How to get the most out of multiplayer
By Lauren Kelly, Editor-in-Chief
In Dark Souls, communication is essential. This is especially true in the newest installation, which allows up to six other players to enter your world and play with you. Some will be “white phantoms,” co-op players who can’t hurt you; others are “red phantoms,” who will often invade your world and try to kill you; and others fall somewhere between these two types.
In any multiplayer game, things can get confusing if you have no way to communicate your intentions or organize strategies. Although modern consoles often come with a microphone, anyone currently in your world can hear you, so you can’t strategize covertly. You can send private messages to other players, but in the middle of a game, this isn’t always an option. Additionally, the game is set by default to show the character names of other players, not their gamer-tags, making messaging them guesswork at best.
This means that players have to adapt, and use the tools that they have at hand to create a new language. As you make your way through the game, gestures are obtained that allow you to perform an action. The basic ones are point up, down, and forward; beckon; wave; and bow. You can later learn different bows to show your allegiance, a clap, various sitting positions, a “hey!” shout, and the ever-famous Praise the Sun, among others. Another type of tool you collect along the way is a carving, which, when dropped, will say a phrase such as “I’m sorry,” “help me,” or “thank you.” These can be heard at a great distance.
Played traditionally, you and your white phantom buddies will strategically make your way through an area, killing enemies and any invaders in order to reach the end and fight the boss. This is usually fairly cut-and-dry, but it will still be necessary to communicate. Maybe a co-op partner wishes to show you a secret area and points to it or calls you to their location. Having killed your character, an invader may clap or bow during your death animation.
One such situation that breaks from the traditional progress-and-beat-the-game gameplay is fight clubs. These take place in wide-open arena-like spaces. Here, the host player summons any phantoms they can get, court invaders, and then everyone who respects the rules of a fight club will take turns fighting each other to the death one-on-one.
You would think it would be tough to organize something like this, but the multiplayer of these games has developed to the point that most people playing in these areas understand the unspoken rules of a fight club. Fighters stay in the arena. They don’t heal. Others don’t enter the match, and definitely do not attack the fighters. Fighters don’t attack each other until they both signal that they are ready to begin fighting. There is even a designated spectator area, from which the other players will watch the match and react with gestures.
Participating for even 10 minutes will be enough to understand the rules. You’ll see every other spectator stop the match to kill a healer, or someone who breaks into the fight. You’ll see the pre-fight rituals, which involve both players entering the ring, facing each other, performing any pre-game power-ups, and then bowing once they are ready. Through their actions, you’ll learn the appropriate way to react to situations, and you’ll become a member of the community.
Usually, if you attacked a red phantom or vice-versa, it would be seen as an offence, and one of you would most likely end up dead. However, in a fight club, it is sometimes acceptable to attack each other for different ends. If someone has been spectating for awhile and won’t respond to you pointing to them as your next opponent, it is acceptable to go up and knock them into the ring. They’ll heal, and you’ll fight them.
There is one quick and odd way to de-escalate a situation if you accidentally attack someone—repeatedly and quickly raising your shield or weapon. This move would never take place in a match, and lets the other player know that you don’t want to fight (yet). Shield-spamming can often be seen when a new player reaches the arena as well, as an “I mean no harm.”
Another merit of the multiplayer mode is how quickly it can warp into very odd experiences. If one player sees another doing something silly, or wearing something funny, they will sometimes copy them. This can quickly lead to all players present doing the same thing.
One multiplayer game I played devolved from a fight club into a bunch of people performing a torch dance towards any invaders, and then burning them to death if the invader attacked; another had everyone stow their weapons and run around punching each other. Sure, these interactions don’t always last long, and they often accomplish nothing, but they are funny and spontaneous.
Although it seems like a straightforward game, the nature of Dark Souls 3 multiplayer means that anything can happen. You can go from fighting to goofing around very quickly—or the reverse, if someone gets sick of goofing around—or you can just sit back for a few hours and play many one-on-one matches to improve your skills. And all of this organization happens naturally and wordlessly.
There is an endless amount of enjoyment to be found in this strange, strange game, once you learn its language.