When it comes to cryptic, no one does it better than Dark Souls. The first of two planned add-ons, Ashes of Ariandel, piles on the secrets with plenty of strangeness to explore in its Painted World — and we’re here to reveal it all to you. From weirdo NPCs, to secret encounters and special places to rekindle, the Ashes of Ariandel DLC brings all the hidden stuff an ashen undead could ask for.
We’re going to cover almost every aspect of the DLC here, so be prepared for spoilers. There’s also a (likely) chance we haven’t found every single awesome secret, so if there’s something glaring we missed, please let us know in the comments.
12 Awesome Facts, Secrets, Details & Hidden Areas
[The following contains location spoilers, lore spoilers, and boss encounter spoilers. If you’re cool with that, let’s continue.]
#1: The Small Doll And the Peculiar Doll
The strangeness starts before you can even reach the Painted World of Ariandel. This isn’t exactly a secret — if you’ve been playing previous Dark Souls games, we all expected the Small Doll to do something more than break the barrier to Illithyl of the Boreal Valley.
- Okay, backing up — to enter the Painted World of Ariandel, the Chosen Undead must first defeat the Deacons of the Deep (conveniently located in the Cathedral of the Deep) and acquire the Small Doll. Taking the doll to the NPC at the Cleansing Chapel bonfire, the undead touches a scrap of a painting, and is then sucked into the dreamlike Painted World.
So, what’s the deal? The original Dark Souls featured its own Painted World. By acquiring a hidden item called the Peculiar Doll, the Chosen Undead can enter the Painted World of Ariamis, through a painting in the massive cathedral in Anor Londo. What does this all mean? We have a few guesses, but this is just the start of the similarities between the two Painted Worlds.
#2: Defeat the Alpha Wolf, and the Rest of the Pack Retreats
Here’s the first interesting layer available to players in the Painted World. Marching out into the snowy fields, it won’t take long for a pack of wolves to surround the player. These fast pack animals attack from all angles, and they’re a pretty big pain to deal with.
There is a way to get the pack to back off. If you can manage to defeat the giant Alpha Wolf, the rest of the nearby pack will scurry away. They won’t attack you directly, and retreat if you get close. I guess that makes the Chosen Undead the new Alpha?
Strangely, the giant wolf isn’t killed during your many encounters. After taking down its health bar, it instead gives up — there’s a reason for that. It appears later, during a very inopportune moment in a seemingly simple boss battle.
#3: Watch the Trees — Flowing Hair Means They’re Alive
More horrors abound in the Painted World, including creepy human-shaped trees. These beings wait in silence, and attack if or when the Chosen Undead approaches with magic. Not all are alive — there is one way you can distinguish between an active or inactive tree monster.
Watch the hair. A completely petrified tree creature will have straight hair, whereas the living versions’ hair flows in the strong mountain winds.
#4: Talk to Sister Friede for a Cold Reward
As the Chosen Undead progresses deeper into the worn-out environments of the Painted World, you’ll eventually encounter a spooky cathedral across an extremely rickety rope bridge. The first time you enter the Cathedral, you’ll find an unhappy knight, and a strange Nun-like figure at the interior altar.
She isn’t very happy to see you, but talk to her enough and you’ll get a Chillbite Ring. Not a bad reward for a dead-end road. The doors in the Cathedral are locked, and there is an empty attic you can explore — both the locked door and the attic have a special significance we’ll discuss later.
#5: Cut the Rope Bridge to Reach the Frozen Lake
We suggest waiting to complete this step last, as it will permanently remove the rope bridge. Make sure you kindle the Ariandel Chapel bonfire, at the very least! This secret involves slicing up the rope bridge. Don’t worry, if you didn’t kindle the bonfire you’ll eventually reach the Ariandel Chapel through other means.
From the Chapel-side of the rope bridge, cut down the anchors so the whole thing drops. If you’ve explored the secrets of Dark Souls 3, this should be familiar — entering the Smoldering Lake from the Catacombs of Carthus was very similar. Descend the broken bridge to discover a completely optional path.
The roots resemble the Great Hollow descent. At the bottom of the path, you’ll even reach a massive frozen lake guarded by Ice Crabs. There’s a ton of items to find down here, and an Optional Boss encounter.
#6: The Talking Villager, And the Strange Affliction
Taking the cliff path down, you’ll find a very disturbing little burg at the base of the Painted World cliffs. This disgusting location is called the Corvian Settlement, and the villagers that live here appear incredibly sick. But they’re not all hostile, and if you’re not careful, it’s easy to kill one talkative inhabitant.
Entering the settlement through the bloody waterway, where you’ll be ambushed by a massive Corvian monster armed with two claws. Next, climb a ladder and reach the first true structure. In this building, there’s a peaceful creature in the back-right room.
He’ll offer up some enlightening (or very cryptic, depending on the mood) dialogue. Depending on your quests and accomplishments in Dark Souls 3, his dialogue may change — but for us, he begged the Chosen Undead to burn the sickly Painted World to ash.
#7: Get Enkindled On the Church Pulpit
This strange secret is available in the locked church, up the hill path in the Corvian Settlement. The church is impossible to miss — the Chosen Undead must cross the roof to reach the Archive. But, there’s something inside the church… and we’re not just talking about magic spells.
Using the windows, it’s possible to drop down onto the church rafters. Down below, there are two deadly Corvian creatures that guard the church interior. The “Way of the White Corona” spell is found on a corpse kneeling before the altar, but there’s something unique about this altar.
Stand behind the altar — traditionally where the Priest will stand — and your Chosen Undead will enkindle. We don’t quite understand this secret; why enkindle here? But, we’ll still take a free enkindling, even if it is a surprise.
#8: The Painter in the Archives Attic Returns Home
Moving on to the Archives, locating across the graveyard from the Corvian Settlement church. The book depository features one brutal battle against Sir Vilhelm, and defeating him earns you the progression-critical Contraption Key. Why does all this matter? Because the key opens the path to the attic, and the attic is where a special NPC is imprisoned.
This NPC is first found in the Archives attic, scrawling chalk on a table. Talk to her, and she’ll thank you for freeing her, but she won’t get up and leave until later. After progressing up the Mountain Path, you’ll eventually reach the entrance to the Cathedral’s crypt. Down the hill from the crypt entrance, knock down the trees and reactivate the elevator shortcut. Riding the elevator down will trigger her escape.
The NPC next appears in the Ariandel Chapel attic. Right next to the bonfire, there’s a ladder that leads up to a small room with a massive blank canvas. The NPC will talk to the Chosen Undead while she prepares her next painting. She’ll even have something new to say after you defeat the Cathedral boss.
#9: Through the Illusory Wall and Into the Arena
Down in the horrible, maggot-infested lower section of the Cathedral crypt, you’ll have to activate a chain crank to open the path to this area’s boss. But, there’s another path you can take down in this bloody birthing chamber — while facing the chain crypt, check the wall to the right. There’s an imprint of an archway door. Attack it to remove the Illusory Wall.
The area ahead contains a Crystal Lizard, and a precarious path down even more massive vines. The vines take the Chosen Undead to a familiar arena — it looks just like the tower where you fought Priscilla in the Painted World of Ariamis.
In the tower arena, you’ll find a special fire-based weapon on the ruined bridge. If you’re Enkindled, an invader will appear in the tower itself and attack. He’s tough, and has his own powerful pyromancy spell drop.
#10: Defeat the Optional Boss for Further PVP Challenges
The new PVP arena in Dark Souls 3 isn’t exactly a secret, but getting there kind of is. To make this arena accessible, you’ll have to cut down the rope bridge from the Chapel side and climb down like a ladder. The twisted hidden path will eventually take you to a flowery field guarded by the Champion’s Gravetender.
Defeating the boss gives you the Champion’s Bones — burning the bones at Firelink Shrine bonfire will make the Hollow Arena unlock. This is all entirely optional, and clearly designed only for Dark Souls 3 veterans, but its still a cool little addition.
#11: The Champion’s Grave
Mirroring the Dark Souls 1 boss Sif, the Great Grey Wolf — you’ll encounter a Greatwolf guardian in the depths of the Painted World if you follow the broken rope bridge path mentioned in a few of the entries right here. The final optional boss encounter doesn’t just feel similar to that giant wolf boss in the Darkroot Garden, it even features on important detail that’s seemingly the same.
While the sword isn’t so huge, look to the single grave where the Champion’s Gravetender once prayed. The massive black blade in the gravestone looks strikingly similar to the blade wielded by Sif, and Artorias before that.
#12: Crossbreed Priscilla’s Altar
If you’re able to conquer the grueling battle against Sister Frieide, you’ll gain access to a very special display built into the arena’s back wall. A figure (doll? Taxidermy?) of the Crossbreed Priscilla can be found. If you look carefully, you can see wooden inserts under the figure’s tail, and a human face beneath this shroud.
Is this truly Crossbreed Priscilla’s corpse? A strange facsimile, or are the inhabitants worshiping a different crossbreed altogether? Unfortunately we don’t know but we do know that this is a cool detail that’s worth checking out.
So, what other tiny tidbits and interesting facts are worth exploring in the Ashes of Ariandel DLC? Let us know in the comments! We’re always up for adding more.
More Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel guides, secrets, and locations:
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – DLC Walkthrough | Low-Spoilers Guide
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – All New DLC Weapons | Locations Guide
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – All New DLC Spells | Locations Guide
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – All New DLC Key Items | Locations Guide
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – How To Beat Every Boss | Strategies Guide
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – How to Access the DLC Area
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – How to Access the New PVP Area
- Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel – How to Get the Chillbite Ring
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