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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