Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dark Souls: Choice in Weapons

This time I'm going to look at choosing a weapon and how it is handled in Dark Souls.  The most basic thing to take a look at is whether or not you can wield it, that is do you meet or exceed the stat requirement?  As I mentioned before the Souls series is designed so that you can complete the game right from the get go and that is still true here.  Most straight swords required a decent but average mix of strength and dexterity, curved weapons require more dexterity while axes and hammers require more strength to heft properly.  For the most part almost all weapons can be wielded from the get go provided they fit the base stats your archetype gives you (your thief won't be wielding morning stars and your iron clad knight won't be firing any bows from the get go).  The only weapons that require stats beyond what is given at level 1 are the extremes:  the freakishly large swords, axes, and shields that require equally absurd strength requirements or the specialist katanas that require a good deal more Dex to make use of their Iai strike and elongated edge.

A whopping 46 is required for this early game massive hammer

Fortunately for absurdly high strength requirements if you choose to two-hand a weapon you treat your strength score as 1.5 times higher.  It should be notes that two handing will change your moveset as well.  These extreme weapons are quite good but not necessarily the greatest either, some of the early weapons can be upgraded to be just as competitive so its best to choose a weapon that not only do you find aesthetically pleasing to look at but one that offers a moveset most compatible with your play style.  Curved swords are quick and move in sweeping horizontal arcs, some include mobility as part of the attack.  Straight swords hack away vertically and diagonal and many have a secondary attack that plunges forward like a spear or rapier, very useful when moving through hallways.

Just don't tackle this armored boar head on

After you can wield your weapon there are three criteria to look at that aren't easily assessed from a set of numbers proclaiming the copious mass of damage you are about to deal.  They are reach, speed, and stamina usage.  Stamina is an all purpose bar much like HP that determines how many swings you can make, how much your shield can withstand, how far you can run, dodge and roll.  Each of these draining some portion of your stamina bar which recharges when not in use, (much slower if you are currently have your shield ready and in the guard position).  Generally the heavier and more unwieldy the weapon is the more stamina it will drain per swing.  Daggers consume very little while ultra-great swords consume the most.  This is also closely correlated with speed, daggers swing the fastest while swords move quite slowly.  Thrusting weapons, such as polearms (when used in conjuction with a shield shift to a stabbing moveset) and rapiers tend to move fairly rapidly and tend to have a good reach with moderate stamina consumption.  Recall though that while your shield is up your stamina is not recharging so overexerting yourself poking away can make it very easy for an opponent to crash through your shield due to your depleted stamina.  While thrusting weapons seem like the best of both worlds; speed, moderate stamina consumption and good reach; they are lacking one key factor of reach, and that is the arc.

On the other hand they are excellent at impaling enemies foolish enough to be in a single file line
Enemies with shield and thrusting weapons will frequently earn your ire

Two handed swords and axes move slowly but cut wide sweeping arcs which gives the advantage of hitting multiple foes while also making it difficult to nimbly sidestep out of the way.  So while these hefty weapons are both slow and draining to use they pack a crazy arc, good reach and typically very high damage per hit.  While its nice to have lower stamina consumption you have to realize that not all enemies are going to wait while you slash away whereas a hefty weapon is likely to stagger an enemy and potentially crash through their shield guard.
Half your stamina bar for half of his HP, not a bad trade

However, we cannot neglect speed for the very same reason, if your swing has too long a windup you can be interrupted and perhaps staggered yourself cancelling your attack, with a very quick weapon you can play a game of attrition biding your time and going in for a quick jab whenever the opportunity presents itself.  Having a longer reach makes it easier to play this game, keeping your opponent at bay and never giving them an opportunity to get too close.  However, a wide arc can be detrimental if you miss giving your opponent a long window to punish you.  As you can see just from these three qualities there is quite a bit of gameplay and metagame to mix and match.
Swing too early or too late and you're leaving yourself wide open

The last thing you need to consider is the moveset and this varies between weapon types as well as individual weapons.  Some straight swords are fortunate enough to have an alternate attack that is a thrust which is great for narrow passageways or when trying to avoid wading into melee.  Polearms alternate between wide sweeping arcs and long thrusts depending on whether they are one or two handed/used in conjunction with a shield.  Axes and maces may have powerful overhand chops that can drop an instantly drop an opponent, acquainting their faces with the ground and plowing through shield guards.  Curved swords are quicker than the average straight sword but typically lack range as most their attacks move like a crescent.  Two-handed swords when you achieve the strength to wield them in one hand typically have entirely vertical or horizontal swings, each with long buildups due to how unwieldy such a long weapon is in one handed; titanic strength or not.

Even within weapons there can be quite a bit of differentiation, the Iaido sword has a sheathe and quickdraw attack which is completely out of the blue if your opponent thinks you have a regular katana. Some unique weapons have a unique attack, frequently a shockwave such as many weapons crafted from dragon tails.  Some weapons when in the off hand make for a parry and riposte motion.  While others will have a fantastic leaping (and often unexpected) attack.

Movesets while great for variety are quite difficult to translate into pen and paper roleplaying without getting very creative.  Perhaps someday I'll devise something but for the moment let's settle for simply examining it.  I will however speak about how I translate reach, and arc into pen and paper at a later date.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope trawling for all these images has aided the reading experience.

Continue to part 5 here:

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