second later a new health bar appeared with the name Capricious Thrall, except, there was no boss to be found. I wandered from one end of the alley to the other before tabbing over to a browser to look up this guy, and oh yeah, he can tend to glitch through the floor. Well no sweat, I figure I’ll just quit and reload. Once that clears the boss battle fog, I planned to head to Sen’s Fortress, where the boss is supposed to appear if he isn’t defeated in the Undead Parish. But no, he isn’t there either. Anor Londo? No.

And why is this important? Because you have to defeat this new boss to gain the ability to warp between bonfires. Because even something as simple as collecting the Lord Vessel was broken by this guy’s “new” gameplay features.

There’s “new” rings, most of which repurpose the old rings, except now they all suck. The red tearstone ring, which previously boosted damage when a player’s health got low, now only improves the effectiveness of shields with low health. Several other rings pair up a bonus with a HUGE penalty. What was, to me, formerly the greatest ring in the game, the Slumbering Dragoncrest, has had the silent movement ability removed entirely. Now it grants five attunement slots at the cost of further nerfing all melee weapon damage. The list of changes would be impressive if they didn’t ruin every item in a similar way.

Even magic has been ruined. A pyromancy build can usually kill slimes in the Depths with one blast of combustion or fireball after upgrading the flame hand to around +4, but even at plus +9 I was using two blasts, which makes the whole process of collecting upgrade materials even more tedious. (And of course the drop rates seem to be nerfed as well, even after finding and equipping the Gold Serpents Ring) I frankly pity anyone going into this wanting to do a magic only run because of how badly the magic system got ruined.

Speaking of tedious, soul vessels, normally a great way of leveling up, now grant “special powers” rather than release souls. Or…sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they do. The mod is so bjorked, it’s never consistent in how any of this works. But the point is, when they don’t give more souls, that leaves players with just killing stuff to level up and buy stuff. Which means the epicly long grind times of Dark Souls are now extended even further. Yay! That’s exactly what I was hoping for, an even longer time spent doing nothing fun.

Most of the changes amount to change for the sake of change, and not for any real innovation. Done in a more thoughtful manner, this could have been a fun way to get back into the game. But more often than not, it’s changing enemy positions to ensure more “gotcha” moments, or changing the way a trap works to ensure a quick death. Or, for a more specific example, extending the lifespan of a fireball attack in Sen’s Fortress to ensure that no matter how high your life points have been upgraded, you will die. It’s not novel gameplay changes. It’s capricious malice intended to make an already challenging game just that little bit more irritating.

I could go on and on listing my frustrations, but instead I’m going to go back to that first quote one last time:

Dark Souls: Daughters of Ash is the original Dark Souls (2011), re-imagined and massively expanded. It’s my vision of what Dark Souls might have been if FromSoftware had been given an additional six months to develop content for the game.

Sir, that would imply that despite turning out a highly polished and addictive game, the company would suddenly choose to break it. Which is what happened here. Daughters of Ash is a broken mess that may someday live up to half the hype the modder has built up. But it’s too late to interest me in this new vision of Dark Souls.

In conclusion, I’ll say that the real problem is one of poorly managed expectations. Had the modder said something like, “This overhaul is my attempt to make Dark Souls feel fresh and new again, even to long-time veterans,” I might not feel so annoyed. It’s the sheer hubris of claiming this is somehow a massive improvement on what is a great game. It’s not. It could one day become a fun new twist on the classic formula, but I won’t be sticking around to try that out. I’m done, and I’m going back to Dark Souls Remastered to play the game the right way.