Dark Souls II has been a bit of a mixed bag in terms of reception: some people would say the level designers need to be hit with a rake, others would call it a rightful successor to Demon's Souls given some of the mechanics (i.e., leveling up through an overseer of your actions). Recently, From Software started releasing their DLC missions: Crown of the Sunken King, Crown of the Old Iron King, and soon, Crown of the Ivory King. Each of these missions (so far) have had their own hooks to try to pull you in. What IS the sunken city? Who was Alonne? The DLC wastes no time in answering questions you may have had about the lore of the game, hoping Crown of the Ivory King ties up remaining loose ends nicely. So how exactly IS Crown of the Old Iron King? Let's see...
*I should add that this review is, obviously, my personal interpretations of the game and am not trying to pass my impressions onto any potential readers in an objective manner. Pretty obvious, but this IS N4G. ;)
Crown of the Old Iron King dials back on the chaos of the Sunken King in some ways, but compensates in others. While you won't be getting assaulted on all sides as you did in Sunken King, Old Iron King puts you against slower, but more powerful opponents. The optional boss fight might actually be out of reach for players with certain builds so if you don't have a soul vessel, you might want to recruit some people for co-op. Otherwise, the main boss fights are pretty solid, particularly the last one needed to clear the DLC.
Dark Souls II has always been a little ugly in comparison to the original, but that aside, the level design is a lot better in the DLC than it was in the main game. Old Iron King has branching paths, but not in a way that works against you. Unfortunately, the level design is also a little boring. It works well and better than the main game, but Old Iron King's level design just feels uninspired. By this, I mean it feels like you've done it before, completely. It feels too familiar.
Combat being the staple of the Souls series, it works in Old Iron King as well as it works in Dark Souls II, so make of that what you will. As I mentioned before, the encounters can be brutal, and one thing about all Souls DLC so far is the apparent lack of balance with regard to enemies. I will say it is more balanced than Sunken King, but it relies on you being more clever and meticulous than skilled. Some encounters would overwhelm even the best Souls players and force them to hit and run or use up arrows/magic from a distance.
Compared to the main game, I found Old Iron King to be forgettable. Granted, I'll still play it whenever I'm on a new Dark Souls II playthrough, but that's the completionist in me talking and not the guy who plays From Software's Souls titles for fun. I'll say it's moderate.
"Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King disturbed me with its difficulty.
Even in a franchise bathed in brutality, the second installment in developer From Software's downloadable content trilogy contains the most punishing hours I've ever experienced in the action role-playing series. Unlike its predecessor, Crown of the Sunken King, it focuses not on changing the environment through puzzles but on surviving the environment itself. In that sense, it is a return to the formula established by the original Dark Souls, where astute players can use the quirks of the world to their advantage."