- 1) Guide is not finished, yet. So, Gramma, Spellan, and Punctures kip out. This means in detail: Mindset needs some polish and love, Mechanics will need a look over, Moveset will include bows+crossbows later, and whole new Magic section will be added at a later date.
2)You are entitled to your opinion. Not only that, you are entitled to speak your opinion, if done in a respectful, and polite manner. However, you aren't allowed to speak it everywhere. Please pay attention to the thread topic, and notice that it is not a balance discussion. While I encourage you to talk about the issues, I make a special plea to create another thread to do so, and to pay attention to what you post to keep this thread on topic. Posts like: “This guide is stupid” or “The play style encouraged by this guide is boring”, are on topic, but I ask you try to elaborate single sentence posts by asking yourself 'why?' so that I can see what the issue you have with it is, and how to actually improve the guide. E.G. “This guide is stupid” would become “This guide is stupid because it fails to include my secret technique. It goes something like...”, and “The playstyle encouraged by this guide is boring” becomes “The playstyle encouraged by this guide is boring. Roll backstabs are less fun, and strictly inferior to my own style that goes something like...”
- Another Notice:
I don't really have time to work on the guide right now, but do not worry! I have kept notes of everything I have promised I need to fix, and I myself want to change.
Here is a link to the article for downloading.
So you've beaten Gwyn with all sorts of builds, and if you ask yourself “What's next?” or “What happens now?” then this brief introduction to the wondrous world of Player versus Player in Dark Souls is for you. Contained within is a basic outline of the Mindset, Mechanics and Movesets that can help you brave the intimidating playing field of Dark Souls PvP.
What is a mindset? I suggest reading this article to get an idea of the mindset you should have when coming this part of the game. It is a fairly popular exposition of what 'Play to Win' means, and the benefits to not only the metagame but, the game itself. Playing the game to its fullest extent allows for a real dominant strategy to be developed and, a legitimate counter to appear then a true counter-counter, ad infinitum. You might think of 'real', 'legitimate', and 'true' as unnecessary modifiers, but the importance of being so permitting of even what you currently think is unfair allows unorthodox responses to whatever is the current metagame is. What you think as unfair is often the counter to what you're doing. The ball is now in your court, and it is up to you decide how to respond to whatever is making you cry 'cheap!'
So, what does it mean to play for the win in Dark Souls? The game is very versatile, and there are many ways to play, and consequently there are many ways to win. The two main ways to play PvP: Invading and Dueling. When you are playing the 'Invading' game, it is your goal to win by any means necessary. This goes for both the host and invader. Comparatively, playing the 'Dueling' game is match between two players on equal footing, with no healing, engaging in fairly straightforward bout with many implicit rules of mutual respect. Playing to win is very different in both games within a game. Both need to be examined separately to get a definitive answer.
What does it mean to play to win in the 'Invading' game? For the invader, you'll be willing to hide, to heal, to lie, beg, borrow and steal your way to killing the host of the world you just invaded. As the enemy of your enemy is your friend, you'll be using the hostiles already in their world to your advantage and to buy time. The host has a smaller quantity, (most times) better quality resource of phantoms to use. Both host and invader will use everything at their disposal to kill each other, and they have well-stocked arsenal of weapons. The nuanced mechanics and style present are often ignored while playing 'Invasion', and instead the matches are determined by who can goad the other into making a large enough opening to end the fight in a single calumnious calamity. Playing to win in the 'Invading' game is playing to trick.
What does it mean to play to win in the 'Dueling' game? It means using every tactic that you can devise and utilize yourself to kill your opponent. Superficially similar to playing the 'Invading' game, the aspect of mutual respect allows a much deeper, satisfying use of the engine. Parrying, dead-angles, pivot-canceling and a whole other slew of advance techniques can flower and come to a crux. However, it only comes to this as both participants are willing to fight each other equally. This is often viewed as the 'true' Dark Souls PvP.
You can say that the 'Invasion' game is to 'Dueling' what a medieval war is jousting, perhaps a bit less restrictive. The mindset you should have when deciding to do Dark Souls PvP is that you are playing to win, but make sure you playing the right game! An important thing to remember is that there are 'zones' for certain kinds of PvP. You'll get a lot of the 'Invasion' game should you decide to play in the Forest or Klin, but at the higher Soul Levels in the Undead Burg you'll find people exclusively playing the 'Dueling' game.
This general statement of deciding to 'play to win' is dandy, and all that, but it fails to give an exemplar of what to think when approaching a match. The concept of playing to win is an ascetic with which your individual style of game-play should encompass, and to give a more specific idea of what mindset you should be bringing to the controller you'll need to have understanding of the mechanics build in game that reward and discourage various ideas.
Let us take a look at one system that is often much maligned, Backstabs. It is generally accepted as a safe, powerful attack, and you should always take them give the choice. If this was all there was to PvP, then it would often degenerate into backstab fishing matches. A cynic might point out the existence of such a battle, but I counter-point with the fact that there are safe moves that cannot be punished with a backstab. This makes simply fishing a losing proposition, and there needs to be a response to the safe pokes. These are stronger attacks that are capable of being backstabbed punished; these do more damage which make simply poking a losing proposition. However, these moves are capable of being punished with a backstab. This creates a sort of rock-paper-scissors match between weapons; small weapons like an Estoc are capable of doing pokes and backstabs, large weapons like a Great Axe are capable of the risky hits and backstabs, while other weapons like a Silver Knight Spear can do both pokes and risky hits. Some weapons are capable of doing only one thing; a Composite Bow can only poke, while a Bandit's Knife is only good for the Backstab, and various Magics are the exemplar of a strong but, risky attack.
You may have noticed that the theoretical Estoc has the imaginary Great Axe beat when “playing to win”; the Estoc user can simply backstab fish without fear of retaliation. This is true, but a solid build would be capable of doing all three forms of combat. It wouldn't be ridiculous for the Great Axe user to get some points in Dexterity to get a +5 Chaos Composite Bow, which would allow him to poke his opponent into attacking. Draw bow cancels in fact, make this a very good idea. The Estoc user might be facing a losing battle should the Bow be used correctly, and would have to do risky attacks to deal more damage. Getting a Sunlight Blade buff to place on his weapon could increase the damage his risker attacks does could help him compete with the damage that the Great Axe could be doing, but he'd be operating on a time limit. The fictitious Great Axe user can now compete with the previously guaranteed-a-victory Estoc. When making a build, you'll have to realize some of the mechanics to make sure you don't succumb to being vulnerable to a backstab fisher. Your build will be dead from the get-go if you do this.
Taunts, Hatemail, Glitches, and various other methods of annoyance are quite successful at ruining someones day. However, when facing a glitcher, you need to ask yourself: did you really lose a PvP match? At the higher levels of play, you'll already have maximum humanity, more souls than could possibly need, and you're just playing to have fun. The only thing in a match that you can lose is your pride, and you haven't even lost that as it wasn't even a real match! You need to think of being summoned to a glitcher's world as simply being waiting time between matches, not a match in itself. What if you just keep being brought to this glitcher's world? If you treat as wait time, then you know what you need to do if don't get any PvP action in an area for a while: move somewhere else. This is how I personally treat unfair matches when I am looking for duels; it brings a certain peace of mind if you follow it.
After playing through PvE a few times, I am sure you have a basic grasp of all typical mechanics. You understand how stamina works, how to cast spells, how to dodge, the difference between a backstab and backstep, and maybe, if you are bit adventurous, how to parry. It is fair to expect you'll know how to get every ring and that you'll have access to all the equipment you'll need/want to use. After all, there is no reason to use a +14 weapon over a +15 one. Though all this farming might seem daunting, joining a group of players online can shorten the journey as they'll often have spare resources.
So you think your tough, and you know how roll circles around the hollows in the Burg. However, PvP requires a much deeper grasp of the mechanics of Dark Souls than PvE. Just like how for mindset there is a recommended reading, I recommend watching PhantomEWGF tutorial videos. Here, I'll outline the most important mechanics that'll give you a head start to start rolling circles around other players in the Burg.
What ultimately makes every build unique is its stat distribution, as penultimately gear is next to body size when determining what a build is limited to. You have Vitality, Attunement, Endurance, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Faith to be worried about. Resistance is not a Player versus Player stat, and a soul level spent on it should be considered a waste. The point caps considered here are for Soul Level 100. A large majority of 'Dueling' game matches will start occuring here. You should aim to have a build at this level for some quality matches, in addition to SL120.
When thinking about Vitality, you are thinking about how much HP you'll have. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 1500 or more. This gives you a healthy buffer with which to make mistakes, and you'll be able to take at least one BS from all, but the most focused builds. The most common two ways of reaching this breakpoint is having 40 Vitality combined with Ring of Favor and Protection or to hit 50 Vitality. Why would you choose the second way, especially considering that it costs an extra 10 levels? It gives a free ring slot which can be very important on certain builds, notably on casters.
Endurance is a very important statistic as it provides stamina; the more of which is never bad. However, stamina stops increasing after 40. When considering a new build, it is always best to aim for 40. If you cannot spare the points to hit this breakpoint, then I advise taking a good, hard look at what you have put together. You'll have the same amount of stamina as Endurance 40 ten levels lower if you use the Ring of Favor and Protection. It's a powerful ring, but builds that cannot spare the points often cannot spare the ring slot.
Strength is the first of the weapon requirement statistic I am going to talk about. Depending on your weapon of choice, you'll might need a lot or a little. However, two important things to remember when considering what Strength your build will have is that diminishing returns becomes incredible after 40 and that when two-handing a weapon your Strength is treated as being 1.5x your normal value. (A few bizarre exceptions for requirements, but it will always work if you meet the requirements.) This means that things have above E and hit the low C of scaling should have, generally speaking, 27 points. However, some weapons have great one-handed movesets that might be worth using or you'd want the ability to parry. The trade-off is something that you'll need to consider when placing a build together.
Dexterity is the other non-magical weapon requirement that is fundamental to any casting build. This is because casting speed is increased with Dexterity until you hit 45. While it is possible to cast spells effectively below 45, it is very hard to hit targets without considerable practice even at maximum casting speed. If you are going to be a caster, there is no reason not to hit 45 Dexterity as they are many viable weapons that scale well with it. If you are not focusing on casting, then, unless you are aiming for a Strength, or Faith/Int build, you should try to hit 40 for maximum scaling with your weapon.
Intelligence is one of two magic requirement stats, and is the main casting stat for sorceries. Three different breakpoints exist for Intelligence for three different focuses. One breakpoint is 14, which gives you access to Oolacile utility spells that help with the 'Invasion' game. Another is 25 which gives you access to Crystal Magic Weapon, and this buff can be used 3 times for a single attunement slot. This, too, is useful for the 'Invasion' game if you can pull it off. The final breakpoint for Intelligence is 44, which gives you access to Crystal Soul Spear. Should you want to buff at this level, use the Tin Crystallization Catalyst. For general casting, use Logan's to get the most out of your attunement slots.
Faith is the other magic requirement stat, and is used for Miracles. There are arguably two breakpoints: 30 and 50. The first gives you access to the potent Faith buffs and Wrath of the Gods, the other does simply more damage. Faith should be chosen over Intelligence when you are looking for an addition to a weapon, but Sorcery is the more viable pure casting stat.
Almost every build will have some spells on it; Pyromancy can improve almost any build by giving it a few more options. There are a few important facts to remember when casting any spell, first of all is that you slow down or stop completely when casting a spell. This means you are vulnerable to a backstab should you cast carelessly. You need to be able create space to cast a spell, this goes for a Wrath of Gods or Great Combustion even. You can and will get BSed with any spells if you are careless.
Another thing about spell casting is that anything can be running-pivot cancelled, but only certain spells can be pivot-cancelled from standing. A pivot-cancel is when you turn 180 degrees suddenly, and it stops many animations. This allows you to pretend you were about to cast a spell, and works very well with spells that have visually impressive displays, like Fireball and Wrath of the Gods. You can potentially running pivot-cancel even a Fire Surge, the main reason to not cast a spell is to play a mind-game with your opponent; a briefly raised arm will often go unnoticed.
A final thing to note when casting spells, is if that you'll need to think about the arrangement of your spells. Ideally, you will have all your spells stacked in a manner such that you'll be using them in order. You want to have a plan in advance of how you are going to cast your spells in combat. While some situations might arise that call for something out of order, you should have a general idea of what spells you'll need and in which order.
Blocking is a very powerful tactic your opponent may use to get close to you. It can become incredibly frustrating if they use their shield to poke at you with a rapier, or decide to circle around you for a Backstab. However, it is possible to make an unblockable attack because of the way the game calculates attack direction. Shields can only block attacks from the front, so an attack from behind is considered unblockable in PvP. (PvE enemies that can block behave differently) The game considers the angle of the attack as the same as the angle you are facing relative to your opponent. Should you turn away from the opponent and your attack has a hitbox that extends behind you, then that attack will be registered as coming from behind, and will deal full damage. The critical angle is looking more than 90 degrees way from your target for something to be considered as coming from behind. Look at the PhantomEWGF video to see this in action.
Understandably, you need to be careful when exposing your back to your enemy, and some weapons will have an incredibly difficult time doing a dead-angle. Generally speaking, weapons that are good for dead angling are: Greatswords, Ultra Greatswords, Curved Greatswords, and Halberds. These weapons have hitboxes that extend far behind the forward part of the swing. Many other weapons are capable of getting a dead-angle, like the Gargoyle Halberd, whose 2-handed strong attack when done perpendicular from the opponent can go through shields. Take a look at your favourite weapon's swing, and if you notice an attack that has solid back-swing, you should ask a friend to test the attack at various angles to see if it can do a dead-angle. Remember to unlock when attempting this!
Backstabs & Parries
Backstabs and Parries are daunting to a new players, who can often being on the receiving end of these powerful attacks while being unable to execute it themselves. Don't be a fool, and say you won't learn this because it is unfair; this introduction should be read only by people who want to get into the PvP scene in Dark Souls. In fact, learning to backstab and parry is what separates new players from good ones. Backstabbing is the easier of the two skills to learn, and once again, I suggest watching PhantomEWGF's backstab tutorials while trying some matches in the Klin. While you are at it, you should watch his tutorial on parrying. Both rely on your ability to predict your opponent, and this is a skill you'll develop from multiple PvP matches.
The most rewarding types of backstabs that you can learn are roll backstabs. This means when your opponent is locked in animation (most likely a recovery from an attack) you roll towards your opponent's back and align yourself for the stab. With this skill, reckless attacking stops being a viable strategy for your opponent. This includes the fearsome Wrath of the Gods, or Great Combustion spam that is the bane of new players often done by new players themselves. Not only will you be able to stop spell spam, you'll be able to handle poorly done single casts eventually, too.
Parrying can help deal with what normally kills you if you are new. Should they start that dreaded weak attack spam into you, then with some practice you can learn to use that as an opportunity to get riposte for incredible damage. When learning to parry, it is worth watching not only PhantomEWGF's video, but matyrsbrigade99's for an alternate take on how to parry. It offers you a valuable method for trying to get a parry on the faster weapons that might be giving you trouble, and make punishing predictability possible for even the safer forms of attack. Something worth noting, is that if your opponent tries to repeatedly roll into and attack, that's a sign to try to parry. With some practice, you'll be landing a riposte in no time!
It is worth noting that the spacing for a roll backstab, and the timing for a parry will be hard to learn at first. It is suggested to summon a friend with the Red Soapstone to do some training with various weapons without upgrades. You should practice parrying consistently all the attacks of a Greatsword and try roll backstabbing them as well. This is generally an easy, but powerful weapon to learn to counter, and is a good first of many to be able to play effectively against.
Armor plays an important roll in determining your ability to play competitively. While various defenses actually do play a part in making your character more survivable, the most important aspect of armor is poise and whether or not it makes certain breakpoints. The vast majority of poise research (and pretty much all other research) was done, and codified by PhantomEWGF. This is crucial information, and is worth saving on to your desktop, so it is provided in a handy image.
- Right Click and View Image to see all of it:
Last edited by roanispe on Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:56 am; edited 12 times in total (Reason for editing : Modernizing Format, Prep for next edition)