Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel kicks off in a snowy wilderness where you can grab the Captain's Ashes and Milwood Knight weapons.
To gain access to Dark Souls 3: Ashes of Ariandel you'll need a Dark Souls 3 save capable of reaching the Cleansing Chapel at the Cathedral of the Deep.
Having arrived in the Cleansing Chapel, speak to the figure prostrate by the altar. Accept his offer to be transported to a new zone, The Painted World of Ariandel.
When you arrive, immediately turn around to collect some rime blue moss clumps. The creature here is an NPC, not a baddie, so you don’t need to smack him. Move up the tunnel to reach the Snowfield bonfire.
The initial area of Snowfield is full of Followers – new grunt-like enemies. The ones with torches spit fire. The best way to get past it is to approach aggressively and roll forward to their left as they begin their animation. The ones with only spears will throw them at you from a distance, but strafing will evade unless you’re very slow. The ones with sword and torch have some long combos, so don’t let that surprise you. What makes these guys dangerous is the combination of their abilities and their tendency to attack in groups of two or more. Manage aggro carefully and take down the easiest targets first.
The most obvious landmark in this area is the large hill directly in front of you as you emerge from the tunnel to the first bonfire. Our general direction of travel will be to walk around with the hill on our right.
First, hug the left wall and move towards the item glow; it's a soul. There's a Follower with throwing spears on your right; try to lure him towards you by using trees as cover so you can fight him alone. If you continue to explore away from the hill you’ll meet another Follower with a torch and a bug, but there’s nothing else here, so don't feel obliged.
We need to head back the other way, skirting the hill near the bonfire. Now, this is tricky; there are four or five Followers on the hill, including one on the path and another who frequently but not always drops down from a ledge at the top of the hill, and you really want to try and take them one by one if you can.
When it's safe, continue past the hill to the ice field. As you move on towards the item glow, the ground will collapse – but it’s safe. Grab the rime blue moss clump.
There are two new types of enemies you'll encounter after the ice fall: wolves and weeping dryads. Wolves are a pain for several reasons. They'll howl and bring in any other wolves in range. They work in packs to back you into corners (deadly) or surround you (deadly). They hold off and act passive, then suddenly lunge. If you're going to aggro them, get in fast and take them out quick so you can deal with reinforcements immediately - and try a slashing weapon so you can hit groups.
Weeping dryads throng anywhere the trees are thick. You can tell which weeping dryads are alive and which are just set dressing; the living ones move in the wind. They come in two varieties. The flaming weeping dryads cast slow moving but long-lasting tracking fire projectiles. Ironically, your best defence is to get in amongst the trees to avoid them, but dodging as they get close works well too. The other weeping dryads have a long-range and annoyingly persistent frost breath. Both types can grab you if you stand in front of them, and inflict status effects. They also have a long range melee attack which will pass through some cover.
Now that you know what's going on down here, there are a couple of ways through this area:
- 01) the coward's shortcut
- 02) the main path with mini-boss, lots of treasure and some nasty battles
If you want to take the shortcut, simply turn left as soon as you land when the ice breaks, and sprint through the enemies. Don't stop running: drop down to the next area and keep going. When you see a rope bridge in the distance, search the right hand side of the path for a hole dropping you down to the Rope Bridge bonfire. You might need a few tries to make it, but it's worth keeping in mind.
Giant wolf and Milwood Knight tower
If you'd rather take the main path, avoid the left side altogether; there's a bunch of wolves and weeping dryads here you have no reason to engage. Instead, hug the right wall closely until you start to turn the corner and come face to face with one wolf. Kill it and wait a second to see if more turn up (usually not).
From here, you can double back to the bonfire by continuing to hug the right wall, moving up the path. There are three weeping dryads and three Followers, but you can also grab a soul and the Follower Javelin on the way. Dropping off the ledge at the end puts you on the hill by the bonfire.
From the bottom of the backtrack path I just described, follow the edge of the abyss around until the giant wolf on the cliffs above aggros. You only need to kill this guy once and he'll go away forever, but if you struggle, you can cheese this section by luring him up the backtrack path (clear it our first, natch). Run off the ledge at the end and stand at the bonfire for a few moments - don't rest or you'll reset everything. Usually when you go back down over the ice fall, the giant wolf stays on the backtrack path, allowing you to saunter by.
However you get past the giant wolf, continue on along parallel to the edge of the abyss and grab the soul. As you move onwards you'll have to fight a couple of wolves who attack from the left as you advance.
The path goes around the cliffs on the left but before you continue on around the corner, search along the cliff walls for a little rocky area you can walk into. From here you can see some wolves and a Milwood Knight with a greatbow. You can't get up from here, but you can clear it out to make it easier on you later.
The wolves usually drop down to attack you once you aggro anybody here, so pick them off first before disturbing the knight. He’s easy to out snipe by moving down the path a little and using the rocky wall as shelter, so cheese away. Before you leave, see if you can spot a second Milwood Knight near them; he's very hard to see until you know he's there, unfortunately, but if you ping him he'll drop down and fight you.
So, Milwood Knights: these guys take a lot of damage to bring down, and hit hard, but they’re slow and drop titanite shards when you win. Just stay calm, always engage them alone, and be conservative with your blows to succeed.
With that diversion over, continue on the path curling around the cliffs, grabbing the soul from a tree on the right.
Let's talk about what's happening in this area. Immediately when you look around the corner you'll see a Milwood Knight just ahead. In addition to him, there are two Milwood Knights with wolves on circular patrols and another Milwood Knight standing guard hidden by some ruins. The Milwood Knights have a low detection radius and won't properly aggro unless you engage them, but the wolves are much more alert and will trigger their Knight's aggro, too. Furthermore, three Milwood Knights with greatbows are sniping from the tower. Additionally, multiple weeping dryads lurk along the left side of the area as you face it from this corner.
If you are confident fighting Milwood Knights, lure them around the corner one by one (making sure to put their wolves down first) and dispatch them, which will make it easy to get into the tower and clear out treasure from the area. You can still follow the directions below, just with less stealth.
If you are a nervous cheeseburger assassin (bless you, my comrade in shaking arms), you can just sneak through. Hug the left wall and stop in the first arch to snipe the weeping dryad ahead of you. Walk calmly along hugging the left wall to go through the gap the dryad was guarding and stand in a little enclosure. From here you can snipe a second weeping dryad above you.
Take your bearings so you know where the tower is, and continue calmly walking along the left wall aiming to go up the snowy slope where you sniped the second dryad. When you hear the greatbows begin to fire, leg it to the nearest bit of stone ruin and put it between you and the tower.
From here, wait for a gap in the sniping then sprint up the slope and around the corner. This drops you back where those first two Milwood Knights were, so you can collect the Milwood Greatbow and some arrows.
You can clear out the weeping dryads in the trees near here if you like, but they generally don't aggro if you return to the bit of ruin we took shelter behind a few moments ago. From here, wait for a gap in the sniping and sprint across to the opposite side of the path, where the cliff wall will shelter you. Pause for breath.
Look around and you'll spot the lurking Milwood Knight I mentioned earlier. What's he guarding there? I don't know! I decided I couldn't be bothered. There's probably more treasure in the ruins too, but who wants to fight all these Milwood Knights? Not I.
Now it's time to head for the tower. Make sure the nearby patrolling Milwood Knight and wolf duo are far away and sprint for it - you'll be fine.
Treasure hunting in the tower
Optionally, we can clear out this tower. Grab the soul on the bottom floor then climb the stairs. There's a Milwood Knight blocking access to the next floor, but you don’t have to fight him; lure him down, dodge his first attack run up the stairs behind him and grab the ladder; he can't follow you up and will forget about you eventually.
You’ll see a crystal lizard on the stairs as you go up; don’t go after it yet, as there's a better opportunity.
At the top of the ladder you’ll see another Milwood Knight; he’s a red eyes, so be very careful if you decide to engage. I just crept past, personally. Head up the stairs to the next floor.
On this next level, carefully skirt the room and go outside to find another ladder. Go up, grab the soul, then move carefully onto the beam for the Captain’s Ashes key item. Take this to the Shrine Maiden to unlock the Follower set.
From the beam where you grabbed the ashes, you can drop down to the next beam and then further down for the Millwood Greataxe.
Keep dropping down and you'll end up on a previously inaccessible platform where you can collect the Ethereal Oak Shield. You'll find yourself in a position to drop attack or ambush the crystal lizard, which should allow you to kill it without ending up in the arms of an aggro'd Milwood Knight.
By the way, don’t be tempted to drop attack the Milwood Knights as you descend; they have a quick and surprising counter attack which can one-shot many builds.
Hopefully you can skedaddle out the tower without a Milwood Knight on your tail; if not, try to sprint away to somewhere you can reach easily if you die fighting it, but not aggro any more of them on the way.
Tower to Rope Bridge Cave bonfire
When you are finished with the Tower you can head to the next bonfire. From the Tower door, face out and look right. See the narrow path sloping upwards? That's your goal. Make sure no patrolling Milwood Knights are near.
Unfortunately when you get part way up two giant wolves and a pack of wolves will attack. This is horrible in every way but don't worry: as usual I have found a way to cheese it. As soon as you hear that first howl, leg it straight back to the tower. Stand a little back from the door and to one side, and deal with any small wolves who come in; climbing the stairs and dropping off them can help you deal with the pack, because they're not bright. The big wolves can attack you through the door, but generally they won't come inside.
When you're reasonably certain the small wolves are all gone, you can start shooting the big ones from the door. If you're lucky one or both of them, and even some of the small wolves, will enthusiastically throw themselves off the cliff. This seems to happen more if you let them see you and then run a little way up the stairs. Hooray!
With the wolves gone, make your way up the snowy path but go very slowly and carefully: the ground is going to crumble away and if you have forward momentum you will miss the safe ledge. When you land, make sure you have decent health or the Cat's Ring or whatever, and keep dropping down ledges. Before the bottom you can collect a soul.
From here, if you tightly hug the left wall you'll end up on a path back towards the Snowfield bonfire - but leave that for a second. Hug the right wall instead and you'll find a hole you can drop down to the Rope Bridge Cave bonfire. It’s also accessible from a small tunnel, but the hole is easier to find in a hurry.
Since it's back in the previous direction we'll discuss the path to the Snowfield bonfire now; it's guarded by multiple weeping dryads and two bugs, but you can grab some black firebombs and the Frozen Weapon spell by exploring it.
Well, that's that; onwards and upwards, I guess. Use the navigation box to go elsewhere in the guide; our next stop is the Corvian Settlement.