Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 1

Author: Liam Riker 

As hinted at in my last post, the time has finally come to start ranking all of Dark Souls 3 bosses from easiest to most difficult, or translated, since it is a Dark Souls game after all – from hard to absolutely soul-crushing.

In a game series that’s infamous for being one of the hardest of all time, it’s only natural the game would boast some extremely formidable bosses. That being said, some of the bosses in the Souls games, for the sake of fairness, aren’t all that difficult, and Dark Souls 3 is definitely no exception to this. Also, the progression of difficulty of boss battles throughout the game, isn’t an even slope, which isn’t all that uncommon for ARPG’s in general. But when the very first boss the player encounters, is more difficult than one of the bosses in the last accessible area of the game, one begins to question whether this erratic progression of boss battle difficulty is a design flaw.

However, while the scaling of difficulty may not be perfect, the way that each boss battle is staged and presented to the player, is absolutely beautiful and executed more effectively than almost any other game out there.

So without further ado, I bring to you my completely opinionated ranked list of Dark Souls 3 bosses. In this list I will be covering all bosses, optional or not, from the main game and the two bosses included in the Ashes of Ariandel DLC that was released late last year. *While I started with just these 21 bosses, I added the 4 bosses from “The Ringed City” DLC when the final Dark Souls DLC was released, so this countdown will now include all 25 of these bosses* There are far too many bosses in Dark Souls 3 to cover and analyze in just a single post, so this ranked list will be broken up and presented as a series that I will continue to flesh out every week.

As this ranking is just my personal opinion from my experience playing the game, I’d love to hear other opinions, regarding the ranking of the various Dark Souls 3 bosses.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

25. Deacons of the Deep

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Coming in at dead last, and the easiest boss in the entire game in my opinion, are the Deacons of the Deep found in the very back of the Cathedral of the Deep.

The Deacons, while they can definitely be intimidating to first-time players of the game, what with the sheer number of them, and how the solution to the mystery revolving around the way to defeat them, can take a little while to figure out, they are still by far the easiest boss in the game. The Deacons function as a gimmick boss battle, where the player will have to hunt down which of the undead clerics is currently in possession of the Archdeacon’s soul. This is relatively intuitive and easy to figure out, as the cleric in possession of the soul will glow with a red aura, and the bosses health bar will only go down when the cleric that is glowing red is killed.

The soul will jump from one cleric to another as the player slays each, until the Archdeacon himself rises from the ground, triggering the second phase of the battle. During the second phase getting to the Archdeacon can prove to be a bit tricky, due to the large number of fat strong clerics surrounding and protecting him, but the biggest threat to the player is the curse that the Archdeacon and the rest of the clerics will try to conjure. As they begin to charge the curse, a familiar bar will appear above the player and will slowly start to fill, if the bar fills all the way up, and the player builds-up  enough curse, the player will instantly die no matter their current health. While an instant-kill move is definitely something to fear, this one is easily interrupted, as the player need only target the clerics casting the curse and give them a few whacks, to interrupt the proceeding. In its final phase this boss battle feels like a DPS race, where the player will rush to snuff out the last of the Archdeacon’s health before the curse fog that instantly kills the player is completely built up.

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This boss battle is the easiest in the game for me, due to the low amount of damage that the Deacons dish out (the only real risk to the player, is if the player allows them to completely surround them and chain-stun them with attacks). The attacks are all easy to read, consisting of slow melee attacks and slow projectile attacks, and if the player currently has the Pontiff’s Left Eye ring equipped there is almost no chance of the player running out of health, if they get consist attacks in on the mob of Deacons, due to the ring’s unique properties. The strategy for this battle is very simplistic as well and never really changes throughout the entirety of the battle, which is one of the reasons why this boss battle is also the worst designed in the game in my opinion.

The boss fight isn’t without its redeeming qualities, as both its concept and ost that plays during the fight are both top notch in my opinion. You can check out what I mean about the Deacon’s ost here.

24. High Lord Wolnir

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Coming in at #20, and the second easiest boss in the game, is Lord “Spooky-King” himself, High Lord Wolnir. While this boss is extremely intimidating, it might be the fastest to be able to be killed in the entire game. The monstrous High Lord Wolnir appears before you at the bottom of a pitch black sloping chasm, once you find your way to his shrine at the end of the agonizing Catacombs of Carthus. He will begin to climb up towards you, dragging along with him, a cloud of black smoke that will certainly kill you if you stay in it for too long. He will attempt to make large sweeping melee attacks at you and will at times breathe more of that death smoke straight in front of him that you’ll have to run to the sides of the room, or right up to his arms to avoid. When the battle reaches second phase, Wolnir will summon his massive sword which he will now try to attack you with, adding both range and damage to his melee attacks. Throughout the fight, he will summon small skeleton enemies to assist him, which will prove at times to be more of a nuisance than he himself is. As his health goes down to 2/3 and then 1/3, he will summon a tougher swarm of skeleton enemies, at which point the player will want to finish the fight as quickly as possible.

 

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Luckily, as hinted at above, there is a very quick and easy way to kill High Lord Wolnir. Throughout the battle, the player will notice a large amount of light radiating from three bracelet shackles Wolnir wears, two on his left arm and one on his right. These shackles contain huge amounts of Wolnir’s health inside of them, that if broken, will taken away 1/3 of his total health. While the player can attempt to go at Wolnir’s massive pool of health without destroying the shackles, this is definitely not advised, since the shackles are fairly easy to break, and will make the battle relatively painless.

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While Wolnir is able to be killed quicker than the Deacons of the Deep, I would still rank him as a more difficult boss battle, due to the fact that all of his attacks do a considerable amount of damage, he summons swarms of normal and strong enemies to assist him, and he constantly approaches the player, pushing them closer to the back wall of the chasm they’re in, which if they allow the fight to drag on, they’ll most likely die due to their inability to escape the black smoke Wolnir drags up with his body.

This battle is once again a gimmick boss fight, whose gimmick is perhaps even easier to figure out than the Deacons, and thus he places at #20.

The intro cinematic to this boss fight is one of the most spectacular and cinematic openings to a boss fight in the game though, setting the stage for the fight perfectly. The lore behind Lord Wolnir and the reason he has those glowing bracelets is also fantastic, and almost makes you feel bad for him when you finish his last bracelet off. For more information regarding said lore, click here.

23. Ancient Wyvern

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Rounding up the bottom three, and placed at #19 overall is the Ancient Wyvern found guarding the Archdragon Peak. Forget what I said about the Deacons or Wolnir being intimidating. When this monstrous behemoth comes soaring down from the sky and smashing into the ground in front of the player, the fight or flight response is instantly triggered in even the most seasoned of Dark Souls veterans. After the Ancient Wyvern makes it’s landing, the player is prepared for what they’d assume could only be one of the most challenging and epic boss battles in the game. However, they are about to be brutally disappointed. The Ancient Wyvern is nothing more than another gimmick battle, this one involving the player making a mad dash around the massive outdoor environment the fight takes place in, until they reach high enough ground above the dragon to make a plunging attack right onto it’s head. If the plunging attack is executed properly, the Ancient Wyvern will immediately die. A very anti-climactic end to an epic beginning.

This fight is still not as easy as the two other gimmick boss fights I’ve covered though, and this is primarily due to the Man Serpent enemies guarding the path that leads to the plunge attack location for the Ancient Wyvern. The Man Serpents are some of the hardest enemies in all of Dark Souls 3, which is why they are reserved to Archdragon Peak, a secret optional area, that is the last possible area the player is able to gain access to in the game. While the player can attempt to just run by all the Man Serpents, this is extremely risky, especially with the one giant Man Serpent that brandishes a massive chain-axe, as he can easily take you down with a very powerful attack from afar.

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The Ancient Wyvern will occasionally breathe fire at you, but it is very easy to dodge, unless the Man Serpents start to chain-stun you. When the player finally reaches the plunge attack instant-kill location, some timing is needed, as the Ancient Wyvern will writhe it’s neck and head when preparing to breath fire and will sway a bit. If the player misses this plunge attack they are guaranteed to die due to fall damage, which can make this fight especially infuriating. I’ve lost 100,000 souls to this boss TWICE, so one should definitely not underestimate the difficulty of this fight, even though the strategy to defeat the boss is the most straight-forward so far.

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So there you have it. The three easiest boss battles in Dark Souls 3, in my opinion, are the Deacons of the Deep, High Lord Wolnir, and the Ancient Wyvern. All three boss battles are gimmick battles, with pretty straightforward gimmicks, so that should say a lot. While some gimmick battles can be executed pretty effectively, so that the boss fight is still reasonably challenging (in fact one of the upcoming bosses on this boss ranking series of mine will demonstrate that), most end up being too easy, with not enough variety, and a very straightforward strategy. This is one of the reasons why most of The Legend of Zelda boss fights, while very well-designed, are almost too easy. They’re all basically gimmick fights.

I will continue this series next week and hope most of you stay with me throughout this journey, as I countdown through all of Dark Souls 3 down to the #1 most soul-crushing boss in the game.

 

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