Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 5

Author: Liam Riker

Hey guys. So after Part 4 in this series, where I literally just covered one boss, Halflight, Spear of the Church, from the new “The Ringed City” DLC,  I though I’d get things back on track with this post. I’ll be covering two more bosses in this post, who come in at #15 and #14 on my countdown. For the rest of this series, the breakdown will go as follows: Part 6 will cover the bosses ranked #13-#11; Part 7 will cover the bosses ranked #10-#6; and lastly, Part 8 will conclude my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series with the Top 5 hardest bosses in the game and accompanying DLC’s.

Just a reminder, this is a completely opinionated series of posts. This is just how I personally rank all the bosses in Dark Souls 3 from my experiences with the game, and I’d love to hear from any of ya’ll if you have a different ranked list than mine!

So without further ado, let’s jump right into the countdown with the boss that comes in at #15.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

15. Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf

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The Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf is a boss fight that the player will encounter near the “Depths of the Painting” location in the “Ashes of Ariandel” DLC, which came out late last year. This boss fight, while not particularly difficult, is definitely one of my favorite boss fights in the game due to it’s incredibly cool (no pun intended) design and FANTASTIC ost! The fight still can be pretty punishing still, especially in it’s 2nd phase, and thus is worthy of holding spot #15 on my boss countdown. Before I go into a bit more detail on this boss, check out the boss’s ost here, to see just exactly what I’m gawking over. It’s by far my most favorite boss ost in the game!

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When you first enter the massive boss room for the Champion’s Gravetender and Gravetender Greatwolf boss fight, you must navigate through this wide-open and gorgeous frozen field of flowers, till you reach the ruins near the back of this area. Upon reaching the ruins, you see a figure seated next to what looks like a grave accompanied by one of the numerous wolves the player will have encountered inside the Painted World of Ariandel. The figure proceeds to stand up, turns to face you and the 1st phase of this boss fight begins.

In this 1st phase, if the player is able to take care of the Champion’s Gravetender’s three wolf friends relatively quickly, this phase should go by rather smoothly, as the Champion’s Gravetender, leaves himself open after every lunging and jumping attack for punishment. While the weapon art for the Valorheart shield the Champion’s Gravetender wields can be startling and thus punishing, if the player plays too aggressively, the Champion’s Gravetender feels no more difficult than any of the numerous NPC’s the player has had to fight up to this point of the game. That is until the player brings his health to the halfway point, at which point the Champion’s Gravetender will motion his sword to the sky and the 2nd phase begins.

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Enter the Gravetender Greatwolf, who pounces down from somewhere above the frozen field of flowers. This beauty should be a familiar site to the player, since they’ll likely have encountered phantom like versions of the Greatwolf on two separate occasions on their way to the Champion’s Gravetender boss fight. The Gravetender Greatwolf has a full boss-sized health bar of it’s own this time and will fight alongside the Champion’s Gravetender for the rest of this fight, and boy does this bad boy have a mean bite.

For the 2nd phase, the best strategy would be for the player to quickly finish off the remaining health of the Champion’s Gravetender, before the Greatwolf, has much time to protect it’s master. Once the Champion’s Gravetender has been taken care of, the player can focus all of their attention on the Greatwolf, who’s a heck of a challenging adversary due to the nature of how agile and powerful he is. The Greatwolf has good combo game and is able to roll catch the player fairly easily with one of these combos of bites, and doesn’t leave the player with many openings, as he’ll often throw in a move where he’ll bite at the player then make a spinning leap backwards to avoid being hit if the player dodged his bite. However, the Greatwolf’s most dangerous move by far, is when a whirlwind of snow begins to circle around him and he swiftly charges at the player two times. If the player doesn’t dodge the first of the two charges, there’s a good chance he’ll get caught in the second, at which point, it’s plausible that the Greatwolf can kill the player, even from full health, depending on their build.

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As if this wasn’t already challenging enough, this boss fight technically has a 3rd phase, which occurs after the Gravetender Greatwolf’s health bar is brought down halfway. At this point the Greatwolf gives out a loud howl and his eyes start glowing red. While his move-set hasn’t changed all that much for this final phase, the Greatwolf will be far more agile, throwing in that move where he charges at the player in a whirlwind of snow more often, and will also deal more damage to the player. The Greatwolf does throw in one new move that’s particularly nasty, where he’ll charge up briefly and then proceed to breathe a stream of frost as he gradually sweeps his head from left to right. This move is very reminiscent of the move Vordt of the Boreal Valley (#21 on my countdown) uses in his 2nd phase, however, the Greatwolf’s version comes out way quicker than Vordt’s, giving the player very little time to find cover and deals ALOT more frostbite damage. If the player gets frostbitten from this move, their mobility will be decreased, which will spell nearly certain death for them for the remainder of the fight. Pretty nasty am I right!?

While the 2nd (and technical 3rd) phase of this boss fight are quite challenging, it’s still a very manageable fight, that will likely take the player only a handful of tries before they are able to get past it. While a lot of people were disappointed with the lack of any considerable difficulty with this boss fight, being that they’d come to expect only the most challenging of boss fights from a Dark Souls game DLC, I personally feel that this fight is fantastic. While it might not be the most challenging, it has such a cinematic feel to it, and sets itself apart from any other boss in the game. The mystery behind the Champion’s Gravetender: like whose grave is he watching over? And how does he have some sort of pact with the wolves of this world, including the towering Greatwolf?; far make up for the relative easiness of the fight. And, in case I didn’t emphasize it enough, the ost for this fight is amazing!

If you want to see a play through of this wonderfully unique and captivating boss fight, click here.

14. Abyss Watchers

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Coming in at # 14 on my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown, is the second of the Lords of Cinder on my countdown and the first the player actually encounters in the game, after navigating through the hell that is the Farron Keep swamp. The Abyss Watchers, a fan favorite boss of Dark Souls 3 and even the entire Souls series, while not the most challenging of boss fights, is still a very high hurdle the player will have to overcome, especially considering how early on in the game the player gains access to this fight. It’ll likely be the first “holy fuck” moment of Dark Souls 3 for most players.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about this fight, is how rich the lore is for the Abyss Watchers, and how tragic their story is. While fighting tragic bosses is a very common theme throughout the Dark Souls series, with Dark Souls 3 being no exception, this is the first boss in the game where the tragicness of the boss is made evident to the player.

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The introductory cinematic for this boss fight spells out the craziness and tragicness of the Abyss Watchers, as you walk into the boss room where two of them are fighting one another, until one is able to make, what appears to be, the finishing blow. The prevailing Abyss Watcher proceeds to rip his sword out of his fellow member of Farron’s Undead Legion, and then turns ominously to face the player, whose finally gained his attention. A brief summary of the lore behind the Abyss Watchers, is that they were all members of Farron’s Undead Legion, who were sworn enemies of the Abyss, and followers of the Wolf Blood Master (who according to many is undoubtedly the character Artorias from the original Dark Souls). But after sharing the blood of the Wolf Blood Master, their souls were linked together into one, hence why they are in a constant purgatory like state, constantly fighting and “killing” one another. Halfway through the 1st phase of the boss fight, an Abyss Watcher rises from the ground with red eyes and proceeds to fight the two Abyss Watchers you’re fighting, the red eyes being a constant symbol throughout the game that the being has been consumed by the Abyss.

Well that’s enough of the lore, let’s get to why I ranked this fight above all the others I’ve covered thus far.

The 1st phase of the fight begins with the player fighting the main Abyss Watcher, who’s in possession of their cumulative souls, and who slew his brethren in the introductory cinematic. The Abyss Watcher has a particularly nasty move set, with combos, that will catch the player with the anticipation in-between each move of the combo, quick attacks with a handheld dagger, to prevent the player from being able to hack away at him for too long, and several sliding and slamming attacks with the Abyss Watcher’s Greatsword that close the distance quickly and punish the player if they ever try to flee carelessly.

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However, the fight doesn’t really get serious until a second Abyss Watcher rises in the boss room and starts chasing and attacking the player along with the main Abyss Watcher. This second Abyss Watcher has a mini health bar of it’s own, independent of the main boss’s health bar, so the player should still focus their attention on the Abyss Watcher they were fighting at the start of the boss battle. This is much easier said than done though, as both Abyss Watchers are relentless, cover eachother’s backs, and provide very few openings for the player to attack them. Fighting both Abyss Watchers at the same time is extremely difficult, but luckily the boss fight lends the player some aid before things look too bleak. A third Abyss Watcher rises in the room, this one with red glowing eyes, who’s clearly been corrupted by the Abyss. Since the Abyss Watchers are sworn enemies of the Abyss, both the main Abyss Watcher and especially the second Abyss Watcher with the mini health bar, will be drawn to kill this red-eyed Abyss Watcher, instead of just focusing on you.

The red-eyed, corrupted Abyss Watcher will also focus the other two Abyss Watchers, however, it still can attack you and definitely will if you get too close to it while it’s fighting off the two other Abyss Watchers. In order to get through this 1st phase of the boss fight (yes this is all STILL the 1st phase of the fight :P), the player will need to utilize the corrupted Abyss Watcher to the best of their ability, since taking on both Abyss Watchers at the same time will almost certainly end up killing the player. The other options are for the player to either focus the secondary Abyss Watcher, take care of his small health pool and then focus the main Abyss Watcher, or draw enough separation between the two Abyss Watchers to go at the main Abyss Watcher’s boss-level health pool. Luckily the Abyss Watchers are able to be staggered, so getting in a number of attacks on them is manageable, so long as the player is able to find an appropriate opening, and with the assistance of the corrupted Abyss Watcher, this 1st phase really isn’t as bad as I may be making it out to be.

However, the 2nd phase of the Abyss Watchers boss fight is a completely different story.

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The grueling 2nd phase of the Abyss Watchers boss fight has no gimmick, no way to cheese the fight, nor ally to help the player with the fight. The 2nd phase requires pure skill on the part of the player to get past it. After the main Abyss Watcher’s health bar has been brought down all the way to zero, there’s a cut to another cinematic, where blood from all of the dead Abyss Watchers littered across the boss room raises into the air and flows into the body of the Abyss Watcher you just took down. The Abyss Watcher rises, his greatsword now covered in flame, the player knows shit’s about to get real.

Even more so than in the 1st phase of the fight, the Abyss Watcher is relentless as HELL! Giving the player barely any openings to attack, while at the same time feigning that he’s done with a combo to trick the player into approaching him only to get punished severely by the final devastating hit of the combo. On top of this, every one of his swings with his flaming greatsword now is followed immediately by a flurry of flames, to catch the player if they don’t dodge the initial attack perfectly. The attacks he uses to close the distance between himself and the player are all especially nasty too, one of which consisting of a lunging stab, a swift sliding attack that leaves a trail of fire behind it, and a leaping spinning attack that’s sure to catch even the most adept dodgers. For this 2nd phase, the player will just have to buckle down, stay focused, and above all be patient! The greed for a third or fourth attack against the Abyss Watcher will almost certainly end with the player dying.

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Once the player gets a good idea of the boss’s patterns and move set, the 2nd phase is certainly a very manageable one, but this process of learning the 2nd phase’s patterns, especially when the player will have to first get past the 1st phase which is, by no means, a slouch of a phase, will likely take a number of tries. This will definitely be the most difficult boss fight for the player for where they’re currently at in the game (unless they were feeling especially gutsy and attempted the Dancer of the Boreal Valley WAY before they should’ve) and will prove to be a very memorably difficult boss fight for the player’s entire experience with Dark Souls 3.

Like the Gravetender Greatwolf boss fight, the Abyss Watchers boss fight also has a fantastic ost! If you’d like to hear the ost and also check out the riveting cutscenes and gameplay of this fight, click here.

Alright, well that’s all for this section of my boss countdown! As you can tell, we’re finally getting to some of the actually difficult bosses in Dark Souls 3, bosses that are worthy and characteristic of the “Dark Souls” name. We’re not quite to the soul-crushing bosses, but trust me, we’re getting close.

Check back next time, as I cover bosses ranked #13-#11 on my countdown. Thanks for your time and your support! Please feel free to like this post and leave any thoughts or opinions in the comments.

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Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 4 – Halflight, Spear of the Church

Author: Liam Riker

Hey guys! The time has come to continue my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown. I’ve been playing a lot of the recently released “The Ringed City” DLC lately, which in my opinion has been a very satisfying and impressive concluding chapter to Dark Souls 3 and ultimately, the Dark Souls trilogy as a whole. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been able to fight all four of the bosses in the DLC area (still haven’t beaten the final boss though), so I’d be able to include them all in this countdown as planned. Perfect timing too, since one of those four bosses just so happens to fill the next spot in my countdown. Since I have a lot to say about this particular boss, I’ve decided to just dedicate a whole blog post to it, and continue the rest of my countdown on the next post in this series.

So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling with number 16 on the countdown.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

16. Halflight, Spear of the Church

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Coming in at #16, is the first boss I’ve covered from Dark Souls 3‘s “The Ringed City” DLC, Halflight, Spear of the Church. The Spear of the Church boss fight is likely the hardest of the boss fights in my countdown to rank, as it’s a different fight nearly every time you face it, unless you happen to be in Offline Mode. The fight is also the most unique of all the bosses in my countdown and one of the reasons why it’s quickly become one of my new favorite bosses in the game. However, although the fight has high variability, once the player understands how the boss fight works, it can become fairly easy, even when up against the most skilled of the Spears of the Church. Thus, why the Spear of the Church boss fight comes in at only #16 on my countdown.

Before the player even opens the doors to the church, where the boss fight takes place in, they are greeted by the intimidating voice of Judicator Argo, warning the player that they must turn back now, in accordance to the King’s Decree that no one shall disturb the slumber of Princess Filianore. After proceeding through those church doors you were just told not to open, you are greeted by the incredibly towering presence of Judicator Argo at the opposite end of the church.

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Judicator Argo proceeds to scold you on your foolishness and claims that he will deliver justice to you. During this time, when Judicator Argo is monologuing about how you will pay for disrespecting the King’s Decree, the player is given a considerable opening, to hack away at his relatively small health pool. The player should either take advantage of this opening, or hang back and wait for Argo to finish monologuing, after which he’ll summon a Painting Guardian and shortly after that, the true boss of this fight, the Spear of the Church.

Depending on whether or not you’re in online mode or not, you’ll either get a randomly selected player who’s aligned themselves with the Spears of the Church covenant as the boss, or the NPC Halflight, who according to Dark Souls lore, is the last recorded Spear of the Church. (Halflight pictured above as the featured image for this boss) In case you didn’t catch that, yes the boss fight has the potential to be just another player online, explaining why ranking this boss fight is particularly difficult.

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While you may be lucky and get a player who is relatively unskilled at the game, or whose build is extremely advantageous for your’s, there’s an equally likely chance that you’ll get a player whose build is a hard counter to your’s or a veteran of the Souls series. If you don’t want to rely on chance, you can always do the fight in offline mode, but even then, Halflight is no pushover, with his Frayed Blade katana and White Birch bow. To see how the boss fight looks when Halflight is summoned as the Spear of the Church click here.

If the player was just fighting the Spear of the Church mano a mano, this boss fight would likely be near the bottom of my countdown as one of the easiest fights in the game. But, as I mentioned earlier, Judicator Argo first summons a Painting Guardian, a rather nasty NPC, who wields a fast Painting Guardian Curved Sword that’s able to land combos on the player easily and unlimited Church Guardian Shivs, illusory throwing knives that deal magic damage, forcing the player to either play agilely or aggressively. The Painting Guardian can also use a miracle to heal the Spear of the Church, prolonging the fight, if the player doesn’t act fast enough to interrupt the casting of the miracle. When the player brings the Spear of the Church’s health down to the halfway point, another Painting Guardian is summoned, and if the player hasn’t eliminated the other Painting Guardian by this point, they are going to be in a world of hurt! Even though the Painting Guardians don’t deal a lot of damage, they have the capability to easily stun and stagger the player with their move set, preventing the player from getting to the actual boss and making it possible for the player to be combo’d to death.

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Putting all of this into consideration, most of the difficulty in the Spear of the Church boss fight comes from the chance of getting a highly skilled player summoned through the Spears of the Church covenant, or from letting the fight prolong for too long and not taking care of the Painting Guardians fast enough. As many have attested, fighting a skilled Dark Souls player online in PvP, can be more difficult than fighting even the hardest of bosses in the game. So, due to the unpredictable nature of this boss fight, and how there is high potential, especially at later levels, to have a particularly skilled player summoned as the Spear of the Church, I’ve decided that slot #16 is a fair ranking of this very unique boss.

I absolutely love the concept of this fight, and while I’ve heard from some of my friends who have played the predecessor to the Dark Souls series, Demon Souls, that there is a similarly conceptualized boss fight in that game, I still find the concept of the Spear of the Church fight to be incredibly creative and exceptional in it’s singularity. “The Ringed City” DLC has included a system, where the player is able to reset the boss fight over and over again, at the cost of souls, as a way of engaging in this unique boss fight experience multiple times, and as a way to farm Filianore’s Spear Ornaments, which the player can turn in to upgrade their ranking in the Spears of the Church covenant.

As you could’ve guessed, as a member of the Spears of the Church covenant, which you can join after defeating an incredibly difficult boss in this DLC, Darkeater Midir (I’ll be covering him way later in my countdown), you will occasionally be summoned to fight as the Spear of the Church against a player who has dared to disturb Princess Filianore’s slumber. And there is nothing quite as badass as being summoned to be a boss in a game like Dark Souls 3!

Well that’s all for this post ya’ll. I will try and get the next episode in my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series out to you guys as soon as possible, where I’ll go into depth on the next set of bosses in my countdown as usual. Thanks for taking the time to read one of my posts and for dropping in to visit The Gamer’s Smorgasbord! Until next time!

Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 3 (Countdown Update)

Author: Liam Riker

Hey everyone. I’m going to try my best to keep this post in my Dark Souls 3 Boss Countdown series to a more minimal length, but no promises, because this is me after all that we’re talking about, and I’m sure ya’ll have already grown accustomed to what that means.

I decided to continue this series instead of finishing my review of Resident Evil 7 this week, since I just started playing “The Ringed City” DLC for Dark Souls 3 and have been in a Dark Souls sort of mood all week. I will try and write a post exclusively talking about “The Ringed City” DLC once I finish it, but for now let’s pick up where we left off last with this Boss Countdown. Also, due to the addition of “The Ringed City” DLC, I’ve decided to update/edit the countdown I’ve been constructing, accounting for the newly added DLC bosses with the assumption that all 4 bosses in the DLC will be harder than the bosses I’ve covered thus far and will cover in this post. So with that in my mind, my last two posts covered the bosses now ranked 25-20 on my updated countdown, now let’s continue with #19.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

19. Crystal Sage

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While I covered gimmick boss battles earlier in the countdown, whose gimmicks were perhaps too easy to discover and exploit without enough punishment to make for a more difficult fight, the Crystal Sage boss battle is definitely a change in form.

This was the first boss for me in the game, where I made the realization: “hey, so this is what they were talking about when they said Dark Souls was challenging.”  While the fight isn’t particularly difficult for seasoned Dark Souls players, or even for those more seasoned and avid gamers in general, it certainly is NOT an easy fight.

When I refer to it being a gimmick battle, I’m mainly referring to the second phase of the battle, as the first phase doesn’t have a real gimmick to it. During the first phase the Crystal Sage will send all manners of crystal-magic-conjured long range spells your way to keep you at bay. These spells range from several beams of crystal energy that hone in on the player’s location, to a crystal bomb like spell that floats and also hones in on the player’s location to dish out some disgusting damage if it makes contact. The worst of all the Crystal Sage’s spells however, is the ray of energy that he blasts along the ground in your direction that then sprouts crystals along the path the ray blasted through. If you get hit by the full force of this spell you are going to get SHREDDED and will likely die, even at full health for certain levels and builds. The Crystal Sage will continue to send spell after spell at you, keeping you a good distance away from him, and if you manage to get close, he’ll take a good swing at you with the sorcerer’s staff he’s been using to cast his spells.

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Once you manage to close the distance and get a few hits off on the Crystal Sage, he’ll vanish into the ground and teleport to some other location in the large courtyard-like arena you’re fighting him in, to continue the onslaught once again. Once you get the Crystal Sage to half-health is when the fun starts though. At this point the Crystal Sage will fade into the ground once more, but this time when he spawns, you’ll notice that there are several clones of the Crystal Sage all around the courtyard. You’ll have to quickly find the Sage’s real body, distinguished by the purple glow of his crystal magic that’s coated all of his spells up to this point (all the clones will be using spells encased with blue crystal magic). You must close-in on the real body and get as many hits off on it as possible, as all the clones will be assaulting you with the same exact spells and attacks the real body has had access to. Pretty brutal right!?

 

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While the strategy to defeating the Crystal Sage is pretty straight-forward: just rush down the projectile spamming bastard and get in as many hits as possible before he teleports away; this fight is actually a well-designed gimmick boss fight, in terms of how it still manages to be difficult even when the player is aware of the gimmick and how to abuse it. Once the player gets accustomed to the winning strategy to defeat the Crystal Sage, it’s only a matter of time before they defeat it. Thus, it’s not THAT challenging of a fight, but it’s definitely the hardest of all the bosses I’ve covered thus far.

If you like the Crystal Sage as much I did, then you’re in for a TREAT, as the Crystal Sage has a twin brother, who’ll you end up fighting as a mini boss while trying to navigate the Grand Archives later on in the game. When you fight the twin at that point in the game you know that things are going to be MEAN, so just be prepared for suffering. You’ll never hate a long-distance projectile spamming character more than the 2nd Crystal Sage trust me. And I main Toon Link in Sm4sh, so I definitely know what I’m talking about.

The design of the Crystal Sage boss fight is one of my favorites in the game and will likely make for a devilishly fun time for the player, so forgive me for going a bit overboard on this one. Just felt like I had to pay it a respectable amount of homage as it was the first boss in the game to kick my ass! Haha. I’ll try to be way less thorough with the next two bosses on the countdown. I promise this time!

18. Yhorm the Giant

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I know some of you might be surprised to find Yhorm the Giant this low on my Dark Souls 3 Boss Tier List. But contrary to popular opinion I feel like this Lord of Cinder, is right where he belongs.

In the Yhorm the Giant boss fight, as the final event in his quest-line, the lovable NPC, Siegward of Catarina, fights alongside you for this boss fight, as he promised his “old friend” that he would come for him if he ever slipped into insanity. Luckily for you, Siegward comes equipped with Yhorm’s ultimate weakness, the sword named “Storm Ruler.” With Siegward fighting along side you with that incredibly powerful weapon, with it’s special ability being the only reasonable way to inflict decent damage on Yhorm, you can see the boss fight completed without you even lending a single blow yourself.

Now this may seem too easy at first, as though this boss fight deserved to be even lower on the tier list than it already is, however, what I described above is an ideal scenario. Yhorm can just as easily kill off Siegward before he’s able to get him down to 9/10’s of his health, especially if you just wait and watch on the sidelines. Luckily there is another way to defeat Yhorm even if Siegward were to fall in the fight (which if that happens he will stay dead and never again respawn). There is a second “Storm Ruler” on top of Yhorm’s throne positioned in the back of the boss room. Once the player gets their hands on this, they’ll be able to do a miniature version of the special attack Siegward was using to deal effective damage on Yhorm. And the player’s Storm Rider is no slouch when it comes to damage either. However, the wind up for the special attack is considerable so timing is of the essence in this fight.

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Besides the aspect of Siegward and the Storm Ruler the player can acquire, there really isn’t all that much to this boss fight. Most of Yhorm’s attacks are slow and have decent wind-up, so the player will have to time their dodge rolls well in order to make it out of the fight alive. However, since Yhorm has no long-range attacks, the player is able to keep their distance from him and launch potent spells at him to whittle away at his health. But if the player wants to have an easy time of this fight, all they need do is acquire the Storm Ruler and go at Yhorm with that weapon’s special ability.

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This fight is ranked as high as it is because the fight does require a considerable level of skill when it comes to the timing of both attacks and dodges. Also, every one of Yhorm’s attacks deals a massive amount of damage, and if the player were to attempt to defeat Yhorm without using the Storm Ruler’s special ability they would not have a pleasant time of it. Yhorm’s health pool is equally as gigantic as he is, so the only reasonable way to chink away at the massive pool is with the Storm Ruler. With that in mind, when both Siegward and the player are wielding a Storm Ruler, this boss fight can be completed in a shocking time of only 1 minute!

And just like that, that’s the first of the Lords of Cinder on this tier list. Next.

17. Old Demon King

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Now here’s a boss whose name is pretty self-evident. Especially the “old” part. Missing one eye and looking as though he’d seen better days overall, the Old Demon King is the oldest and last remaining demon of Izalith. So he’s been around a LONG time, and his slightly-meager appearance should not lead the player to underestimate this hot-headed bruiser.

The Old Demon King boss fight will definitely require the most skill out of the player out of those that I’ve covered thus far. Especially since there is no gimmick to this fight, like there was for both the Crystal Sage and Yhorm. The player has to straight up beat the Old Demon King, requiring excellent timed dodge rolls, anticipation and awareness of both the boss’s melee and long-distance projectile attacks (most of which take up a considerable range), and the whereabouts to know when and when not to attack.

The first phase of this fight is fairly easy, but still far more advanced than any of the first phases the player has encountered thus far. He will take swings at you with his giant hammer/club and spew molten hot lava in a stream that he breathes from left to right and that spreads across the battlefield, to keep you at bay. And then if you’re too close for his liking, you better watch out for his hammer slam attack or his giant fire ball combustion attack he activates directly in front of his body. However the second phase of the fight is much meaner, as he will still have this fairly nasty toolset of moves, however, all of these attacks will now do considerably more damage, and then there are the new attacks he brings to the table. The Old Demon King will now send an onslaught of honing meteoroid-like masses of fire raining down from above the player, while creating a ring of fire that expands across the arena and then constricts, forcing the player to keep an eye out for it twice. The player will have to definitely have their wits about them for this second phase, as the Old Demon King is relentless and can easily overwhelm the player.

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That being said, this fight isn’t too difficult, once the player gets used to the Demon King’s patterns and learns how to get up-close and personal. His health pool isn’t the largest, so if the player is able to penetrate the Demon King’s defenses and land a few hits, they’ll definitely be rewarded for their valiancy. This fight is definitely the first fight on my tier list though that is reminiscent of what most expect from a Dark Souls boss fight. And the Old Demon King is only ranked 17th! There are far nastier foes to come, and we will be starting with some of these next time.

Until then, keep an eye out for the second half of my Resident Evil 7 review, a review on the game Inside once I complete it, and my opinion on the latest Dark Souls 3 DLC, The Ringed City. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Kingdom Hearts! I will be returning to my beloved video game franchise of my childhood soon.

 

Ranking the Dark Souls 3 Bosses – Hard to Soul-Crushing Part 2

Author: Liam Riker 

Hey guys. This week has been a busy one for me, from both an academic and personal/social perspective, so I haven’t had much time to make anymore progress on Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD or any other ARPG’s I currently have my eye on. I’ve been continuing playing Resident Evil VII, and am nearing the end of the game it looks like, so hopefully I’ll have a review of the game ready for ya’ll once I’m done with it, even though that isn’t my area of focus on this blog. So stay tuned for that.

One thing I wanted to mention, is that my friend, roommate, and fellow blogger on “The Gamer’s Smorgasbord”, Blake Biehle, has recently obtained a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for his Nintendo Switch, which looks absolutely breathtaking! I highly recommend following Blake’s postings on the game, as he continues his  exploration of this gorgeous, ground-breaking and overall fun looking “Legend of Zelda” game. Breath of the Wild has brought over numerous ARPG elements to the franchise, which I’m sure Blake will cover in his postings, so if you’re interested in ARPG’s, checking out his exploration of the game would definitely be worth your time. You can find his first post on the game here.

Alright, so now to continue the countdown of Dark Souls 3‘s large roster of bosses, ranked, in my opinion, from easiest to most difficult. In my last post, I covered the bosses filling up the number 25-23 slots, so I’ll be starting now with #22 on my countdown.

*Potential Spoilers Below*

22. Iudex Gundyr

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So, after those three gimmick-based boss battles, we’ve finally gotten to the first boss the player actually encounters in the game: Iudex Gundyr. First let’s start with that interesting, and very non-English, name of his, which after analyzing and some translation can actually reveal a lot to the player, in regards to what Iudex Gundyr’s purpose in the game is. Iudex in Latin translates to “judge”. And “Gund” in Old-Germanic translates to battle. So when you translate the whole name, Iudex Gundyr basically translates to judge by battle. In other words, Iudex is hear to test you to determine whether you’re worthy enough to proceed through the rest of the game. And for the first boss in the game, Iudex is quite the test.

Iudex Gundyr can be found at the end of the tutorial area of the game, The Cemetery of Ash, and if you’ve encountered and defeated the Giant Crystal Lizard, who’s located earlier in The Cemetery of Ash, odds are you’ll be prepared enough to handle Gundyr. However, Gundyr is already ranked higher than three other bosses on this list, because his battle actually requires real-time action strategy and timing. Gundyr, along with the Giant Crystal Lizard, are an excellent test for the player early on in the game, to test their timing with dodge-rolling and knowledge of what directional input they should use depending on what type of attack their opponent is using. The first half of Iudex Gundyr’s fight functions as this sort of test of the player’s competence with dodging and reading boss patterns, and thus knowing when it’s appropriate to attack.

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However, it’s when the second phase comes, that the actual challenge of the fight becomes extremely evident to the player; it’s likely also the first time the player will feel like they’re playing a “Dark Souls” game. When his health bar reaches the halfway point, Gundyr, get completely overtaken by the Abyss that’s been attached to his back, and undergoes an extremely intimidating transformation. To see what I mean, take a look below…

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During his transformation, although the player may be tempted to go ham at him since Gundyr looks vulnerable, they should be very vigilant of the giant Abyss covered arm that sprouts from the newly transformed Gundyr, as this will deal a lot of damage to the player. For the rest of this phase, the transformed Gundyr will use large sweeping melee attacks, that have a considerable range, deal a lot of damage, and that will come out quicker than expected. The easiest way to get past this phase of the battle, is for the player to get up behind Gundyr and go ham at his backside: a common theme of a lot of monstrous-looking Dark Souls bosses. If the player uses this strategy, they’ll find that this second phase of the fight isn’t nearly as bad as it appears.

The only threat to the player, is if they allow Gundyr to intimidate them and hang back, as this is when Gundyr poses the largest threat because of his mid-range attack distance. The transformed Gundyr also has a jumping attack, for players who stay really close to Gundyr’s body, but aren’t mindful of their surroundings. The player will want to be vigilant of this attack.

Since the 2nd phase of Iudex’s Gundyr’s fight can turn into a DPS race, and the 1st phase isn’t that difficult once the player gets the hang of the bosses melee-attack patterns, Iudex Gundyr comes in at #18 on my countdown.

21. Vordt of the Boreal Valley

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Vordt of the Boreal Valley, or the “Vile Watchdog of the Boreal Valley”, as the High Priestess of Lothric Castle calls him, will be the second boss the player encounters in Dark Souls 3 (unless the player is stupid, or overly ambitious, and decides to kill the High Priestess, in which case they’ll be greeted by one of the most difficult bosses in all of Dark Souls 3, which I’ll be covering way later in my countdown). You can find this ice-breathing giant armored “dog” at the end of The High Wall of Lothric, guarding the path to the next area, The Undead Settlement. And he’s not the easiest of foes to overcome.

All of Vordt’s attacks, unlike Gundyr’s take up a considerable amount of space, and aren’t the easiest to dodge. Certain attacks will use up more wind-up, and others will come out suddenly, so the player will have to be quick on their feet and ready to react, in order to dodge all of Vordt’s attacks. Vordt attacks with a giant mace, and will occasionally try to ram you with his behemoth-sized body. However it’s in the second phase of the battle that things can really get out of hand, as Vordt’s attack speed increases, his patterns change, and the damage he deals with every blow will also increase. During this second phase, Vordt will start breathing ice, which will inflict frostbite damage on the player, slowing down their movement and reaction speed. If the player is frostbitten, they can pretty much kiss their ass behind, as dodging the wide-sweeping range of all of Vordt’s attacks will be nearly impossible at this point.

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Then there’s his charging attack, where Vordt will charge after the player at a high-speed three consecutive times. The player will have to dodge each charge, or risk death, as each charge that connects with the player, knocks the player down, leaving them vulnerable to the next follow-up charge/attack. These charge attacks also do a considerable amount of damage, and if the player is frostbitten, they can be considerably difficult to dodge.

The strategy for most of the Vordt boss fight, is the same for the 2nd phase of Iudex Gundyr’s: get on that booty! So for this reason, Vordt comes in at only #18, as his fight isn’t that difficult once the player gets ahold of all of his patterns, and is abel to consistently position him/herself behind Vordt. Vordt leaves a wide opening for the player to do this when he’s breathing his ice-breath across the stage, where the player can get in a considerable amount of damage. Still Vordt has more tools, and the player will have a harder time reading his attacks, so he still comes in higher than Iudex Gundyr.

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20. Curse-Rotted Greatwood 

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Keeping with the linear trend of this section of my Dark Souls 3 boss countdown, coming in at #16 is the third boss the player will encounter, the Curse-Rotted Greatwood. Forget everything you’ve heard me say about massive enemies, being intimidating on virtue of just their size. The Curse-Rotted Greatwood definitely takes the cake with this, as it’s size is absolutely monstrous and it attacks primarily by slamming it’s monstrous tree body on top of you.

The Curse Rotted Greatwood is yet another gimmick battle, but even after knowing what the gimmick is, the fight is far from easy. In order to defeat this boss, the player will have to attack and burst all the protruding egg sacks the giant tree has scattered over it’s body. The largest quantity of these are located in a sack hanging in front of the tree.

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Once the player brings the Curse-Rotted Greatwood to two-thirds health, either by taking out what’s basically it’s ballsack, or taking enough of these bulbs scattered across it’s body to equal half of it’s health.  It may even be suggested, that the player leave the egg sack for last, since the 2nd phase of the battle will be much more difficult and the bulbs scattered on his arms and legs will be much harder to get to at this point.

During the second phase, the Curse Rotted Greatwood will smash the floor beneath you, and bring you into the Pit of Hollows with it. During this 2nd phase, the biggest thing the player has to look out for is the giant, creepy-looking arm that grows out of the tree’s stomach. This arm is both disgusting and horrifying, and can pack quite the punch. The attacks it deals with this arm come out very rapidly, and are pretty difficult to dodge. Since the arm grows out of a hole above the egg sack, this is why it is advised to take out the egg sack during the 1st phase of the battle, since it’ll be much harder to do so now.

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However, in terms of the most dangerous attack the Curse Rotted Greatwood has up its arsenal, it’s the massive roll it does across the stage. Since the size of the Greatwood is so massive, when it starts rolling across the stage, it can be exceedingly difficult to dodge, especially if the player is already in a perilous position. And if the roll connects the player can almost get instant-killed.

Putting all these factors into consideration, the Curse-Rotted Greatwood comes in at #16 on the countdown.

Well that’s all for now, but stay tuned for next week as I continue my countdown. We’re starting to get to some of the actual challenging bosses of Dark Souls 3, but we’re not quite to the soul-crushing level yet.

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.

 

Dark Souls 3 vs. Dark Souls 1 – Beginning of the Game Analysis Part 2

Author: Liam Riker 

It’s been quite some time since I started this series, in which I planned to compare various aspects of both the original Dark Souls and Dark Souls 3. Since then, I’ve been sucked back into Kingdom Hearts hell, with the release of Kingdom Hearts 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue, where Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD has been monopolizing a majority of my time. I’ve also been busy having a devilishly good time in Resident Evil 7 (I still don’t know how my friends convinced me to play the game in front of them, but I’ve been having a surprisingly amazing time with it; I’ve even considered blogging about the game, even though horror games aren’t my designated topic on the The Gamer’s Smorgasbord, and still might if I can clear it with my fellow co-blogger Sharon Salazar).

Well, anyways, I haven’t had anytime since I started the series to play more of the original Dark Souls, and while I’ve completely finished Dark Souls 3, I feel like I still haven’t gotten far enough into the first Dark Souls to give an analysis on more complex topics such as the games’ varying environments, combat differences, storytelling differences and differences in narrative and character design as a whole. However, I did notice one major difference between the two games, from what little I’ve played of Dark Souls, and I thought I’d write this post on that observation, till I’m able to delve deeper into the game.

While Dark Souls 3, is by no means a game with linear level design, when comparing it to the Dark Souls game that started it all, it’s hard not to notice how linear the level design feels in comparison. After leaving the Undead Asylum in Dark Souls, the player is brought to the original Firelink Shrine, where they are given at least two major paths to choose between and which are fully accessible upon reaching the Firelink Shrine. These two paths lead to two completely different areas, one of which is the intended one for the player’s level, and the other which is ensured to give the player a rude awakening when they struggle to get past the path’s first two guarding skeleton enemies. The player is able to proceed down the harder of the two paths if they so choose to, at the cost of a much more painful and arduous time, but the scaling in difficulty of the enemies guarding this path should immediately indicate to the player that perhaps they should be exploring elsewhere.

This is excellent Level Design, as the developers have intentionally designed a “push-system” (where the player is pushed away from/towards a given objective) with the difficulty of the skeleton enemies the player encounters first along that path. Yet, the player is still given the choice to proceed down that harder path if they so choose to, contributing significantly to the feeling of player freedom/control, which will always make a game feel more fun to a player.

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This is not the case at the beginning of Dark Souls 3 where the player linearly progresses from the Undead Graveyard -> Firelink Shrine -> High Wall of Lothric -> Undead Settlement -> Road of Sacrifices. It’s not until the Road of Sacrifices that the player is given a choice as to which location they want to proceed to: either the agonizing swamps of Farron Keep or the Cathedral of the Deep. However, even after this branching path, the player isn’t given much of a choice as to which area they are allowed to proceed to next. Even if the player chose to complete the Cathedral of the Deep second, as has already claimed one of the Lords of Cinder: Farron’s Undead Legion The Abyss Watchers, they will have to return to Farron Keep to proceed to the next area, The Catacombs of Carthus.

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To be fair, in Dark Souls 3, there is an option presented to the player in the High Wall of Lothric area, to proceed to a different area than the Undead Settlement. However, this area the player is allowed access to is a very late-game area, that is guaranteed to destroy the player until they are broken, unless they are a Dark Souls veteran. The branching path I’m referring to is that which allows the player access to Lothric Castle early. One minor thing that should be noted, is that in order to access this path the player will have to defeat one of the hardest bosses in the entire game at an extremely low level, a task that would make even the most seasoned of Dark Souls veterans tremble at the proposition. The boss I’m referring to is of course the infamous Dancer of the Boreal Valley. I’ll be covering this beauty in a later series in which I explore every single boss in Dark Souls 3, and rank them from easiest to most difficult, in my opinion.

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So to close, Dark Souls 3, while a fantastic game that’s completely engrossed me over the course of just a few months, doesn’t compare to its predecessor when it comes to intricate and branching Level Design, and variety of player options presented, especially at the beginning of the game.

I hope to continue my profile on Dark Souls soon, so I can delve into more complex topics and comparisons that stand out for me between the two games. But until then, this is me signing out for the Dark Souls 3 vs. Dark Souls – Beginning of the Game Analysis series. Be sure to check out my first post of this series, in which I compared the opening cinematics for both games and how the story content contained in them is presented to the player differently, and keep an eye out for my upcoming series in which I give a rundown of all of Dark Souls 3 bosses, and rank them from easiest to hardest.

Nioh: How Similar is it to Dark Souls?

Author: Liam Riker 

I had the rare treat of starting Nioh this past week, and while many were comparing this game to the Dark Souls trilogy, long before the game was released, I couldn’t help but notice some of those noted similarities as I played through the beginning of the game.

Nioh is an ARPG developed by Team Ninja for the PS4, in which you play as William, an Irish sailor, who is trained in the art of the samurai, and travels to Feudal Japan, in pursuit of an enemy, the game’s main antagonist: Edward Kelley. Going off of this description, you’d think that this game couldn’t be farther from a Dark Souls game, but once you gain control of William, as the opening cinematic comes to a close, you realize how similar they actually are. I unfortunately, wasn’t able to get that far in the game, as one of my friends was just letting me play his copy for a couple hours this past week. However, it’s not necessary to even get past the game’s Prologue, to be able to notice how much Nioh has in common with the Souls games.

From the second the game starts you are already given the impression that you could be playing a Souls game. The player is dropped suddenly into the game world, without much of an explanation as to where they are, and given the sole objective of trying to escape from their current prison. This sort of sudden, dropping the player into the middle of action, that every single Souls game, including Bloodborne, is known for, is exhibited here in Nioh as well. The element of safety and complete control is immediately ripped from the hands of the player, and they’ll need to quickly adapt to the game as they play, or they’ll die. There is no tutorial, well there is but it comes later, or relative “safespace”, for the player to practice their controls on inanimate test dummies or weak grunts that could only kill the player if they were AFK. Just as in the Dark Souls games, every single enemy can and, if given the chance, will kill you. So, unforgiving enemies and the lack of any sign of holding-your-hand on the part of the game developers? Check.

So, how about a punishing combat system, that the player actually has to use strategically and carefully in order to survive? Nioh‘s got another check for that one as well, with its version of the stamina game system from the Souls games, where nearly every single action the player takes, costs stamina, and if the player runs out of stamina they will be unable to do anything. However, in Nioh, the punishment for a player running out of the stamina they’re allotted is even more severe than what it is in the Souls games, as the player is left stunned, unable to even move for a few frames. This nearly guarantees, that if a player runs out of stamina in the middle of combat, that they’re going to take a few nasty, and indefensible, hits.

Along with the Stamina Game System, Nioh also has its own version of the Souls System from Dark Souls, where if a player dies, the EXP units they had on them, in Nioh this takes the form of the mystical golden mineral Amrita , are lost at the place of death. If the player is unable to recover their dropped Amrita before dying a second time, they lose that Amrita permanently, a sadistically addictive game system that players of the Dark Souls games are very familiar with. If the player dies, they’ll respawn at small prayer shrines, this game’s version of bonfires, which look like these:

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One striking similarity to the original Dark Souls, that Nioh had, was the Prologue/Tuturial location of the Tower of London. William starts the game inside a cell in the Tower of London, and must find a way to break out of not only his cell, but the entire prison-like fortress. This design choice is very similar to the area in which the player wakes in the first Dark Souls, The Undead Asylum.

 

Even the bosses for these introductory locations have some resemblance to one another.

While the environments in Nioh, for the most part, seem very different from those in Dark Souls they still embody that dark aesthetic and atmosphere. For as far as I got in the game, these were the notable similarities that I was able to find between Nioh and the Souls game franchis. While the games have a number of differences between them, for instance, the gameplay of Nioh is much more fast paced than the Dark Souls games, or even Bloodborne, which stands out from the other From Software Souls games, partially because of its speed of gameplay. There is also no character customization in Nioh and the plot points of the story of the game seem to be handed to the player more freely than they are in any of the Souls games.

Overall, Nioh, from what I can tell so far, is a fantastic game, that feels like a much-needed spiritual successor to the Dark Souls trilogy. Especially, with the last Dark Souls 3 DLC, “The Ringed City”, marking the official end of the Dark Souls franchise with it’s release this upcoming March 28th, Dark Souls fans will be in desperate need of a punishing ARPG with brilliantly designed real-time combat to fill the whole left. And Nioh certainly fits the bill. blog-post-5-pic1